anniversary
Layers of history
Not many people know that right on the Indo-Pak border stands the village Jaman, the home town of Bhagat Singh
By Haroon Khalid
Guru Nanak plays a crucial role in shaping the culture of Punjab. Most of his life was spent as an iterant, preaching the message of love and peace to humanity. In his quest to elevate humanity, he was accompanied by his two companions, Bhai Mardana, a Muslim Mirasi, and Bhai Bala, a Hindu. There are various localities in Pakistan where Nanak stayed and because of which those places became sacred to the followers of Nanak. One such place is about half a kilometre outside the village Jaman, which is about 25 kilometres from Lahore right on the border of India and Pakistan.

MOOD STREET
The basant that wasn't
By Madiha Mujahid
Basant in the good old days was associated with good clean old fun. And though kite flying was never really my forte, it was fun to watch the sky riddled with colourful kites of all shapes and sizes as far as the eye could see, the cheering and hooting that could be heard from all the rooftops, the smell of barbequed food that permeated the air. Lahore was the place to be on the basant weekend. And Lahorites played host to a large number of guests from both within the country and abroad, with homes and hotels across the city full of revellers seeking to join in the festivities.

Town Talk
Exhibition: Salman Ikram's 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.

system
Endless process
Nadra, started as an ambitious project, has fallen prey to mismanagement due to lack of facilities
By Shahzada Irfan Ahmed
Hardly nine years back the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) was established with the objective of evolving a new, improved and modernised system of registration for the citizens of Pakistan. Its main objective, as per Nadra, was the issuance of state-of-the-art Computerised National Identity Cards (CNICs) to all eligible citizens of Pakistan. These CNICs were supposed to be backed by a computerised database and a data warehouse respectively called the Citizens' Database and National Data Warehouse (NDW).

 

anniversary

Layers of history

Not many people know that right on the Indo-Pak border stands the village Jaman, the home town of Bhagat Singh

By Haroon Khalid

Guru Nanak plays a crucial role in shaping the culture of Punjab. Most of his life was spent as an iterant, preaching the message of love and peace to humanity. In his quest to elevate humanity, he was accompanied by his two companions, Bhai Mardana, a Muslim Mirasi, and Bhai Bala, a Hindu. There are various localities in Pakistan where Nanak stayed and because of which those places became sacred to the followers of Nanak. One such place is about half a kilometre outside the village Jaman, which is about 25 kilometres from Lahore right on the border of India and Pakistan.

Today a partially ruined gurdwara Rori Sahab stands on the spot where the Saint stayed. It is reported that while Nanak along with his companions was resting under a tree at this spot, he broke one of the branches from the tree and made Bhai Mardana a Rabab (musical instrument). Guru Nanak used to compose hymns and Bhai Mardana would recite them on his Rabab.

The reason why this gurdwara is called Rori Sahab is that at that point in time and even today shambles of pottery can be found on this spot, which are called rori in Punjabi, and hence the name Rori Sahab. In fact, this gurdwara is on a mound of ruins of an earlier civilisation. According to the Pakistan archaeology survey 1994-5, Special edition, Lahore and Kasur District, there is just one ruin in the environs of the village Jaman, which is at 74.33 E and 31.21 N but according to the Land Revenue record of 1866, there are three ruins, which are Khasra no. 1904, Kashra no. 2966, and Khasra no. 3554.

At the juncture when Guru Nanak came and settled on this archaeological mound, the village of Jaman was already well-established. Standing on the top of the gurdwara, one can notice tall Indian buildings and mobile phones, and electricity polls across the border.

During the war of 1965, this village was bombarded by Indian tanks. It was further destroyed during the war of 1971, when it was actually taken over by the Indians.

It is noted in 1866 that this village was established 600 years ago, around year 1266, during the Delhi Sultanate period by a man called Salu, who arrived here from Malwa. He named the village Jaman for the first time. For some inexplicable reason, the village was abandoned and then resettled in around 1660. The village has been a witness to destruction and raids. Ahmad Shah Abdali raided this village.

