Posts Tagged ‘Lahore’


March 13, 2013

By Ghalib Sultan
Area 14/8

The picture on top says it all. A mob in the background and an exultant youth in the foreground with smoke, fire and burning homes all around. This was the scene in the heart of Lahore when Christian homes were set on fire because of alleged blasphemy by a Christian who had already been booked under the Blasphemy Law by the police on the complaint of a Muslim. The mob that went on the rampage looting and burning homes was apparently venting their rage. No one died and no injuries were reported but Pakistan’s image was destroyed beyond repair-collateral damage from the point of view of the bigoted and the intolerant but a mortal blow to Pakistan for those whose heads hung in shame.

Now that the smoke has blown away, compensatory payments made to those who lost everything, the rebuilding process begun and some arrests made a clearer picture is slowly emerging. The Police advised the people to run for their lives hours before the mob arrived and they ran-the men, the women, the aged and the children all ran for their lives in all directions away from their homes leaving everything behind. Why did the police do this-to facilitate looting and burning, to save lives or because they did not want or could not face down the mob to protect lives and property? If the Police had advance information did this information flow upwards and if it did was it ignored? And if it did not then why not?

There are credible reports that the mob came prepared for their grisly task—with sticks, stones, gasoline cans etc. If so then this was no spontaneous venting of rage. This was a well planned event for which a large number of people had been mustered and prepared. If this was planned then who was behind it?- those who wanted the land on which the colony was built?- or those who had political motives and wanted to undermine the political administration in Punjab or was it a combination of both?. The land mafia would have known the consequences of such an atrocity and it is unlikely that they actually believed that the land would fall in their lap after the pillage. The political motive is more plausible and is also borne out by the fact that after the attack on the Christians some apparently counter attacks were organized on the pride and joy of the Punjab government-the new Metrobus system.

The Punjab government moved quickly to limit the damage and to begin rehabilitation work. An inquiry has also been ordered and arrests made. No doubt that there has been political fall-out but on the positive side people have rallied in support of the Christian community and against the forces of bigotry and intolerance that exist in society. There have been many previous incidents of this kind but never has exemplary punishment been awarded to deter such behavior. In the final analysis the blame must also go to people who are ready to undertake such criminal and reprehensible behavior.


On blazes, mudslinging and resignations

September 17, 2012


Hell paid Karachi a haunting visit on September 11 and claimed approximately 258 factory workers for its own. Deadly industrial fires sparked almost simultaneously in twin incidents in Lahore and Karachi. At least 25 died as fire erupted in a shoe factory, killing the owner, his son and workers in the factory. The incident in Karachi was much more devastating in scale: up to 258 workers were suffocated or burnt alive at the Ali Enterprises garment factory in Karachi, which made ready-to-wear clothing for export to Western firms. These tragic events throw Pakistan’s shoddy business practices, rampant corruption and piddling law enforcement in a harsh spotlight that will hopefully linger for longer this time.

Karachi has a sprawling industrial base with tens of thousands of factories, like Ali Enterprises, in industrial estates. Adding to that are more than 50,000 cottage and small industrial units exist, altogether they employ hundreds of thousands of people, on fixed wages, piece-rated, casual basis and daily wage workers. Casual employees are usually hired through third party contracts and do not enjoy the same wages or benefits as fixed wage workers, or piece-rated workers represented by the Labor Unions. Ali Enterprises, like thousands of factories like it, employed a mix of these employees to minimize cost of extending additional benefits, like safety, holidays, etc. They were hired through third party contractors and were paid Rs 5,000 to Rs 10,000 a month; with indefinite working hours per day, no ventilation, proper storage, fire extinguishing facilities, windows, and the prison-like factory had one exit only. There is not a single factory in Karachi, which is different in shape and facilities as the one gutted by the fire. Everyone, including our rulers, could see similar factories nearby the gutted one but avoid to take action,” a former administrative official is reported to have said. Karachi’s municipal head conceded that very few establishments in Karachi had been built according to proper building plans. “Safety exits are duly mentioned in the plans approved by the authorities but the owners got away with it only to save money and extra land thus risking precious lives,” he said. He failed to mention however that it is officials like himself, who allow corruption and political maneuvering to go unchecked. Shady business practices and cutting corners is what makes business lucrative for textile export companies like Ali Enterprises. Garment exporters in Pakistan face grave competition from India and Bangladesh, which drives them to lower production costs to the limit, subsequently compromising on ‘drivel’ like security or labor protection practices. Trade unions do not represent third party contract workers and thus cannot lobby or enforce these laws on the workers’ behalf.

