Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Party Worker - A Gripping Tale of Karachi

The Party Worker by Omar Shahid Hamid, is my first book by the author and I sure am going to pick up the other two in my next book haul session. With its pinch of humor, the novel narrates a tragic gripping tale of Karachi.

I like my crime fiction as a pace runner and The Party Worker fits the bill. The story starts with an assassination attempt gone south, in the heart of New York City, on Asad Haider. He is a United Front Party (a political organization based in Karachi!) loyalist, considered to have betrayed it after investing 28 years and helping turn it into a Frankenstein. The mystery of who is behind the attempt on his life is resolved early on in the book. This gripping tale revolves around a bunch of people spread between Karachi and New York, working to bring down the leader of the Party, Mohammed Ali Pichkari, generally referred to as the Don. 
The Party Worker gives you a window into the intertwined relationship shared by politics and senseless violence in the city of lights. You don’t have to a resident Karachiite to get flashbacks of the 90s when frequent blood bath in the city was being discussed nationwide. 
Hamid’s bio can be credited in part for the realistic feel of the narrative. He works at the Counter terrorism department of the Karachi Police and have recently returned to active duty after a five year sabbatical. His intimacy with the city with all its shades of grey transpires on paper and are a treat to read.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Climate change is a human rights issue

Start discussing environmental issues with someone who is not part of the subject and the discussion is usually going to end with the statement that we have far worse issues to deal with and giving priority to environmental issues is the problem of the first world. This is far from the truth. In fact climate change is a human rights issue and it is time that we own it. According to German Watch Climate Risk Index 2015, Pakistan is the 6th most affected county by climate change.

Following five major risks related to climate change have been listed in a World Bank report:
  • Rise in sea level
  • Glacial retreats
  • Floods
  • Higher average temperature
  • Higher frequency of droughts
Unfortunately Pakistan faces all these risks first hand. Recent reports are suggesting that with the current rate of increase in sea levels, Karachi would be completely submerged by 2060. Last year was declared the hottest year, breaking all previous records. Not to forget the massive floods and droughts that the country has seen in recent years.
The consecutive floods that hit Pakistan in 2010 and 2011 have been termed more serious humanitarian disasters than South Asian tsunami and earthquake in Kashmir and Haiti. One-fifth of the country was swamped by these floods affecting 18 million people. The death toll touched 1,985.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Ambassador of Hope

Public figures are constantly battling between their actually personality and their projected public image. Add the terms ex-American army and mixed martial arts (MMA), add your fair share of Hollywood imagery and you have your stereotypical image of Bashir Ahmad.

However, rest assured that the godfather of MMA in Pakistan is anything but the type caste martial arts athlete. His fighting career has been well documented but here we get to see the other side of his personality.

Bashir was raised in the United States of America in an expat Pakistani family and the culture was an integral part of his upbringing. There has always been an emotional connection and his frequent trips also helped further cement the bond. His earliest memory of the country is of his first trip at the age of six when he stayed with his extended family for a month or two and when his mother informed him that it was time to go back home, he ran under his nani’s bed and cried his eyes out.

“When I am here I don’t really miss the United States, I do think about my family and home for but not the country as such. However, when I am in the U.S or anywhere else I do miss Pakistan.” 

Copy rights WWF-Pakistan
From an early stage he knew that he would be doing something for the country, even though it was not clear how it was going to happen. Deep down he believed that destiny was going to bring him here, someway of the other. In the end MMA because the source of his journey, but becoming a professional athlete was never on his cards, it just happened.

During his elementary school days, one day the kids were asked to come dressed up as what they wanted to become when they grow up and Bashir went geared up as a zoologist, with his tranquilizer gun!

So when he recently, signed up as a Goodwill Ambassador for WWF-Pakistan, for many this might have come as a surprise, but for Bashir this was not a decision that he needed to think about. His interest in environment and wildlife has been quite intrinsic as far as his earliest childhood memories go. He has been reading up on global wildlife and issues faced by planet earth, be it our deteriorating natural resources or the impacts of over population. His passion for environment and wildlife conservation is not something that he got from his parents or anyone else, it has always been a part of who he is.

So how did a zoologist aspirant ended up becoming a professional MMA fighter?

The Libraries of Lahore

Lahore has always maintained an aura of a city that is comfortable in its place in the realm of history. Christened as the Paris of the Orient during the British Raj, the city of gardens has been at the centre of power and a force of culture throughout history, which according to some experts dates back to some four thousand years.

Known as the cultural hub of Pakistan, along with it culinary and architectural heritage, Lahore had (or has depending on one’s personal taste) a rich resource of libraries as well. However, given the overall declining trend of reading, sadly libraries went from flourishing to stagnation.

Public libraries for the most part now act as monuments, echoing the tales of a glorious past. Most of the foot traffic they get is of civil services aspirants.

Punjab Public Library can be considered the oldest one, established in 1884. It is home to a variety of books, old gazettes, bounded volumes of old newspapers, magazines and manuscripts dated before pre-partition. Constructed in the reign of Emperor Shahjehan, under the supervision of the then Governor of Lahore, Nawab Wazir Khan; its architecture holds equal importance to the contents it holds within. 

Sardar Dyal Majithia established the Dyal Sing Trust library in 1908. It has a collection of some 108 books and is known to have been involved in some scholarly publishing work as well. During partition due to the transfer of trustees is was shut down and re-started its operations 1964. This too is more of an architectural attraction now compared to the treasures it protects.

Then there is the Quaid-e-Azam library inside the Jinnah Bagh, originally built as a botanical garden modeled on the Kew Gardens. Along with a vast collection of dated books the library also contains some 125,000 microfilms of rare newspapers, journals and documents in English, Urdu, Persian and Arabic languages. 

Copy right Fatima Arif