Let’s Paint Pakistan Green https://www.dawn.com/news/1428668

Illustration by Ahmed Amin

There is a fable about an old man who was planting a tree by a roadside. A passerby stopped to watch and asked in an inquisitive tone, “Why are you planting this tree, when you won’t live to enjoy its shade?”

The old man replied with a smile, “I am not planting it for myself, but for the generations to come.”

Martin Luther, a German theologist, once said, “Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.”

Friends, every day we read about global warming and climatic changes and how disastrous it is for the human race and all living things on our planet. In simple words, climate change refers to the changes in Earth’s climate, especially the gradual increase in temperature. Out of many reasons for this rise in average temperatures, a major one is the high level of carbon dioxide and other dangerous gases in the atmosphere. This in turn is due to the diminishing forest cover around the world, a negative effect of the rapid industrialization taking place all over the world.

You all must have learned in your science classes how trees absorb carbon dioxide from the air, for the process of photosynthesis, a cycle nature has devised for them to create their own food. In return, they give out oxygen and moisture, which are essential for our survival. As forests are decreasing, this natural process to keep a balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has become badly disturbed. The importance of increasing the green cover and forests, is one of the most important steps suggested by experts.

You may not be aware that Pakistan is one of the worst affected countries from climatic changes. Rising temperatures, severe droughts, flooding due to heavy rains and melting glaciers are some of the problems we are facing. Here we will not discuss the reasons, but our small input to fight this grave problem.

Friends, we all can put in efforts, big or small, to make a difference and fight this enemy which is not knocking at our door, but has already entered our precious motherland. Although the international standard for forest cover for a country is 12 percent, a World Bank study shows that Pakistan has only 3.3 percent of forest area.

Let’s make a vow that from now on, we shall paint Pakistan green! As I have mentioned above, deforestation is a major cause for the rising temperatures in our homeland. Ruthless felling of trees by the timber mafia for their selfish gains, for fuel by the poor people who do not have alternate source of energy and an indifferent policy by the government, have reduced our forest cover and greenery to a disastrous level. Instead of lamenting on our national loss, let us decide to take our destiny in our own hands and strive for what contribution we can make to control the situation.

Friends, here are a few suggestions for a greener Pakistan.

Start a green drive

You may be surprised at my suggestion, thinking that this is something for older people to do. But if you think deeply, you will realise that you can work according to your age. Your plantation drive can start from your homes, your family and your neighbourhood, and you can work on it according to your age.

You can start by planting small plants in pots, and trees in the open areas in your homes. Those of you who live in apartments or small houses, can reserve a corner of your house or a part of your balcony where you can keep small pots of plants of your choice.

Spread awareness among your family and neighbourhood and request them to join your plantation drive. You can offer to volunteer to help in planting, watering and taking care of the green areas on weekends for those who do not have a lot of helping hands and find it hard to take care of their plants and trees.

One tree for every child

Recently I was deeply impressed by a story I read about a prospering village. This village adopted ‘A tree for a child’ policy on a self-help basis. With every child born, a new fruit tree was planted and handed over to the child when he/she was old enough to look after it.

Although this was fiction, if we think seriously this measure could make our country green in a few years. Whenever a baby is born in your family, ask the parents to plant a tree dedicated to him/her. Trees can also be planted for older children and they will feel proud as they see their saplings grow with them, out beating them in height in no time.

Plant according to your age

The younger ones among you can look after small pots, after requesting your parents or elder siblings to plant seeds or saplings for you. Make sure that the plants get enough sunshine and water them regularly according to their requirement. But be careful not to over water your seeds, as it will destroy them.

The older ones among you can go for bigger plants, shrubs, creepers or trees, whichever you like more. Ask around, consult your science teachers or search the internet for the vegetation best suited for your area. Your mum will be delighted if you grow vegetables or herbs in big pots or open areas in your homes.

Plant according to your region

Pakistan is a country with diverse physical features. We have highlands, mountains, plains, valleys, deserts and a long sea shore. Find out which plants and trees are the best to grow in the climate of your region and the best months of the year to plant them.

Choosing wisely will save you from disappointment if the plants you sow wither away quickly.

Illustration by Ahmed Amin

Plant in open spaces, roadsides, parks and public places

We often see open areas which are devoid of any greenery. With the permission of an authorised person, you can work in a group in such places in your neighbourhood and plant suitable trees. Take turns to water these plants and look out for any pests or other problems.

You can consult an older person to help you out in solving your problems if using pesticides or adding manure is required. You will feel proud when these trees grow and create a green cover for the previously barren area.

Save your seeds

Friends, we all enjoy fruits at our homes. Make it a point to save the seeds of these fruits. Dry them in shady place for a few days and then you can replant them in a more open space so that they can flourish into a large tree. If you do not have enough space, give them to your acquaintances who live in bigger homes.

In the same way, some vegetables can also be grown. Tomatoes, lady finger and spinach are some of the vegetables which you can easily grow at home.

Create a green fund in every home

My young friends, you will need money for buying seeds and plants to paint Pakistan green! Create a common fund in each home.

You can request your parents and grandparents to donate to your ‘green fund’ and also save some amount each month from your pocket money. We all love to go out and enjoy on weekends. For the love of trees, I would suggest that for at least one weekend every month, you all skip this outing and add to your fund instead.

At the end of each month, if you have money left in your green fund, plant some more or give the amount to those who cannot spare money to create a green corner in their homes.

Follow the instructions in parks and green areas

I feel sad to write these lines, but as a nation, we love to break rules. Often clear instructions in bold words are written at important points in parks which read, ‘Do not walk on the grass’, or ‘Do not pluck flowers’, but people ignore these instructions with impunity.

