Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Christmas Celebrations in Pakistan

                    Christmas celebrations are enjoyed world wide. I also was very eager to make some  reports on how christmas is celebrated in Pakistan. To fulfill my desire, I went to one of the oldest churches in Rawalpindi city, called the St. Pauls's Church, to cover a chruch service. This church service was organized almost fifteen days before christmas. The Pastor of church, Samuel Titus, told me that Christmas celebration start well before the actual Christmas date.
                     During the Christmas service, Pastor prayed for the prosperity of Pakistan and asked the affluent christans to help the unprivileged Christan families, especially those who want to send their children to schools but don't have enough funds. Many carols were also sung in memeory and praise of Jesus. But the best part of the service was the surprise appearance of Santa Claus. Santa came running in the church on lovely tunes of Jingle Bells. All the children got really excited to see the Santa. Santa gave lovely gifts to kids. This was not enough, there was another Santa for the kids. This Santa was actually a professional juggler. He entertained the people with his amazing juggling tricks. I loved this church service and realized that Christans are such an important and a vibrant part of our society. And still, theres a lot to be done for this and other minorities in Pakistan.
                  After covering this event, I got more excited and thought to do something on the traditional Christmas dishes. I had attended Christmas dinners while I was in the U.S. and I understand how important Christmas dinner is, it is an event when the entire family gathers and they eat, watch t.v and have a fabulous time. Pearl Continental, a five star Hotel in Rawalpindi City, had organized special Christmas Dinner on Christmas Day. So, I took benefit of this opportunity and went to this hotel. I met the chefs there and saw how the Turkey and special steaks are made for Christmas. Turkey is one of the most important part of Christmas meal. The chef at this hotel had baked Turkey with stuffings of fruits, bread crumbs and dry fruits. The turkey was served with a delicious Cranberry sauce. The chef also served us special Jason's Steak House beef steaks. I loved watching the chefs cooking in the kitchen. I have always been inspired by these creative individuals. It was a great experience to meet the chefs and get to know more about them. One of the chefs, Mr. Azeem Khan was awarded the best Chef of Pakistan award this year.
                 Overall,  enjoying the Christmas celebrations in Pakistan was a great learning and a wonderful experience. I am thankful to the admistration and Pastor of St. Pauls chruch for being so welcoming and also to Manager Pearl Continental Asad Shah, Chef Azeem Khan and Chef Hina for their cooperation and for especially cooking us a delicious Christmas Dinner.
Here are links of my news reports


Sunday, 25 December 2011

History Of Moti Bazar, Rawalpindi

Moti Bazar is one of the oldest bazars in Rawalpindi city. It is  hub of business activities, many people visit it but only few are aware of its interesting history. I was fortunate to get to know some interesting facts about this lively bazar. Almost, 200 years ago, Satti practice was common in India.  Like any vibrant society, there were a group of people who were against this practie. Mr. Moti Lal Nohri, a prominenet sikh from Rawalpindi was one who spoke against this practice openely. To help widowed women, Moti Lal opened a centre for these women. In this centre women who were afraid that there families or their in laws would  burn them to death after their husbands death, took protection in this centre. Women would stich clothes, do embriodery on clothes and sell them outside their centre. This provided them some money to feed themselves. After partition , this centre was closed and the building was alloted to a school. So, next time if you happen to go to Moti Bazar, do visit M.C. Boys High School, which is in the centre of Moti Bazar. This school was the centre for those widowed women. The name given to Moti Bazar is after name of Moti Lal Nohri, and the reason why Moti Bazar has many shops of women embroided clothes is also because of those women who 200 years ago made their living by selling clothes outside their centre. M.C Boys High School, still runs and comes under federal board. Th school also has old record. According to school adminstration many people who come from India, visit this school, where they studied for a year or two.
Following is the link of my news report on this historical centre.


Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Peace Award to Malala yousafzai from Prime Minister Pakistan

Malala Yousafzai is a fourteen year old girl of Swat, Pakistan. She has recently been awarded the first National Peace Award of Pakistan. The award in future will  be associated with Malala's name. Between 2007 and 2009,  there was a military operation going on in Swat against militants. Militants were bombing girls's schools throughout Swat, and killing people who were favoring the military and government of pakistan.This was the time when people were shifting to other cities, when people had hidden themselves in their homes. But Malala was brave enough to talk to national and international media. She openely talked about girls education, how harmful bombing girls schools would be. She became a part of Newyork Times documentaries , A school girl's odyessy, and A class dismissed in Swat. She also was a regular writer for BBC Urdu website. On 20th Decemeber 2011, she  recieved Pakistan's first peace award, in recognition of her services to raise awareness about girl's education. On her meeting with the Prime Minister she demaded that a seperate campus of Swat University and a post graduate college for women, be opened for Swat's girls. I was fortunate to meet this exceptionally talanted girl . I spoke with Malala and her father. Malala is thankful to the Prime Minister and to the media of Pakistan, for highlighting her efforts. Malala wants to become a honest politician of Pakistan, someone who would sincerely work for the people of Pakistan. She also wants to establish, Malala Foundation trust. Through this organization she wants to work for children rights. She wants that all girls of Pakistan should be given a chance to go to school. Malala's sheer determination and passion proves that she will achieve all her dreams. The best part is that her dreams are not associated only with her growth and success. Her dreams are associated with millions of young girls of Pakistan and most importantly her dreams are associated with the bright future of Pakistan.                    

Here's the link of my conversation with Malala and her father.

Monday, 19 December 2011

U.S. not Freezing Military Aid to Pakistan

              I got a chance to interview Mark Stroh, spokesperson of the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, for ARY NEWS. Following is the summary of the interview.

             The U.S. says its not cutting the military aid of 700 million dollars nor it is freezing the aid to Pakistan. The senate has passed a defence authorisation bill, which bounds Pakistan to cooperate with the U.S. in combating the IED's, which have been a primary sources of deaths of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. If the defence departement of U.S. sends a report to the congress that Pakistan is cooperating than the aid money will go to Pakistan. This bill will most likely be soon signed by President Obama, and than Pakistan would be bound to control the flow of IED's to Afghanistan. Experts of International affairs, here in Islamabad have been talking about a clear shift in Pakistan's policy regarding war on terror. So I asked Mark, what would be the reaction of the U.S. government if Pakistan withdraws itself from the ongoing war on terror ?   and would U.S. appreciate Pakistan's efforts of talking and negotiating with the militants rather than fighting as its new policy ? As expected , Mark's response was not very encouraging for Pakistan. According to him, Pakistan is a soverign country and it can take its own decisions, but the militantscontinue to be a threat to not only Pakistan , and Afghanistan , but to the entire world including the U.S.. Than clearly there are other avenues to confront this threat rather than only talking and negotiating with the.
Here's link of my interview.


Sunday, 18 December 2011

Environment Friendly Handicratfs of Muzaffarabad, Pakistan

We all know how hazardous can the plastic bags be to our environment. Burning them , releases poisonous gases, just throwing them away can cause sewage problems not only this, they can also be harmful for agricultural land. Yet plastic bags are commonly used in Pakistan and there is no proper mechanism to recycle them. On my recent visit to Muzaffarabad, I was pleasantly surprized to cover a project for ARY NEWS. This project is about utilising plastic bags to make useful household items. This project is sponsered by NGO,Idara e Taleem o Agahi, and the U.S. State department. Under this project, Tahir Alam, a school teacher, has guided girls of a local school of Muzaffarabad to weave plastic threads and make household items. By cutting the plastic bags in a certain way, the girls are able to get 9 yards of plastic thread. Girls have made useful items such as table mats, baskets, school bags and other decorative items by weaving plastic thead. The project head , Tahir Alam, says that this is a unique example of putting plastic bags, something extremely harmful for the environment to an excellent use. The girls who weaved these lovely products said that if they get help and support from the government, than not only would they be doing something good for their environment , but also be able to earn good amount of money. If such projects are sponsered all over Pakistan , than there is no doubt that we could help recycle plastic bags on a larger level, and thus help keep our environment cleaner.


Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Beautiful Swat Valley

On Tuesday 21st Sep 2010 Sarah, my friend who also works as a news reporter called me to join her on a day trip to Swat. I was a bit reluctant to accept the invitation as I had taken three days off with the Eid holidays to attend quite an amazing wedding in Peshawar. But somehow she convinced me and I was ready for an adventurous trip.