Another blow was received by the village in 1947, when the majority of the people living here, primarily Hindus and Sikhs, had to migrate to the other side of the border. The new inhabitants of this historical village were to be people from the nearby districts of Amritsar and Mewat. The population of this village can now be divided into two broad categories: Muslims, who lived here before the division of India and Muslims who migrated from the nearby villages. Mewatis constitute the majority in this locality. They have around 200 houses, which is roughly around 58 per cent of the total population.

When the political struggle against the British Empire was at its zenith in India, the village of Jaman too had its fair share to play. There was an office of the Congress Committee here. Other political parties were Shramoni Akalidaad, which was a Sikh party and the famous Naujawan Bharat Sabha, renowned for its martyr Bhagat Singh. On March 23, 1931, when Bhagat Singh was hanged, there were strict laws in the cities, which prohibited all sorts of protests; therefore it was impossible for the people to commemorate their heroes in cities like Lahore and Delhi. As a result of which villages in the outer skirts of big cities became the focus of attention.

On March 26, 1931, a meeting was arranged here to commemorate the assassination of Bhagat Singh, which was reported to be the biggest gathering in protest against the act, in the entire country. In 1921, the people from Jaman took active role in the civil disobedience and many other such movements in the following years. Many people from Jaman have also had to see the road to jail for their political activism.

Guru Nanak used to visit Jaman regularly as the house of his maternal grandfather was in the nearby village of Dera Chaao, where there is another gurdwara. Originally when the edifice was constructed there was a small pool next to the shrine, which was later expanded into a tank and is still extant. However, the water is no longer clean and can not be used for ritual purification. It gurdwara was extended by a follower of Guru Nanak from this village called Naria, who was originally a Bhabra but then converted to Sikhism. The construction of the present day building was initiated by Bhai Wadhawa Singh. Back in the days of Sikhs and Hindus, annual fairs used to be held here on Visakhi. Not on grand scales, nonetheless Visakhi is still celebrated by the locals of the village.

The gurdwara initially had three storeys with a basement. It was crowned on the top by a turret. It still is a popular tourist destination for the people from the nearby places. The floor around the area is still extant, but demands rescue measures as does the rest of the building. Stairs from the back of the building lead into the pool. On the right side of the edifice are the remains of another structure which must have been a part of the complex. Relics of older civilisations can be found in large amounts at this spot, things like broken pottery pieces, etc. The inside of the dome is embellished with frescoes depicting the ten Gurus. Some of them despite years of neglect are still visible.

At the centre of the building is a plinth, where the Granth was read. Just behind this towards the pool are two underground rooms that face each other. Stairs towards the side of the entrance lead to the top. The second floor is decorated with typically cusp-shaped arches, a prominent feature of Sikh architecture. The top was once protected by a wall but now lay barren. A holistic view of the village and the border can be seen from this spot. The edifice is a testimony of the rich Sikh culture that gave impetus to such art and architecture.

 

MOOD STREET

The basant that wasn't

 

By Madiha Mujahid

Basant in the good old days was associated with good clean old fun. And though kite flying was never really my forte, it was fun to watch the sky riddled with colourful kites of all shapes and sizes as far as the eye could see, the cheering and hooting that could be heard from all the rooftops, the smell of barbequed food that permeated the air. Lahore was the place to be on the basant weekend. And Lahorites played host to a large number of guests from both within the country and abroad, with homes and hotels across the city full of revellers seeking to join in the festivities.

With time, basant too progressed from being a mere celebration of spring to a more commercial and society affair. Big corporations as always spotted a way to mint money and advertise by sponsoring grand bashes at all the prominent venues inside the Walled City and the more posh localities. Basant progressed from being a local celebration to a much-publicised 'event' -- with the city being decked up with colourful hoardings, advertising the celebrations to come and the companies supporting the merriment.

The streets were full of young boys flying and running kites, impervious to the risk of injuries, and stands popped up along the roadsides all over the city displaying their kites and balls of twine. Unfortunately, the practice of using chemically treated twine did not subside which caused the loss of many a precious life that ultimately led to the celebration being called off in recent years.