Do not follow the example of those who break rules, but create awareness among your peers that protecting and taking care of greenery (and following rules) is not only our duty, but it is also for our own good.

Cut down on paper usage

I hope you all know that the paper we write on, the paper plates and cups we use during outings and the tissue papers we throw away after using once, are all made from wood. Use your exercise books carefully, utilising them as much as you possibly can. Cut down on items of onetime use and avail recycling measures wherever possible.

Although these steps are simple, they may be time consuming. But staying out in the open will also be beneficial for your health. In the long run, adopting these measures will create a big difference, a difference for a better tomorrow.

Best wishes for a greener and better Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, Young World, August 25th, 2018

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You are a murderer!

YOU ARE A MURDERER!
You are a doctor, and yet you let someone die…just like that!
All you cared for was your fees… You were only bothered about your bloody fees…
You should be ashamed of yourself. Your degree should be torn and then burnt into the fire and your PMDC registration should be canceled right away and you should be hanged till death…because you were part of this murder!
I am a Pakistani and these above lines are wrenched from the bottom of my heart. I just found out that a woman died in a hit and run case yesterday, in Karachi, near Sea View. I am sure you all must be aware of this tragic incident; I am not going to focus on the mad driver who didn’t stop his car and instead, ran all over her and didn’t even stop for one second to look back at what he had done … He’s a murderer and he will rot in hell…
I am not going to comment on that bloody desperate thief who came forward to see the severely injured woman on the road…And in the pretense of providing a helping hand, he STOLE her mobile phone…without even thinking for one second that her phone could have been used for locating her family…or her family would have died a thousand deaths when they would have tried to contact her and her phone would have been turned off because that’s what thieves do, right? No… I am not commenting on this either…
I am commenting and condemning this DOCTOR who refused to treat her when the eye witnesses and some police constables took her to the nearest medical center. This DOCTOR had the audacity to refuse any kind of treatment because all she was worried about was the fact that the woman’s family was not there and her main question was that “Who would pay my fees?” That patient was dying… I am sure no one could have saved her…but at least some HUMANITY could have been expected from that DOCTOR…right?
My hands are cold right now, my eyes blurry with tears…I am mourning the death of humanity in our nation… our nation has stooped to the lowest levels and I really don’t know what to do now…my head is pounding with the images of this accident site and some flashbacks of the sanitary worker that died when THREE DOCTORS refused to treat him in Umerkot few months ago…but above all…my heart is HURT at the inhumanity of all these doctors… It’s killing me because I am a Doctor myself and we take OATHS to protect people. We have pledged to keep people’s safety and benefits before our own…and in cases of emergency…we are bound to come up front and take control…without thinking about money or any other superficial things!
It is my humble request to all, who read this post… Please do something… This nation is dying… Please please please become someone’s light instead of prying it away from them…
To all the doctors out there, don’t forget that YOU were bestowed with the power of healing… YOU were entrusted with the amanat of taking care of people before your own needs… YOU are going to be held accountable too!
Think a thousand times before you refuse treatment to any patient next time…
Dr.Ayesha Ansar Khan

Drama In Islamabad!!

          I feel angry today, disturbed, ashamed, disappointed and a bit amused too! The weird drama in Islamabad, the way a man, a woman and two children kept the capital on hold, and the manner our security personnel handled the situation has again made Pakistan a laughing stock for the world. 

          And our media, our TV channels licking their lips in delight, reported the whole incident minute to minute! For six long hours! I am no television buff, and had just switched on the idiot box to check out on the weather conditions in Lahore, I was worried because my son and his family were scheduled to reach there from Murree and the rumour was that the roads in Lahore were flooded! (This proved to be wrong as I came to know later).

          There was no news about the rains in Punjab but all channels were covering the Islamabad incident and the drama had started only a few minutes ago! Glued to the Television, I kept on watching in surprise as the police and Commandos were being shown keeping a distance from the car. The woman and children in the car were first reported to be held hostage by the man who started the whole drama by firing wildly in the air. And this was the Blue area of Islamabad, the area with the highest security as all important venues i.e the Prime Minister House, National Assembly, Supreme Court of Pakistan are stuated in this locality.

          In sheer disgust, I kept on posting updates on FaceBook and here I would like to share them with my readers. Although I cannot state for sure what was the exact time but it all started at around 6 in the evening!

OMG….. Police have surrounded the car in the Blue Area Islamabad from which an unknown man fired wildly in the air…I wonder what the police is waiting for!

The car was snatched from a nearby area n there is also a burqa clad woman in the car…hostage or accomplice? The police hv still no clue..Allah reham kare, Ameen

  • The body language of the woman is V suggestive…she hardly looks panicked or nervous as she took something out from the car’s trunk
  •  

Bhaaiyon!!!! Car k tyre hi puncture kar do fire kar ke!!!

 

Two kids in the car Too!!!

My notion was right…….!!!!! the woman claims to be the wife of the man in the car plus the two children are their kids!!! 

 Aaj TVdekhein…I am sure Geo wala will also b enjoying this breaking news…but can not switch channels now…the situation is too weird!!   

Our police keeps on bringing shame to the whole nation!! And the TV channels are having a great time!! All claiming to be the first to report this drama!!I am feeling like a reporter at the moment but cant stop myself from commenting!! Sharamnaak situation!!! Look at the way the woman is coming n going conveying demands! 

Hikmat e amli ki tafseelat bhee bata dee mulzimon ki Sahulat k lye!!! I think these people have never heard of GPRS!!!Humari helpless police bechaari!!! Police dept should be dissolved…the law of the jungle is good enough for us!!!! Both of the miscreants were far enough from their car but still the police didn’t dare to overpower them! 

7.30 PM….I am  getting late for Maghrib.. have to take a short break now! 

High level Drama in Islamabad!!! Baghair ticket enjoy karein!!!  

