Wednesday, December 24, 2014

16th December saw 144 families scarred for life and a Nation left feeling Helpless

I was sitting in my office, looking for partners for an upcoming event on social media, when my Twitter feed started to report the attack on Army Public School in Peshawar. The initial reaction of ‘here we go again’ soon changed to the numbing shock that still hasn’t worn off.

The maximum age of the children targeted was 16 years.

How can anyone do this to children?  No doctrine, no cause, nothing can justify this act of brutality.

Animals are capable of showing more mercy than this. Time and again you come across stories of animals caring for the cubs of a different specie and domestic pets are seen opting a protective role towards the children of the house.

No parent should have to bury their child. There is no closure. They carry the scars for the rest of their lives and no words or gesture can even come close to what they are going through. With time other people will move on, like they always do, but the memory of this nightmare will stay fresh forever in the eyes of those who lost their loved ones.

This is not the first time that we have been hit by the extremists. The previous incidents are no less brutal. We are a classic depiction of the quote ‘A single death is a tragedy, a millions deaths is a statistic’. Our constant state of amnesia has not helped the situation any further. After every incident there is an outburst from every quarter for a few days and then it is back to normal until the next carnage that leaves a number of dead bodies and a larger number of living dead.

For how long can the threshold be tested?

The Peshawar attack saw that threshold broken. People who until now have taken these incidents with a straight face broke down. Those who refused to leave this country in their prime and clenched to optimism and hope, talked about looking for a future outside Pakistan.

This feeling of helplessness and anger are leading to despair. The powers to be are as always no help. There is a lot of noise but no actual work. The moratorium on death penalty was lifted and welcomed. However, in the same period known terrorists are given bail and individuals like Shafqat Hussain, arrested at the age of 14 and confessed under torture are being sentenced to death. Meanwhile, the Interior Minister wants the general public to step up and report people who are buying too many rotis at the same time or paying less rent than the going rate.

Where is a substantial National Security Policy?

The only sign of hope if any comes from the likes of Jibran Nasir from the civil society, who have taken a stand against the use of our religion to spread hate speech. Compared to all the reactions, only this one seems to be in the right direction. The impact of this campaign is yet to be seen but in this state of utter helplessness, efforts like these are the only windows of hope. Is it too much to ask that the State provides them the security against threats?

Let us never forget.  

Thursday, December 11, 2014

International Mountain Day

International Mountain Day is marked to spread awareness about the importance of mountains and highlands for the sustenance of life. The goal is to highlight the opportunities and constraints for the development of these areas. This year’s theme is ‘mountain farming’.

The majestic beauty of the mountains has always fascinated me and I never tire of photographing them. Pakistan is blessed with a range of mountains from the northern areas to the southern provinces of the country as well.   

On this International Mountain Day, here are a few pictures from my collection representing the mountains of Pakistan. 


Soon Valley 

Salt Range (Khewra Mines) 

Swaik Lake Area

Monday, September 22, 2014

Bhati Gate - The Walled City

Bhati gate is one of the thirteen gates of the old walled city of Lahore. It is located on the western side of the old city and it is one of the two oldest entrances. Many of the literary legends of the land have their roots in this area. The architecture itself is unique and representative of the rich history they hold. One of the features that highlights this gate from the rest is that to date this can be called a residential block, unlike the rest of the gates which have scummed to commercialization for the most part.

This is the spot where Allama Iqbal, the poet, philosopher & politician is known to spend time with his friends at this spot while he was a student. The current owners of this house plan to turn it into a historical marking after the renovation.

A view from the balcony of the house in the previous shot

'Purana Fakir Khana' - The Fakir family is one of the most popular families of this place who owned a lot of property in the area. They currently run the Fakir Khana museum located in the same place.

Random shot of a house in the area

An entrance to a residential unit 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Radical by Maajid Nawaz – Book Review

In his own words ‘Ideas are like water, they take a while to reach a boiling point, but as soon as they do, they erupt’.

I reviewed Radical for the magazine 'Laaltain'. For the complete write up

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Social Media 2.0 by J.R. Atkins

J.R. Atkins is a social media speaker, strategist and sales 2.0 consultant, who I had a pleasure of meeting in Dallas, while on an IVLP - Activism through Social Media program. His book deals with how best to use social media to communicate with prospective customers, existing customers and the employees. The book has a comfortable pace, providing practical tips for how to use the social media tools to help your business maintain its customer relationships. I will just be highlighting the main factors that I extracted from the book and think will be useful for anyone managing social media communication at the corporate level.

Social Media is no longer hanging at the side lines when it comes to marketing. In fact social media has become an integral part of almost all aspects from both an individual's perspective and that of an organization. Given its importance, it is no surprise that everyone is using the social media tools available to them. The success however, is dependent on how these tools are used. J.R. Atkins in Social Media 2.0 gives out the tips and tricks that will enable you to use the social media tools effectively to help in the success of your business.

The key concept here is that of 'effective communication', be it the use of the traditional tools or the social media tools, at the end of the day the business wants to communicate with the target audience. ("It all boils down to communication"). There is however, a differentiating factor between the two mediums and that is, that the social media now allows for a one on one dialogue and instant feedback. This is something that has given the customer a lot more power and therefore made it necessary that they be engaged with. Moreover, the cost structure is so small that any size of business can use it effectively as a communication platform.

In order to stand out from the clutter, there are three things that should form the base of the strategy that you intend to follow:

  1. Be interesting 
  2. Content is king 
  3. Give to get
Be interesting because if you are not at the head of the game, there are a lot of alternatives that the customer can shift to. Make sure that you are generating quality content and then maintain that quality to keep your customers constantly engaged. The customer is not dumb, put out crap and they will see through it in no time. Give to get; after all this is a two way communication which has changed the dynamics of how things are done.  Therefore, it is of utmost important that your words are substantiated with real quality that has been promised, because the negative word of mouth with all the technological aid spreads much faster.

When it comes to the social media strategy, it does not only include the marketing and the customer service aspects of the business. Communicating with the employees through these tools is another important aspect of this strategy. The employees are the foot soldiers of your business, especially the ones that get to interact with the customers on a daily bases. This makes them the key and the most effective ambassadors for your business and thus, it is important that they are kept in the communication loop and provided all the information and the related materials that they require to better perform their jobs.

The presence of social media however, does not mean that the human contact be lost. Without this basic communication format the social media is not going to be able to hold up. The holistic message of the book is that in order to have an effective communication it is important to reach out to all the touch points. Forcing the target audience to use the tools that you are comfortable at your end is not going to give out any sorts of results. Communicating via the tools that the customer chooses is the recipe for a successful communication that will create the base for a strong relationship and consequently a healthy business.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Swaik Lake

Swaik Lake is one of the many hidden natural gems of Pakistan. It is located next to Khandoyah in the Punjab province. People who are interested in trekking should definitely visit. Make sure that you carry your own drinking water supplies for the trip.