This year the government however allowed the basant festivities to go ahead but yet again made it a victim to politicisation like nearly all the other things that Pakistanis hold. This time basant was allowed more as a means to overshadow the fallout of the much-hyped Long March of the lawyers than to rejoice in the advent of spring.

But the dawning of the day of basant heralded a day full of many firsts the first time that basant and kite-flying was not the sole focus of the day and the first time that the action was witnessed primarily not on the rooftops and in the skies, but out on the streets with people congregating in large numbers to express their solidarity with the lawyers' movement. This basant people turned their backs on the frivolous pursuit of pleasurable fun, but rather chose to align themselves with the revolutionary Long March aimed at restoring the sacked justices to their rightful power. For how could Lahoris celebrate basant and express their love for kite flying when their city was full of protesters and shelling, beating and arrests? How were the denizens of Lahore to celebrate the arrival of spring through spiralling kites and soaring spirits when the streets were full of hordes of political workers and the common people protesting against the government's crackdown on the Long March? A heavy heart does not make merry and so we spent our time watching the events of the day unfold on the flickering screens of TV instead.

The Long March which ultimately resulted in the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP), Iftikhar Ali Chaudhary, and the other judges being restored came to represent an allegory for the masses in increasingly desperate times, here was a way for them to feel less like helpless onlookers and instead be a part of a revolution intended to wrest the power away from the political factions and give it back to the judiciary.

The success of the Long March was like a balm to the bruised spirit of the general public who has grown increasingly disillusioned with the politics of our country. The Pakistani political climate that has always been explosively volatile even at the best of times has now deteriorated to the level where the only way it can be described is as exceedingly farcical at best. The politicians have made a travesty of the cause that has been entrusted to them, that of putting their country and its welfare first and foremost. But such a noble endeavour would require them to rise above the self-serving tactics that they indulge in so much, and truly devoting themselves selflessly to the greater good of the country.

Unluckily this is not the case in Pakistan; here politics is a medium that brings about personal wealth, fame and power. The power players indulge in wheelings and dealings to ensure that they remain on top of the game money changes hands, prominent people switch parties, news conferences are called, claims are made and refuted all part of the self glorification and egotistical behaviour that is a mainstay of our political elite.

Resultantly, the bickering among the politicians in our country has reached epic proportions, with each day bringing forth a fresh volley of accusations and counter accusations. And it was within this climate of uncertainty and hostility that the people of Lahore and the rest of the country watched the unfolding events with bated breath, anxious to discover what would transpire next in the saga of restoring the CJP to his rightful position.

The PM's late night announcement to reinstate the CJP via an executive order caused widespread celebrations to erupt on the streets and heartfelt sighs of relief being issued by all the people who forsook their sleep to stay up instead, watching and praying for things to work out for the best.

So ultimately, Lahorites and the rest of the Pakistanis did celebrate on the day of basant but instead of the thrill of watching their kites soaring unhindered through Lahore's skies, they revelled in the triumph of public opinion over political tyranny.

 

Town Talk

 

Exhibition: Salman Ikram's 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.

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

 

Fair/Festival: Topgear car show today at Walton Airport.

 

Mela Chiraghan is starting on Friday, March 27. It takes place at the shrine of Shah Hussain in Baghbanpura, adjacent to the Shalimar Gardens.

 

Introductory Lecture on The 4th Dimension Education & ETS, tomorrow at Sunfort Hotel from 11am to 5pm.

 

Lahore's 4th Critical Mass event on March 29, next Sunday at Zakir Tikka intersection on Sarwar Road, Lahore Cantt at 5pm.

The National Art Gallery has organised an exhibition of watercolour painting 'A Tribute to Old Lahore' by an eminent painter,

Dr Ajaz Anwer on Saturday (February) 14 to March 29, 2009.