Latest on Islamabad drama….aap sab ko mubarak ho!! Police ne musslaah shaks ki giraftaari ki tayyaari mukammil kar lee!!!! 

Islamabad Drama smells fishy from Miles!!!! How come no action has been taken although it is already dark?

Easy load for the culprit’s cell by the POLICE…how sweet of them!!

Bachon ko Pizza khana hai!! SSP Operations se naya mutalba!!! Its only my notion: P 

Operation ki tayyaryaan Mukammil!!! Bas anesthetist ka intezar hai!!

I couldn’t stop myself from Re tweeting this!

  •  A Good Soldier (@Soldier_pk):
    One thing is certain, all vehicles carrying families will face extra scrutiny at police barriers, thanks to Sikandar ‪#‎BlueA
  • My Tweet…
  • Media personal manhandled! Kumhar pe bas na chala gadhia ke kaan amethe!‪#‎Bluearea ‪#‎islamabad d security forces hs brought d nation 2 shame!!

          The nation is waiting for the drama to end! First it was being suggested by our TV channels that the security personal are waiting for the dark! But on second thoughts, I feel they have decided to wait for the Sun to rise!

          9.30 PM…After this post, I had to be pull myself away from the television as I had to go to a dinner. After exchanging pleasantries with my hostess, I requested her to switch on the TV. The drama was just ending, I could see the PPP leader Zamurrud Khan pouncing on the man and the later, as if taken by surprise, falling down and being overpowered by our brave Commandos!

(I guess Zamurrud Khan will be given Hilal e jurrat for his bravery!!)

        12.30….It is being reported that the gunman has been taken to the PIMS Hospital and is undergoing emergency surgery as he has been shot in the stomach and leg! I only wonder why this couldn’t have been done earlier!

          Frustration and shame has become the lot of the common Pakistani nobodies like me! Helpless, surprised, disappointed and angry at the (mis) performance of our police, rangers and most of all the so called Commandos we just watched the ongoing drama in sheer disgust!

The security personal seemed helpless, spineless and confused! We, the patriotic Pakistanis, demand an immediate explanation! Why were we made the laughing stock for the world once more! For Heaven’s sake, don’t hurt our pride again and again in this manner! We love this country and want it to rise from the dust… and shine!

Long live Pakistan!!

 

 

 

 

 

WHO IS TO BE BLAMED?

This is an edited version of an article published in The Financial Daily

 

WHO IS TO BLAME?

 

Independence Day is approaching yet another time. Yesterday I had a sudden idea and impulsive that I am, decided to implement it at once. Throughout the year, we are busy celebrating birthdays and anniversaries. Why not have an Independence day party? Happily I started to call close family members but I was a bit confused at the reaction of the young generation, who seemed to decline my invitation politely at one pretext or another.

I called Sohail, my nephew, on his cell many times and on not getting a response rang him at his office. “What’s wrong, Sohail? Why are you not attending to your cell? And no one is receiving the phone at home?” “Oh, Auntie, my cell has been snatched a third time and I simply can not afford to go on buying mobile phones for muggers.” Sohail’s tone was very cross. “Shazia has gone to her parents with the kids. We have no electricity and so no water for the last two days. How could she manage with the children with no water in this heat?”

Warily I told Sohail about the party. “Come on Auntieji, you must be joking! What is there to celebrate about anyway? Insecurity?  Power failures? Corruption? Suicide bombers blowing up innocent people whenever and wherever they want? Or the sky-rocketing cost of living which is making a respectable difficult day by day? What has Pakistan given us anyway? Please excuse me Auntie, I shall rather stay at home and catch up on my sleep”.

Sohail continued in an angry tone, “I simply see no logical reason left for celebrating the Independence Day. Though we have got a homeland but still we have no freedom. We have to free ourselves from the shackles of religious extremism, poverty, illiteracy, greed and corruption before calling ourselves a free nation and planning any celebrations. The struggle for independence is not over yet!”

 Sohail’s outburst helped me to understand why the people of his generation were not showing any interest in my party. They all belonged to a disenchanted and disappointed generation which had seen Pakistan going on the downwards slide, year by year! Although I tried my best to convince Sohail, his arguments were so strong and he seemed so agitated, I decided to talk to him later.

I was born in an age when the people who had strived, suffered and sacrificed for the sake of independence were all around, so I felt deeply disturbed at the frustration of our new generation. In those days Patriotism was the order of the day and our parents never tired of telling us true stories about the Pakistan movement. Precious lives were lost, ancestral homes and properties were left behind but no one considered this a price too heavy for Independence. I vividly remember my mother shedding tears when she talked about Mohammed Ali Jinnah or Liaqat Ali Khan! Love for Pakistan seemed to be in the blood and everyone seemed proud to call himself a Pakistani.

I can still remember how enthusiastically we celebrated 14th August at school. The principal hoisted the national flag and gave a short speech stressing on the importance of independence and love for one’s Homeland.  As we fervourly recited the National Anthem in a chorus, it was a proud moment and the fluttering green flag never ceased to bring tears to my eyes. Sweets were distributed among the children and all of us were as happy as if it was Eid.

Sohail’s questions brought a rush of guilt to my heart. What is the reason behind this change in emotions? Have we failed to transfer this love for Pakistan to our next generation? Did we take independence for granted and did not strive enough to pass on its importance to their young minds. Or is it our poor and inept education system which is to blame.

Today our young generation has but a fleeting knowledge of the hardships faced during the movement for Pakistan, something which they have learned in the dull and drab books on Pakistan Studies! These books also keep changing with the advent of every new ruler who want the syllabus to suit his whims, trying to write a new history after every few years.

Or should we blame the greedy and incapable politicians, who are too busy filling their pockets (which are already bursting at the seams), to care for the peace and prosperity of Pakistan?