A trade unionist informed media that most of the workers at Ali Enterprises were on third party contracts and none had appointment letters, so they were not entitled to social security benefits. Workers who survived the blaze reported that rule-breaking was a norm at the plant, where many worked 12-hour shifts and were paid as little as $58 per month – one-third less than the statutory minimum. One could argue that these wages are still better than nothing, however further witness accounts told even chilling tales. “They prevented people from leaving, so they could save the clothes,” said Shahzad, a stone-faced man in sweat-drenched clothes, standing in the blacked corridors of the factory.

The tragedy stands testament to lack of compliance of factory owners to laws and regulations in the Factory Act. It also whispers of corruption in the highest echelons. The Sindh Labor Minister Ameer Nawab resigned from his post, saying that the Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah had stopped him from taking action against factories violating labor rules. Prior to Musharaf’s era, factories were supposed to be inspected once a year. During Arbab Ghulam Rahim’s period serving as chief minister, labor officials had to serve an employer a month’s notice about when they would be coming prior to inspection. “This refutes the actual purpose of an inspection,” Nawab said. Nawab’s resignation was shortly followed by Sindh Minister for Industries and Commerce, Abdul Rauf Siddiqui’s resignation, as it is easier to resign than to pay for ones negligence.

Inspections and audits are mandatory in every organization all over the world, except for Pakistan’s manufacturing factories that boast conditions similar to those in the Industrial Revolution.

All government officials jumped to pay lip-service condemning the lax attitude of people responsible. Sindh Governor Ishratul Ebad said that not only would action be taken against factory owners, but officials of SITE, the labor department and civil defense would not be spared either. “The negligent officers of these departments are equally responsible,” he said.

The rest of our national command followed shortly doing what it does best, stall for time and make committees. The provincial government appointed a retired Justice, Zahid Qurban Alvi, to head an investigation into the fire that broke out.

The National Assembly broke all previous records of efficacy and took swift action (sarcasm intended) by passing a resolution saying judicial commissions for investigation should be formed. The Opposition professed solidarity with the bereaved, with Nawaz Sharif blaming Musharaf completely for the fire. He claimed that the former dictator had changed the Labor and Industries Act and even though laws did exist, their enforcement was lacking, perhaps implying that ensuring law enforcement in provinces was Musharaf’s responsibility and not perhaps the chief minister’s who happens to be his brother.

Blame games, mudslinging and resignations are no way to deal with this matter that has come to represent Pakistan’s unsafe industrial practices, an issue we had successfully avoided ever since Nike stopped outsourcing production in Pakistan. The immediate aftermath looks grave for the export industry of Pakistan. The textiles industry contributed 7.4 per cent to Pakistan’s GDP in 2011 and employed 38 per cent of the manufacturing workforce. But it accounted for 55.6 per cent of total exports – around $11 billion. Once international buyers get wind of unsafe labor practices in Pakistan, pressure groups and ethical restraints will force them to shift outsourcing to India or Bangladesh, two extremely price competitive alternatives. Pakistan’s textile factories must immediately counter this negative publicity by complying with safety standards and inviting international inspection firms to clear their names. Even if this means higher production costs, it will only serve to increase business in flow to Pakistan with the passage of time. Safety measures – fire hydrants, sprinkler systems, better escape routes are the barest of all rights factory workers are entitled to, the Sindh government must stop resigning one after the other and make sure that strict regulation and enforcement takes place. At this point Pakistan does not need another feather in its already full cap, it needs damage control. And fast.

Pak newspaper claims hundreds of pro-India, pro-Israel CIA agents operating in country

March 3, 2011

Lahore, Mar 2: Hundreds of especially-trained CIA contractors who worked closely with the Indian external intelligence agency RAW and Israel’s Mossad in the Middle East, Asia and Africa over the last two decades, are covertly operating across Pakistan these days, a Pakistani newspaper has claimed.

The Nation quoted “well-informed sources”, as saying that in 2010, the Obama administration deployed over 400 pro-India and pro-Israel CIA agents in Islamabad, Quetta, Peshawar, Lahore and Karachi, the country’s biggest cities.

“Sources believed that the American spies with pro-India mindset had been deployed in Quetta to fuel militancy in the largest but poor province of Balochistan, while the US operatives who worked with Israeli agents before 9/11 had been sent to the country’s insurgency-hit region bordering war-torn Afghanistan,” the paper said.