So early in the morning at around 7 we got in to a 20.5 million armored vehicle. This was World food program’s car.  We were traveling with them as media reporters to cover their projects in Swat. This seemed to be a cool, comfortable car and I was just excited to travel in an armored vehicleJ. Anyway we had a pretty good ride to Swat without any lunch break we went to a village where we met the WFP people, they served us food in a small village house. It was nice they served us fruit which they picked from the tree in their home. It was a very simple home, the women in that home couldn’t speak Urdu and the girls there had only studied till grade 7. They couldn’t continue their studies because they had no school in Takhtabad which is a union council of Swat Valley.

After having food at the home in that village we went to a rice field which was literally filled with sand as the flood in Swat river had brought in a lot of stones and sand. The whole rice crop in that particular area is completely destroyed. One of the men in our squads told me that Takhtaband produces 80 percent of the rice of Swat valley. The rice from this valley is send all over Pakistan. It was quite depressing to see that. Men were working hard to open the river channels by digging. It is an extremely difficult job, but these men were doing it because in return they were being given food for 15 days for their families from world food program.On the way we could see buildings that were once occupied by Taliban and signs of artillery fire and shelling were quite visible in few buildings.We had crossed areas such as Khwazakhela, Mingora, which were once strongholds of Taliban and were later cleared by military after the operation. Military was very visible in the entire area. There were many checkposts and Army rather than Taliban seemed to be  a dominant force.

We had planned to come back to Islamabad the same day but due to security clearance we had to spend the night in Saidusharif, union council of Swat.

PTDC Motel Saidusharif is beautiful, but the rooms are not that clean and the blankets were not clean either… anyway by this time Sarah and I were hungry like anything. We did not want to have food in PTDC motel so we called our correspondent in Swat, Fayyaz Zafar. This guy was really nice he took Sarah, me and our cameraman to Serena Swat. I had the yummiest fish and chips there. We came back and slept peacefully in the not so clean room.

Next day Sarah had some work in Swat’s office and we were not getting the security clearance either so I  decided to explore Saidusharif’s market J It was great I bought few shawls for my mom they were beautiful and not very expensive. So after shopping our news reporter in Swat, Rafiullah, Sarah, and I went to the famous White palace hotel in Marghzar, where Queen Elizabeth once stayed. On the way to Murgazar we crossed beautiful fields, mountain, the weather was perfect. It seemed I am in heaven  there were trees filled with fruits and everything was so clean and fresh. The white palace hotel is almost 100 years old. It was a cool place after spending half an hour there we came back to our office. The UN armored car was ready to pick us. We reached home safely at around12:00am.

It was a wonderful experience, I loved the hospitable, and simple people in Swat. Love my country and its people more and more.



Syed Asad Hussain is a leading economist of Pakistan and currently serving as Director SZABIST Islamabad. I had a discussion with him on what benefits Pakistan could achieve but giving India the status of most favourite nation or MFN. Here are some excerpts from the conversation.

  No country in the world is self-sufficient in natural and technical resources. To share these resources it’s important that countries trade with each other and get rid of unnecessary trade barriers. Trade between regional economic blocs such as ASEAN and NAFTA have proven to be successful. The volume of trade between Far East Asian countries is almost 193 billion dollars annually. The trade between countries in European Union is approximately 2000 billion dollars annually. The trade among countries in South Asia is only 9 billion dollars. Mexico and Canada are both one of the biggest trading partners of U.S. Despite being neighbour of China and India, Pakistan because of its poor policies and tense relations with India has not benefitted. China and India being economic and military rivals have a trade volume of more than 60 billion dollars. To break the shackles, Pakistan has given status of MFN to India. India already had given us this status in 1996. So what benefits can Pakistan achieve from this step. Firstly, the trade would open for Pakistan for the first time the door to an economy catering to one billion people. Under this agreement Pakistan can export leather goods, fruits and vegetables and pharmaceuticals to India. Not only this, Pakistan has a huge vendor industry that supports the automobile industry in Pakistan. These vendors can now gain huge economic benefits as they have potential to facilitate the India automobile industry. Secondly, India cannot export steel, pharmaceutical an automobile industrial products to Pakistan. This should encourage the local traders of these industries to be not afraid of MFN. According to a survey by SDPI, after granting India MFN status, the consumers in India could save 4 billion dollars annually and Pakistani consumers could save more than 280 million dollars annually. If this is true it definitely shows that Pakistan would benefit more. Another suggestion could be in long-term both countries could swap their currencies, which means that both countries would trade in their own countries rather than using dollar which is beneficial for both countries. Currently Pakistan and Turkey have signed this agreement. All these benefits look great but it is important that the government creates conditions at home to enable businessmen to bolster production, complementing the grant of MFN status to India. Heres link of my report


Memorable trip to Muzaffarabad, Pakistan

 Memorable trip to Muzaffarabad, Pakistan.