Our country is rich enough in resources. But whose purpose does it serve to keep them untapped and underutilized? Job opportunities which can be created but are not, the rain water which can do wonders for our agricultural lands but instead floods and destroy standing crops, the beautiful valleys were no tourists dare to visit due to fear of the so called religious extremist, growing unemployment and a steep rise in the inflation level are only a few reasons of the causes leading to the frustration of our young generation. These and many other such thoughts kept troubling me as I lay awake in the darkness of the night.

The next morning I called Sohail again, “Whether you come or not, I am celebrating 14th August according to my plans. You asked me many questions yesterday. The only question I have to ask you is ‘What have “We” given to Pakistan’? Nobody from the Heavens will come to change our lot. It is our choice, either we sit in our drawing rooms, sipping tea and blaming each other for our failures, or firmly resolve to strive and sacrifice, step by step, for the prosperity of Pakistan”.

RAMZAN AND PAKISTAN ( Musings of a true Pakistani!)

 

We have been blessed by the month of Ramadan again. This is the time of the year to re-learn lessons, to stop and think; and to act for a better life and a better future! As I repeatedly say, Ramadan is not about refraining to eat and drink from dawn to dusk as this only the physical requirement of this month. Neither is it only about preparing and shopping for Eid, something we all spend a major part of the month in. The message of this month goes much deeper! If we think a bit profoundly, we will find that this is a month to change ourselves for the better, to improve in all aspects of life.

We all know Pakistan was created on the 14th of August 1947, but maybe most of us do not know that this day coincided with the 27th of Ramadan 1368 Hijri. If we truly realize the real lessons of this month, and apply it to our behavior and attitude as citizens of Pakistan, we can make a drastic improvement in the future of our homeland. All of us have to play a role and change ourselves to contribute towards this goal.

Discipline, obedience, punctuality, compassion for those less blessed than us, sharing and caring and a sense of accountability are all feelings which can go a long way in improving our lives as well as the situation in Pakistan.

My readers may be too young to realize the intensity of the dire state of affairs we as a nation are stuck in, but you are enlightened enough to know that all is not well in Pakistan. The newspaper and the electronic media give us disturbing news every day. Your parents fear for your security when you go out. Illiteracy, crimes, corruption and greed are gnawing at the roots of our beloved homeland. If we as a nation resolve to apply the true spirit of Ramadan to our conduct and outlook as a nation, a positive change in the situation is bound to come.

Ramadan teaches us the lesson of obedience. We know that we have to go without food and during during a fast. But we can easily sneak a snack or a glass of water when no one is watching us. But none of us would even think of doing so because we all firmly believe that a Divine Eye is watching us! Why is it so that we take a pleasure in breaking rules and disobeying laws? Sneaking a flower or two and walking on the grass where it is clearly written “Do not walk on the grass or pluck flowers” give us a sense of adventure. Breaking traffic signals and over speeding on roads are not even considered a crime by most people. Pushing and shoving each other instead of making a queue at public places are all national habits with us. These are small crimes but this frame of mind gives rise to a disregard for law at all levels. If we learn to obey and respect the law at a young age, a far reaching change will be seen very soon.

Ramadan is the month of punctuality. We start and break fasts according to the fixed time and not according to our mood or whim. But as a nation we totally lack a sense of punctuality. Students submit their work late, government officers generally do not care if they do not reach their offices in time; we seldom follow the timings when we attend a wedding or any other invitation. And often I have found patients waiting and suffering in pain because the doctors do not turn up at the exact time they have given to their patients. Time is a commodity which we love to waste although if we study the cases of developed nations we shall find that punctuality and valuing time is one of their foremost qualities. So, this Ramadan let us resolve that we shall value our time and try to do every thing according to a set routine.

When we give out Zakaat in Ramadan, we come in contact with people less privileged than us. This creates in us a sense of compassion as well a will to share our blessings with the needy people around us. Feeling the pangs of hunger as well going thirsty makes us realize what the poor people go through the year around. If we nurture these feelings and keep them alive around the year, a large number of people from our circle will benefit. Giving away clothes, toys, books and other personal possessions which you can comfortably do without may bring joy and content to those who can not afford to buy these things. Frustrations and deprivations usually give rise to crime. The crime graph in our country can come down sharply if the affluent change their attitude of amassing wealth by using unfair means and depriving the worthy of their share, but these qualities have to be learnt from a young age.

In the end I must say that Ramadan gives us a general sense of piety, an urge to do good deeds and shun bad ones. Lying, cheating, selfishness, greed and back biting are all qualities which are causing the detoriation in the conditions our country is facing. While fasting we have a natural urge to keep away from these ills. Why not resolve firmly to make this a national habit? Even when Ramadan is over and we are not fasting truthfulness, honesty, patriotism and discipline can go a far way to guide Pakistan towards the road to development.

So, enjoy the delicacies Mummy cooks for Iftar and Sehar but do not fail to lend her a helping hand wherever you can. Shop for your Eid preparations but do not forget those who are less privileged than you. But foremost of all, this Ramadan let’s resolve to make Pakistan a better place to live in. When we all join hands and make firm resolution things will improve Insha Allah. Because as an optimistic I firmly believe that there is light at the end of the darkest tunnel! A change (for the better) in our values and preferences is the need of the hour.

Bonding Times!

The cherished months have finally arrived. It’s summer holiday again! It’s time to laze around and relax from the strict regime of school life, home-work, tests and, for some friends, the additional burden of tuitions too! But it is often seen that after the initial week or two, the excitement and charm of the vacation seems to wear off and we start complaining of boredom.

What should we do? This is the question which you all start asking your mothers and it makes them want to groan out aloud as they wonder how to keep their kids busy, happy and mostly out of their way!