“The Foreign Intelligence Estimates (FIE) cell of the CIA, which is responsible for training, brainwashing and recruiting individuals to launch intelligence networks outside the United States, had awarded special contracts to those security companies where the Indian and Israeli lobby is very strong,” it added.

Washington hired these contractors from private security companies like LLC, Xe services or Blackwater, claimed the paper, adding that leading Indian and Israeli tycoons have been “secretly and heavily funding such companies to carry out clandestine operations in the Middle East, Asia and Africa as per their interests.”

Attributing to sources, it said the US government had sent hundreds of Cobra operatives to Pakistan on a secret spy mission after the Indian and Israeli lobbies in Washington strongly recommended to the Obama administration that ‘these guys are quite fit to operate in the Af-Pak region.”

The paper further claimed that most of the CIA contractors were double agents, as on the one hand they were hired by the American spy agency, but on the other hand, they were undercover personnel of the Indian and Israeli lobby and assigned with special tasks in different regions.

“Obviously, they (the CIA agents) are here to safeguard the interests of their masters. They are here to look after the interests of the enemies of Pakistan,” the paper quoted an intelligence official, as saying during a brief chat. (ANI)

Pak-US envoys ready to increase economic ties: Salman Taseer

May 4, 2010

LAHORE, Punjab Governor Salman Taseer Monday said that key areas for joint US-Pakistan ventures have been identified and both the sides were keen to start work on increasing business ties.” Supporting Pakistan is in the larger strategic interests of the US government,” he said while talking to the media after attending an ‘Investment Conference’ at the Governor’s House.He said that the investment conference was an important milestone towards increasing foreign investment in Pakistan and ensuring access to Pakistani goods in the US markets.

The US delegation was led by Deputy Under Secretary for Defence Paul A. Brinkley. Also present were Principal Officer of the U.S. Consulate Carmela Conroy, Provincial Minister of Finance, Planning & Development Tanvir Ashraf Kaira, and Chairman Board of Investment (BOI)Saleem Mandviwalla.
He said that the security situation in Pakistan had improved greatly in the past eight or nine months and that the time was ripe to invite foreign investors.
He reiterated Pakistan’s need for trade over aid and stressed that it was in the national interest of the US to help stabilize Pakistan’s domestic situation, and it was not just about economics.

The Governor informed the delegation of Pakistan’s huge technical base, burgeoning middle class and a population of 100 billion under-25 year olds.
He stated that Pakistan had an exceptional record and that no Pakistani bank had gone down during the global meltdown.
The Punjab governor said an American business delegation would visit Pakistan in June this year to explore business ties between the two countries adding that every area was open to investment and that the delegation would act as a spring-board for future investments.
Talking to media Brinkley said the US wished to extend and foster economic ties between the business communities of the US as well as Pakistan.
He said the US also wishes to bridge the perception gap regarding Pakistan.
Brinkley said the US believed in working together to alleviate economic difficulties and frustrations faced by Pakistan by creating job opportunities, raising education level and creating professionalism.
Brinkley said the US government was determined to ensuring business-to-business engagements at senior level.

Hakeemullah appears in video, vows painful blow to US

May 4, 2010

KABUL/LAHORE: Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) chief Hakeemullah Mehsud appeared in a video on Monday threatening attacks against the US three months after American and Pakistani officials believed he had died in a US missile strike.

Hakeemullah’s emergence occurred as a suicide bomber attacked the gate of a CIA base where seven agency employees were killed last December.

A video posted on terrorist websites and broadcast by a TV channel showed Hakeemullah seated between two masked, armed men, speaking in Pashto with English subtitles, AP reported. “Praise be to God, on the 4th day of April 2010, I give good news to the Muslim world about being alive and healthy,” he said.

He said Taliban fighters “have penetrated the terrorist America” and will “give extremely painful blows to the fanatic America”. He also warned Washington’s NATO allies that “you will face even worse humiliation, destruction and defeat than America itself”. Hakeemullah warned that his movement would soon retaliate against the US for the many Muslim leaders “martyred” in attacks.