Muzafrabad is a beautiful city with great hospitable and beautiful  people. I feel lucky to have  travelled with staff of NGO Idara e Taleem o Agahi, Riffat and Sadia, to Muzafrabad. Riffat like me is a U.S State dept alumnui and since our last meeting I have done almost three reports with them.

     The road to  Muzafrabad is with sharp turns so if you are like me who  gets sick while travelling to hilly areas than you must take some good medicine so the nausea doesnt spoil your trip. It took us about three and a half hours to reach Muzafrabad. Our first destination was Pilot High School. This school was established in 1924 during Dogra rule, which makes it the oldest school of Azad Kashmir.  President of AJK Raja Zulqarnain has been a student at the same school. Idarae Taleem o Agahi wanted us to cover a small ceremony organized at the school to highlight a project in which young girls of a nearby village have made lovely household products using plastic bags. Plastic bags, as many people are aware, are harmful for natural environment. They have been banned in many countries but in pakistan they are commonly used. The young girls undersupervision of their teacher Tahir Alam have worked hard by collecting plastic bags from their homes and from their neighbours. The girls literally cut the plastic bags and from each bag they can get 9 yards of plasic thread and by weaving that thread they make up things like school bags, table mats and other decorative items. It was great to give coverage to this wonderful and unique project. The girls were excited and were telling me that if they get more support they could easily make more money by selling these products and their work would also help clean the environment.

       Once I was done with this , I went to Muzafrabad main bazar, and it was a fantastic experience. I love food and I had heard that Kashmiri food is delicious so I wanted to make a small news report on street food of Muzafrabad. I started with a small restaurant called, Pakistan Hotel, The place was selling a famous kashmiri dish called , Gushtamba. This particular dish is made with beef meatballs and it has a white curry. Its served with boiled rice. So after talking with the cook I talked with some local people who were enjoying eating this dish. One of the person at the restaurant actually said that he comes to this place all the way from Rawalpindi once a month to have this dish. After this we headed to a famous shop in the bazar which was selling Kulchay. This small shop had many customers. These kulchas are quite small in size, they are salty and are made with flour, eggs, salt and ghee (saturated fat ). I loved them too. The next stop was the baqarkhani shop, which is also a famous local snackfood. A lot of people were buying baqarkhani too and they said they have it with green tea or Kashmiri tea, which is pink in color and ofcourse many of us love pink tea :) .


When my work was done I got to buy a nice Kashmiri embrodied suit for my mom and she liked it a lot. I am glad I got a chance to travel to Muzafrabad. The staff at the school was very nice to us. It was wonderful to see so many women working and so many girls studying there. The following link shows my conversation with lovely girls of Muzafrabad.


             It was only a day trip , but the beauty of the people there, the huge mountains, the river , lovely food, great company of my friends Riffat, Sadia, our driver and my cameraman Javed Altaf and the lovely chilly weather
have surely made this one of my best trips.

Child Labor In Pakistan

This blog is about a small child Zeba who works as a domestic servant but is also a student at a loacl school in Islamabad.    Must watch this link and you can read the translation for better understanding.



This is 12 year old girl Zeba. Because of poverty, she is forced to work at a home. As a child labor Zeba with her small hands sweeps, cleans the dishes and do other household chores. Despite working so hard at such a tender age, after cleaning she goes to a local school nearby her home run by NGO, Idara e Taleem o Aghai, where she doesnt have to pay any fee. . Zeba studies in grade 3. Zeba understands that only with proper education she can liberate herself from shackles of poverty and social injustices. Along with her studies she is also learning sewing so that in futre she is able to help her poor parents. ZEBA, "I want to study like others. I will not work at other peoples homes when I growup.. I am doing this because I am needy". TEACHER," We have convinced her to come to our centre even for lesser time, but she must come". Circumstances have forced her to work instead of playing, but she doesnt believe that she is going to work like this forver.
Zeba, " I want to become a doctor, thats why I am studying."
If organizations like Idara e Taleem o Aghani get support from the government than many children like Zeba would be able to become educated, aware and responsible citizens of Pakistan. Zeba does not want to compromise with poverty at anycost. Her hard work and passion has proved that in future she will become the shining star of Pakistan.