Some lucky ones amongst you may go out of town (or country) to spend your vacation. There are also a lot of summer camps which offer a variety of activities, but in these times of insecurity and inflation, most parents do not find them affordable or convenient.

Friends, instead of getting on our parents’ nerves, we must find such means to keep ourselves busy that are not only fulfilling but also easy on our parents’ pockets!

This summer you can find a very fulfilling activity which will not only keep you busy, it will also provide a sense of immense emotional gratification. These are the months when we have lots of free time at our hands, and we can make this time precious by using it for bonding with relatives, old friends, books, nature and the environment around us!

Bonding with relatives

Often, in the busy school months we have hardly any time for our elderly relatives. Grandparents specially look forward to vacations as they know that you can visit them more often and also spend nights with them. The luxury of Grandma’s delicious pulao, her special cookies and the traditional kheer, which no one can make as perfect as her, are for yours to enjoy.

You can also help Grandpa with his gardening, in rearranging his bookshelf, or accompany him when he goes out for his daily walk or to the mosque. You can also help your grandparents to clean up their cupboards and room, a chore they do not have the energy to do without help. Maybe you will find something interesting like old photographs, grandma’s trinkets which she doesn’t use anymore or old coins and stamps Grandpa once collected as a hobby. They may allow you to keep these with you and they may one day turn to be a sort of souvenir from them.

There are also elderly family members, like your parents’ aunts and uncles or an ageing neighbor. A visit from you or a phone call can brighten up their day as deep down old people are usually lonely! You can indulge them by playing a game of ludo or chess, or reading out to them from their favorite book. The happy look you will see on their faces would make your free time worthwhile.

Bonding with old friends

Sometimes you lose track of close friends once they move out of your neighborhood or change school. In these leisure months it would be a wonderful idea to look them up and refresh your ties with them. You can email them to find out about their whereabouts or call common friends to trace them out. Meeting old friends is often a tonic for our mood and spirits, providing us with a deep sense of pleasure.

Bonding with your books

With the hectic routine of homework and class tests, most children usually like to spend their free hours relaxing in front of the television, texting or chatting with friends and browsing on the computer. Reading good books is no more a favorite pastime for most of you. But you must realize that books are your best companions and there is no better time to cultivate good reading habits than the long afternoons of your summer vacation.

To make your time more productive, look up some good classics, and be sure that every day you spend a couple of hours in reading. In this way you will learn a lot as reading not only broadens your insight, it also provides you knowledge beyond your textbooks — the most enjoyable pastime one can have!

Ask your parents or elder siblings to help you in the choice of books. You can visit old book shops or the Sunday markets where you can get good books at affordable prices. Create a chain by exchanging books with your friends. This way you will be able to read more while you spend less. Soon you will realize that reading is the most enjoyable pastime one can have.

Bonding with nature

Bird watching, going for walks and gardening are all means to bond with nature. Place small pots of water and baajra (millet) in your garden and you will be delighted to see the sparrows specking at the food and drink!

Bread pieces leftover from the breakfast table, a spoonful or two of cooked rice can also go into these pots and don’t be alarmed if crows also come in for the treat. After all they also help to clear up the environment and we can set out a morsel of food for them too.

Gardening is also a very fulfilling activity which will bring you closer to nature. You can set out small pots in your garden or balcony and nurture and water your personal plants. The tinge of delight at seeing your plant grow will make your time rewarding as well as give you a sense of fulfilment.

Bonding with the environment

This summer vacation set a goal for yourself to make your surroundings better. You can organize a cleanliness drive with the help of your neighborhood children. Clearing up your lane and going from door to door to ask people to help you by not throwing their trash on roads will create awareness and a better civic sense. You will also immense satisfaction of seeing your surroundings cleaner and more hygienic.

The list goes on and on. These are only some suggestions for your summer holidays, but I am sure that my little friends are intelligent enough to take their initiative from these activities and plan a number of positive ones themselves! Happy vacation!

Environment: Say ‘No’ to polythene

A\fter having breakfast, I picked up the newspaper and settle down to my second cup of tea, a routine which I enjoy everyday. A letter to the editor about the use (or misuse) of polythene bags caught my eyes. It read: “The government has failed totally in imposing the ban on polythene bags. Although implemented strictly last year, they disappeared only for a few days from the super markets, shops, vendors and stalls. They have come creeping back, slowly and surely, and it seems their days in Pakistan are not over”.

Nodding my head at the inefficiency of our government, I exclaimed angrily, ‘How irresponsible our authorities are! They start these campaigns half-heartedly and then forget about them quickly.’ Folding the newspaper away and feeling very displeased at the inefficiency of the authorities, I started preparing for lunch.

I took out the required items from the refrigerator and proceeded to the kitchen. But a thought froze me halfway! The number of polythene bags I had taken out from the fridge made me feel guilty. Mince, chicken, tomatoes, carrots, curd, coriander and green chillies were all packed in separate polythene bags. And I would be using and discarding a lot more as the day will end. I realised the fact that it would be the same in most households.

So, friends and readers, we are simply not justified in blaming the authorities for not implementing ban on polythene bags strictly. Refusing to take responsibility, we fail to realise that we ourselves are also the culprits… and the victims, as well!
Polythene bags constitute serious environmental and health hazards. Hundreds of thousands of polythene bags are discarded daily as a waste. Apart from being unpleasant to the eyes, they fly about with the wind and get stuck to barbed wires, trees and bushes, they choke drains and sewerage systems which, as a result, encourage the spread of mosquitoes and waterborne diseases.

Also, this plastic waste when dumped in fields causes land infertility, and it has disastrous effects on aquatic life when thrown in rivers, ponds or the sea. Moreover, burning polythene bags releases toxic gases that have ill-effects on health, such as aggravating respiratory problems. Recycling them is very costly and when buried they take about a 1000 years to decompose!