Kayani a pro-democracy army chief, says Gilani

April 13, 2010

LAHORE: Prime Minster Yousaf Raza Gilani has said Army chief Ashfaq Kayani is a pro-democracy army chief, reported a private TV channel on Monday. Addressing the US media in Washington, Gilani said Kayani had always backed democracy. He said he would keep Kayani’s support for democracy in mind while extending his tenure as the army chief of Pakistan. Gilani said Pakistan should also be provided access to civil nuclear technology. He said Pakistan had proven that its nuclear programme was in secure hands. The prime minister ruled out the possibility of anybody being allowed access to Abdul Qadeer Khan.

Authorities declare African nationals ‘security threat’

March 24, 2010

By: Daily Times

* Majority of foreigners illegally residing in country linked with international terrorist groups, facilitating local extremists

LAHORE: Law enforcement agencies have declared the thousands of foreigners – particularly citizens of African countries – residing in Pakistan a “security threat” in light of the ongoing spate of terrorism in the country, sources told Daily Times on Tuesday.

According to sources, the majority of the African nationals were illegally residing in different cities and were involved in “suspicious activities”. Sources said that intelligence agencies harboured strong suspicions that a handful of these foreigners were also linked with international terrorist groups and were facilitating local extremists. The law enforcement agencies are going to launch a major crackdown against illegal foreign residents across the country, after completing surveillance and compiling monitoring reports. The authorities would round up all law-breaking foreigners, lodge cases against them and deport them once they have served their sentences.

Sources said the Interior Ministry had issued directions to all four provincial police departments for monitoring the activities and maintaining data on the whereabouts of foreigners – especially African nationals. At this, the foreign branches of the police departments compiled comprehensive data on the whereabouts of foreigners with the cooperation of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and forwarded to the authorities concerned.

Rented houses: The surveillance reports revealed that majority of citizens from African countries were settled in the post localities of Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad and Rawalpindi. The reports confirmed their involvement in several illegal activities while some of them were also found to be in contact with many suspicious people. While some were also running illegal bars and clubs in their rented houses. Sources said, the reports mentioned that a large number of foreigners from African countries including Kenya, Zambia and Tanzania were residing illegally in Pakistan. The reports revealed that these foreigners entered Pakistan through different visas, both visit and student visas. Later, they allegedly prepared fake documents to extend their stay in the country with the connivance of the authorities concerned. All foreigners are bound by law to inform police about their movement and their exit from the country. But, the majority of these foreigners disappeared from the scene and did not inform the authorities.

Lady Wellingdon Hospital witnesses miracle birth

March 15, 2010

* Doctors successfully operate on mother, deliver baby girl conceived in her abdomen instead of uterus
*Hospital MS says mother and child ‘healthy’, will be discharged soon

By Hayat Umar

LAHORE: The Lady Wellingdon Hospital, on Friday, witnessed a miracle birth after a baby girl – who had been conceived and nurtured outside the uterus – was delivered thanks to the heroic efforts of the mother’s doctors.

The baby girl was born in the hospital and was reported as one of the most unique cases in the country’s medical history. The mother, Ayesha, had been carrying the baby in her abdomen throughout the pregnancy and had contacted doctors after experiencing extreme abdominal pain and constipation.

After conducting routine procedures, the doctors took an ultrasound only to discover that the baby was growing outside the mother’s womb. “It initially put all the doctors in confusion as to what they should do, but it was then decided that the case would be taken on as a challenge. We put the woman under intensive care and finally managed to save the baby and the mother after an exhausting operation,” Prof Dr Ikram Ullah told Daily Times.

He said that such a case had been discovered around a decade ago, but the mother and the child had died at the time, as medical practices were not advanced at the time as they were now.

“I have seen British doctors successfully save a mother and child in a similar case a few years back, but chances of the success of such an operation remain low due to the non-availability of adequate facilities and awareness among people,” the professor said.

“Doctors treat such cases as an emergency and we were forced to conduct a very sensitive operation to save both the mother and her baby. We still believe that the survival of both mother and child in such vulnerable conditions was a miracle and a matter of chance,” he added.

Healthy: Lady Wellingdon Hospital Medical Superintendent Dr Afzal Shaheen told Daily Times that he had deployed all available facilities and set up a board of senior doctors to care for the patient and the child, “both of whom are now healthy and will be discharged from the hospital very soon”.

He said the hospital had several seasoned and senior doctors and had a massive experience of treating gynae-related issues, adding that it was an honour for them successfully deliver the baby.

“Such babies are normally aborted as soon as they come into notice due to the risks to the mother’s life, but this was an exception because the child had become due in her mother’s abdomen,” he said.