 

system

Endless process

Nadra, started as an ambitious project, has fallen prey to mismanagement due to lack of facilities

By Shahzada Irfan Ahmed

Hardly nine years back the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) was established with the objective of evolving a new, improved and modernised system of registration for the citizens of Pakistan. Its main objective, as per Nadra, was the issuance of state-of-the-art Computerised National Identity Cards (CNICs) to all eligible citizens of Pakistan. These CNICs were supposed to be backed by a computerised database and a data warehouse respectively called the Citizens' Database and National Data Warehouse (NDW).

Years down the road, the general opinion on the authority is that its affairs are mismanaged and the public has to go through endless ordeal to get their routine work done. A visitor to Nadra head offices or branches sees people standing in endless queues for hours, waiting for their turns. These people have either come to get CNIC cards, register their children under 18, get duplicate documents issued in their names, for rectification of errors and what not. The most repeatedly quoted problem hampering the pace of work at these centres is the non-functioning of computer link and system failures.

Ahmed Raza, a computer shop owner present at Nadra Abbot Road office, tells TNS that it is a humiliating exercise to appear for CNIC registration and go through the hassles related to it. He says the moment he reached the place he was approached by some agents roaming around the parking area. "They offered to get a token issued in my name if I paid them Rs 300. Otherwise, I would have to stand at the end of a very long queue," he says.

Ahmed says soon he came to know a lot of people were standing in queues just to get tokens in other people's names and charge them for this service. He tells TNS that instead of improving the system Nadra has started benefiting from the whole mess. "The authority has launched an executive service under which it is heavily charging the applicants who want this process to be swift and hassle free. Such applicants, after paying around Rs 1200 or so, are escorted directly to the data entry room and given protocol," he says. This happens right in front of the eyes of the people standing in queues from dawn to dusk, he adds.

Safdar Abbas, an employee in a private company, tells TNS that he cannot forget the stress he had to go through while securing his CNIC. He says the staff would keep on asking for more and more documents. "I fulfilled each and every formality; it even took me two months to get my card. Whenever you contact them for updates, they simply say the backlog is too big to be cleared, the system is slow or they are unable to find old record pertaining to an applicant."

Salman Ahmed, another applicant at the centre, says he has never ever seen people sitting at all the counters. "If there are 10 windows, attendants are missing at 5 of them. Sometimes the computers are out of order and on other occasions staff is absent," he adds. Salman says he has visited the centre twice in a month but was told to leave without getting the job done. "You come at 10 am and see 200 people already standing in the queues. This very sight perturbs one and many people standing in the queues leave when they see applicants being attended at a snail's pace."

Salman has to go abroad on a work permit and needs a passport. "But to have a passport you need to have an identity card. I fear the delay in issuance of my CNIC will ultimately delay the issuance of my passport," he says. Salman says nowadays passports are issued weeks after the due date of delivery and blames the inefficient system of Nadra for this.

One of Nadra's spokesman, who wishes not to be named, who refuted all charges of inefficiency levelled against the authority. Talking to TNS, he says the people are blaming Nadra because they don't know the exact situation. In fact, Nadra gives different bodies and authorities access to its data and technical support including local governments and security agencies,

Nadra, according to its spokesman, has taken a good step by introducing executive service, as people do not have enough time to waste to get a token and wait for extended periods of time. He says the authority has introduced the service on a trial basis and had received positive feedback from the applicants.

The spokesman adds that hardly 8 to 10 people are benefiting from this facility at a Nadra centre on average. "This is a very small fraction of around 150 to 200 people accommodated there." He says all over the world premium services are offered to clients and no one levels allegations of discriminatory treatment against service providers.

He, however, agrees to the fact that Nadra is severely short of staff. The spokesman says the authority has plans to recruit a large number of people over a short span of time to cope with this issue.

He says plans to establish large centres with capacity to process 1000

CNICs per day are also being considered. The spokesman says so far Nadra has issued 68 million CNICs and maintains data of 98 to 99 million Pakistanis in total. This is not a small feat and it speaks volumes of the efficiency of Nadra's system.

On the delay in issuance of passports he says Nadra has nothing to do with it. "We only provide access to our data and help authorities verify it. The fault in this case lies somewhere else," he adds.

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