By refusing to pay heed to the warnings of the usage of polythene bags by concerned environmentalists, we are playing havoc with our future. Milk, eggs, fruits, pulses rice — every conceivable eatable is sold and bought in polythene bags. The scenario is no better in shopping centres. From the big departmental stores to the vendors on the footpath, every shopkeeper is supplying his commodities in polythene. We bring back home clothes, toys, shoes, books and almost all the stuff that we buy, in polythene bags.

This cursed material of the 20th century has invaded every aspect of our lives. What did people do when the polythene bags were not around or not so common? In my childhood days, I remember that cane baskets or jute bags were used to bring back groceries. These were in a number of sizes in every household and they were used according to the quantity of the commodities required. Milk was bought in steel or aluminium containers and cotton or jute bags were used to bring in meat, fish and poultry. Women usually carried colourful reusable bags when they went out for shopping. But slowly all these environment-friendly options were discarded as we took the convenience of disposable polythene bags.

How easy it is to criticise others and we are always content to play the blame game, putting the responsibility of all community work on the shoulders of the government. We conveniently forget that all of us have to join hands to bring about a change, a change for the better only if we offer helping hands to them.

We should make efforts to create awareness among our friends and neighbours about the harmful effects of polythene bags and give them suggestions for suitable alternatives.

All of us have many pieces of cloth at home, leftovers from suits, faded bed sheets or extra pillow cases. These can be easily converted into handmade shopping bags. Jute and paper bags are also good options, depending on the nature of our shopping.

Any efforts on the governmental level will have minimal impact unless we do our part by refusing to use polythene bags. We must cooperate with the concerned authorities to save our country from an environmental disaster. It may take a little planning to completely eradicate the usage of polythene bags, but by putting life ahead of inconvenience, we can make a difference to the environment. By saying ‘No’ to polythene bags, we can help the government in eradicating this menace, for in doing so we shall be investing on a healthy environment for the future.

 

LIGHT THE TORCH! (MY MUSINGS ON THE EVE OF PAKISTAN DAY)

Gloom hangs heavy in the air as Pakistan is going through one of the worst phases of her short history! The most common emotions we are experiencing these days are of insecurity, anxiety, fear, frustration, disappointment and all other such negative feelings! Although elections are just round the corner but the common citizen does not seem to be interested in casting his vote! We have been hoodwinked so many times by the clever and greedy politicians that we have lost all hope that things will or can improve for the better! Tall promises made in the past (and which were never fulfilled) have made us doubt any new claims made by these same faces!

The media is crying its throat hoarse on the intensity (read hopelessness) of the situation. Day in and day out, we witness participants of TV talk shows spell doom. The hosts of these shows invite people at the helm of affairs, people who have influence as well as authority, to discuss on the various issues troubling our country. But these people do nothing except fighting like wild cats, slinging allegations at each other and behaving like a bunch of spoilt brats! No one is ready to come forward and take responsibility, the best that they do is comfortably placing their opponent responsible for the quagmire we are stuck in. Problems are discussed and defined, but no solutions are offered.

I am just a face in the crowd, an ordinary woman in a country of millions. But like every educated and dedicated Pakistani, I feel depressed by the state of affairs and often ponder on means and ways to come out of this situation. I strongly feel that every one with an iota of patriotism should do his/ her share. It may be a drop in the ocean, but with time, effort and dedication, eventually every drop will count! Because every contribution (however small it may seem at the moment), towards a better society, may make some difference tomorrow! According to Shahzad Roy, founder of the Zindagi Trust, “To go big, we must first start small. Alas there are no shortcuts!”

 I and my readers are lucky, in the sense that we had access to quality education. We went to good institutions and had sincere teachers who brought out our abilities as best as they could. We know what our rights as citizens of a state are, and what duties we hold in return. We are leading a relatively comfortable and respectable life and can only imagine the sufferings of the down trodden masses. The current state of affairs strongly demands that it is our turn to pay back to our Homeland and not take our good luck for granted. We must understand that holding discussions over a cup of coffee, comfortably seated in our drawing rooms will not change our lot. We have to do something urgently, nay, on a war footing, to save our country from total turmoil.

The crying need of the hour is to create awareness among the masses. People must learn to identify their rights as well as be aware of their duties! And this mind-set comes only with education. We in Pakistan have a very low literacy rate, although official figures paint a brighter picture of the situation, as they declare near half the population literate. But their criterion is indeed pathetic; as a person who can read and write his/ her name is called literate in Pakistan. We have a dismal education system, teaching a listless curriculum by teachers, majority of who lack any sense of dedication to the cause of “Education for All”. Some of Pakistan’s problems like the rise of the crime graph, unemployment, hatred, intolerance and poor health conditions due to poor hygiene, are created by the lack of education.

Successive governments have failed to work for raising literacy levels in Pakistan (134th position in the 180 countries of the world and 31st out of 35 Islamic countries). Our selfish and greedy politicians realize that mass literacy will give people dignity, self respect and the courage to fight against their oppressive policies. Because with education comes enlightenment and the will to fight tyranny!

In the past Punjab government did come up once with the slogan Parha Likha Punjab. (I beg to state that the name is suggestive in itself of the political motives behind it as Parha Likha Pakistan would have been a more patriotic slogan). But it was rolled back after millions of rupees were misspent. So whatever tall claims they may make, education has never been on the top in the priority lists of our governments.

Whoever is in power, in every budget only meager funds are allotted for education, while much bigger chunks are spent on the luxurious spending of the government high-ups. Although the outgoing government had announced that over 80% literacy would be reached by the year 2015, but with no note worthy efforts in this direction, this proved to be only a verbal claim. We can easily understand how sincere their claims were by the fact that approximately a paltry 2% of the budget was been allocated for the educational sector. (UNESCO has recommended increasing this to at least 4%). In which I call only a vote gaining tactic, a resolution to implement free secondary education was passed in the National Assembly a few months back, but every educated Pakistani felt that this was “Too little, Too late!

In the rural areas, the situation is worse. The influential landlords consider it against their interests that their Haris or their children get educated. They know that their uncrowned kingdoms will have to face a down fall once awareness is created amongst their domains. To keep their powerful tentacles firmly rooted, they discourage their Haris and threaten them with dire consequences if their children are sent to school. They forcefully have schools shut down, using them as their Autaqs, or worst still as their cattle pens. As most of our feudal landlords have a strong hold on the country’s political power, they can easily have their way. So majority of the population continue to live on as illiterates, in abject poverty and unaware of their basic rights to a minimal quality life.

          NGOs, philantropists and private trusts are working in the education sector and doing a lot to provide free or affordable education to the poor children. The parents are urged to pull their children out of child labor and sent to schools; something they are often reluctant to do, as the children help out their parents by bringing in additional income. But the problem is so enormous that these efforts can not be enough to tackle the situation and bring our country out of this culture of chaos, corruption and confusion. Each and every educated person in Pakistan should come forward to do his/ her share.

My slogan is “Each One, Teach One”. If each educated Pakistani vows to impart education to only one illiterate person, young or old, soon we will see winds of change blowing. By adopting just one person as our student, be it our maid, chowkidar or their child, the boy selling tidbits at traffic signals or the Chota at the motor mechanics or Pan shop, we have to coax and urge these people and take them under our folds. By sparing a couple of hours of our free time and making all out efforts to impart education from the basic level, we can change the destiny of at least one person, as our student will not just learn to read and write his/her name to be called a literate, rather would have the awareness and vision only education can create. Making only one person literate by the educated ones, will double the literacy rate of Pakistan in no time. And the only repayment we may ask from our student is to ask him to pass on his knowledge to someone else in his circle.

Being a firm optimist, I believe that there is light at the end of the darkest tunnel. Every educated Pakistani must come forward to light the torch of literacy and to make sure that this torch keeps on burning. It may take time, patience and endurance but in not- too- far- off days we shall see hands coming out of the darkness; hands which shall pick up this lightened torch of education and awareness and march ahead, spreading the light of literacy to each and every part of our country! In Sha Allah!

 

Attitude: Roads are not dustbins By Yasmin Elahi | From InpaperMagzine | Young World (Dawn)

Roads are Not Dustbins!

GARBAGE DUMPED ON ROADSIDES!

My little son taught me a lesson which I will remember all my life. We were coming back home after some shopping and it was a hot and humid day. As we were quite exhausted, I bought chips and juices for our drive back. After sipping the juice thirstily and finishing my chips, I was about to throw away the empty packets on the road when my son’s voice startled me, “Mama, roads are not dustbins!”

Surprised I turned around to see him neatly folding his wrappers and placing them in the empty shopper. With a somewhat amused smile, I asked him, “Who told you so, son?” Without a blink of an eye he said confidently, “Our teacher told us in the class yesterday that we should not throw anything on the roads. It is the duty of every citizen to keep our city clean.”

I felt ashamed of myself! All my life I had committed this crime without even considering it unethical. Every unwanted thing during a drive which should have been saved for the dustbin, was thoughtlessly tossed out of the car’s window. And then I had the cheek to complain about the dirty conditions of our roads, curse the sweepers for not doing their job properly and blame the concerned high ups for not taking strict steps to ensure that the city was kept spotlessly clean!

Karachi is considered a city of colours, from its multi-ethnic population, the variety in the dresses of its people, the food they eat, or the highly decorated public buses they travel in, but some of the colours are added by the garbage strewn along the roads, alleys, parks and other public places. It isn’t an uncommon sight to see heaps of cloth strips outside a tailor’s shop, leftover food dumped besides roadside eateries, vendors of fruits and vegetables throwing away their rotten produce, wrappings and empty boxes outside their shops.

All of us take great pains to keep our homes clean, spending a good part of our time daily to keep them spic and span. But how many of us realise that keeping our streets, alleys and public places clean is also our responsibility? Roadsides are littered with fruit peels, empty cans of juices, pet bottles of cold drinks and mineral water, discarded packs of cigarettes, match boxes, wrappers of chips, biscuits, ice-cream, pan and sweet supari, etc.

Polythene bags blow about lazily in the breeze or worse still, get stuck in the bushes, trees and barbed wires, depicting an ugly sight. They make storm water drains choke and overflow whenever there is rain. Still we do not even have a second thought before throwing out our garbage on the roads. These ugly dumps not only emit an ugly odour, they also become a favourable breeding place for flies and mosquitoes, giving rise to many infectious diseases.

As a nation we lack civic sense. We seldom take responsibility for any collective or productive act which could provide for better living conditions. We are content to play the blame game, sit back and criticise the government for all our woes. We hold the municipal authorities solely responsible for keeping our roads and public places clean, without realising that each and everyone has to play his role.

The city government has taken many steps to beautify Karachi and the result can be seen in nearly every part of the city. But the greenery, the impressive flyovers and underpasses can only please the eye if they are litter and graffiti-free.

It is high time we understood and learnt to play a positive role in keeping our cities clean. On self-help basis, we can take the initiative by forming neighbourhood committees that see to the sanitary conditions of their locality and make sure that no one throws his garbage outside his house.

We must learn to use dustbins provided in public places for unwanted things and teach others to do so too, because clean roads make clean cities and clean cities provide citizens with a healthy and pollution free environment. Like in the developed countries, the government can declare littering a crime and carry out on-the-spot checking; fines can be imposed on those who violate the law. We can follow the example of Singapore, one of the cleanest cities in the world, where heavy fines are imposed on throwing anything on the roads.

The lessons learnt during childhood last for a long time and children are good learners and teachers too. So parents and teachers can play an important role in inculcating in them a sense of responsibility at a very early stage. Their civic sense can go a long way towards changing the attitude of society as a whole. I hope many children (like my son) will teach their careless parents (like me) a lifelong lesson. Thank you, my dear son!

 

 

THE BEGINNING OF THE END?

 

I grumble, I protest, I rave, I rant and yes, I am not ashamed to admit that in weak and emotional moments I cry too! But in the depth of my heart there is a sad and sinking feeling that all this is in vain! I can not do anything to change the way things are going in my beloved Homeland. And then I realize that my pen is my only tool! At least I can give a path to my emotions, share with my readers my pain, my anger and my frustration at the non stop downslide in nearly every aspect of life in Pakistan! Being a stay at home mother and grandmother and also a senior citizen, my ageing body and mind hampers me from any active participation in the state of affairs; this is the only small contribution I can make. It may be a drop in the ocean, but deep down I firmly believe that eventually every such drop will bring about a tsunami of change!

Every new incident of terror, arson, cold blooded target killing, corruption and sheer negligence bring a flurry of troubling questions to my mind. Is this the price we and our coming generation pay for loving our country? Who are these people who have unleashed a reign of terror on the common (and patriotic) Pakistani? Why are the people who are supposed to trace them and give them exemplary punishment a total failure in their jobs (for which they are paid hefty amounts after fleecing the law abiding taxpayer)?  When will the situation change for the better and this hopeless situation end? When will our politicians end their race in corruption and greed and rise to the occasion and try to control things which are getting out of hand day by day? When will the sufferings of the man on the street abate?  How can the heartless people who are killing innocent and unarmed fellow countrymen dare to call themselves Muslims? Although I can find no answer to my questions, the intense pain, the deep anger and the sense of frustration abates a bit when I express my feelings of utter hopelessness!

I am no political analyst, nor a religious scholar, so like every common Pakistani I can only ask, nay, demand for solutions! Maybe someday, someone will come up with an answer to my queries but at the moment I, like all sensitive and patriotic Pakistanis seem to be groping in the dark! We are walking in a tunnel which seems to be endless, our souls so tired we feel like dropping down dead, but the vague hope that there is bound to be light at the end of this dark tunnel keep us dragging our bleeding feet on!

11th January..2013

I had started this blog a few days back, but the slow and lazy writer that I am, had left it unfinished. But the bomb blasts in Quetta have brought me back to my computer. Today is a black day in Pakistan’s history! And I am sad to say that we do not have days like these once in a while! The bomb blasts in Quetta which has left more than a hundred people dead and a lot more injured has opened a new set of questions in my mind. Who are these people who are targeting the Hazara Shias in Balochistan? Are we all not human beings, and then Muslims before we are Sunnis or Shias? When will the high-ups in Baluchistan wake up from their deep slumber to stop these killings? Are they a part of this conspiracy and deliberately turning a deaf ear and blind eyes to the ethnic cleansing of these innocent people? The list of questions goes on and on and I just grope in pain for answers!

13th January…2013

The relatives of the bomb blast victims have taken a seemingly strange step. As a protest for the killings of their dear ones, they have decided to hold a dharna(sit-in) at the site of the blasts, with the coffins of the deceased! They are demanding that the army take over the control of Quetta and the inefficient and corrupt government of CM Raisani sacked! The voice of their peaceful but painful protest is reaching out to every sensible and sensitive Pakistani, waves of protest are spreading country wide as sit ins are being held in many cities in all the four provinces of Pakistan!

The unburied coffins of the victims of the gruesome carnage in Quetta seem to ask more questions? What was our fault? Why are we being targeted so cruelly? Why have the security services and the government failed to give us protection?

As I try to go back to sleep after my Fajr prayers, my mind goes back to the people out there, braving the freezing temperatures and the agony and pain of sitting with their unburied dead! As I pull my blanket closer, my ageing body seems to shiver at these disturbing thoughts. I feel restless! And pushing my blanket aside, I try again to complete this blog.

 My heart goes out to you, the relatives of the innocent people killed in the Twin explosions. It must be breaking your hearts to sit out with the dead bodies of your loved ones, bravely facing the bitter cold and rain as well as the emotional trauma you are going through!

14th January ..2013

After the three days long painful sit in, a day of mourning which has brought most of the country to a standstill, the government finally has to give in! Although the prime Minister had reached Quetta earlier in the day, he did not seem to have the courage to go out to the protestors. Media coverages of him, sitting comfortably in the warmth of the heaters in the Governor House, holding talks with concerned people, while the young and old, men, women and children were shown shivering in the intense cold, only added insult to injury!

Finally late in the night, he went to offer his condolences to the bereaved, not looking very comfortable as he hummed and hawed during his speech, and had to be prompted again and again by the Information Minister Kaira. He finally announced that the demands of the protestors have been met. There would be Governor rule in Baluchistan, immediate compensation for those who have been killed (as if money could compensate for their lives) and free treatment for the injured.

And the rest is history!

Today there is only one question which keeps on tugging at my heart! Is this the beginning of the end?

I hope and pray this time the country wide protests, and the painful sacrifice of the mourners of not burying their dead unless their demands are met, do not go in vain and the moment of change we all have been waiting for has finally arrived! Maybe I will at last get an answer to the questions which make my heart bleed and keep me sleepless at nights! May be we have reached the end of the dark tunnel, even if we are on our hands and feet, but being the resilient nation we are, we are bound to bounce back!

Long live Pakistan!