16 April, 2014

Revival of Silk route offers Prosperity and Stability to Asia

Pakistan and Central Asia stronger ties can boost Region’s growth

Sana Jamal

Islamabad – Improved communication and enhanced transport infrastructures can open new avenues for sustainable development, stability and regional harmony in Asia. And the greater collaboration, especially among Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asian countries, can be achieved by reviving the historical Silk Route. This perspective was highlight of the 3-day international conference titled ‘Central Asian Business Opportunities Conference’ (CABOC) in Islamabad.

The conference gathered business and government delegates, from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the Central Asian states of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan to share business experiences, discuss challenges and opportunities, resolve issues and build linkages for enhanced cooperation. Government of Pakistan, together with the Rawalpindi Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and United States Agency for International Development (USAID), has jointly organised the seminar that brought together over 400 participants from 7 countries, representing 200 businesses.

“Pakistan, together with Afghanistan and Central Asia countries, has the potential to rise as world’s successful economic bloc” remarked Dr. Shimail Daud Arain, President of Rawalpindi Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “By enhancing business opportunities and reinvigorating their relations, the seven Asian countries, with a combined population of 289 million and collective GDP of US $593 billion, have an opportunity to grow as a strong Asian bloc” he believed.

Pakistan’s role is extremely important in regional growth as it has a potential to offer a great market and shortest land route to sea to the landlocked Central Asian states, opening up huge potential for regional trade. However, regrettably “Pakistan-Central Asia trade amounts to less than 1 per cent of Pakistan's global trade which depicts both negligence and potential to enhance ties,” pointed out US Ambassador Richard Olson. He hoped the conference would offer a platform to identify and overcome obstacles in the way of regional growth. Communication and language barriers, inadequate transportation system, especially weak air linkages, were termed as the factor hindering the closer ties between Pakistan and Central Asian Republic (CAR).

10 April, 2014

Mini Expo offers boost to Islamabad’s Young Entrepreneurs

(Published in Pakistan Observer on 9 Apr. 2014)

Sana Jamal

Islamabad – Many people dream of starting a business of their own, however small, but for most that just remains the dream as the unpredictable life of an entrepreneur scares them away. But there are some passionate souls, who took that leap of faith and ultimately live their dreams.
Passion is exactly what impelled the some 16 young entrepreneurs to set up booths to display and sell their creative creations at Mini Expo recently held at Minerva House in Islamabad. Delightfully decorated stalls featured a variety of products including brilliant crafts and floral decorations, chic jewelry and accessories, novel home décor items, modish outfits as well as homemade food.

With an aim to boost self-starters, the Mini Expo 2014 was organized by Minerva, a social youth enterprise, to encourage small scale and home based entrepreneurs who had been marketing digitally only. “This Expo offers a platform to step out of their comfort zones, to reach a wider and real-time audience, to give them chance to explore the market, face the competitors, and go home with a great deal of learning” said Minerva’s CEO Sana Khalid explaining the purpose behind Mini Expo.

Small businesses owners at the ‘The Mini Expo 2014 - Your Brand Story’ not only introduced their brand names but also the struggles, successes, and people behind the brands. Offering classy designer clothing at affordable prices, Sabeen Siddiqui found the expo “a great opportunity for young entrepreneurs to learn, earn and interact.” Sabeen, who had been previously working as business analyst, opted to explore avenues of creativity instead and initiated her brand, Dhanak Rung, in March 2012.

One of the stalls decorated with detailed and gorgeous henna artwork, on various products including candles, mugs, photo frames, fascinated every visitor at the expo. The proud owner of this lovely booth was Shehla Altaf, who has been offering unique henna art products under the brand name of Fashion EJ for the last four years. Glovvies was one creative booth at the Expo that offered funky knitted and cross stitch products including gloves, pouches, scarves, socks as well as decorations.

12 September, 2013

Italian move revives interest in K2


Islamabad – Reviving Italy’s hundred years love for K2 which first began with Filippo De Filippi’s 1913 expedition to the majestic mountains, an enlightening event was held here at National Art Gallery in Islamabad that comprised of a photo exhibit, film festival and a scientific conference.

The photo exhibit ‘Rediscovering the abode of snow’– a tribute to scientific expedition by Filippo De Filippi – features some 300 high resolution enlargements of the original photographs depicting the natural landscape and the pioneering scientific works of De Filippi. The Exhibition is part of the four-day event (Sept. 9-10 in Islamabad and Sept. 12-13 in Skardu), jointly organized by the Ev-K2-CNR Committee, the SEED project, Karakorum International University (KIU) with the patronage of the Italian embassy in Islamabad to celebrate the bilateral cooperation between Pakistan and Italy.

Upper Baltoro - Photo taken by Filippo De Filippi (1912) -
Photo Courtesy: Italian Embassy Facebook Page
“The Karakorum range and the K2 have been familiar names in Italy for very long time, creating an ideal bridge between our two countries” shared Head of the Cultural Affairs at the Italian Embassy, Federido Bianchi recalling great Italian explorers like the Duke of Abruzzi and Count Ardito Desio.

07 September, 2013

Accord to motivate Nature friendly Business in Pakistan

Sana Jamal

Islamabad – In a bid to incorporate biodiversity friendly practices into business policies, an Agreement has been signed by IUCN Pakistan and the Climate Change Division, Government of Pakistan in Islamabad. The agreement aims to stimulate market demand for nature-friendly products and to enhance institutional capacities to scale up biodiversity and business in Northern Pakistan over a period of four years under a GEF/UNDP funded project titled: ‘Mountains and Markets’. The GEF Project seeks to support ongoing biodiversity conservation efforts in northern Pakistan by using market-based mechanisms to strengthen community co-management of Pakistan’s biodiversity-rich mountain ecosystems.

06 August, 2013

Underprivileged kids get a sporting opportunity


Sana Jamal


Islamabad – Until recently school only meant books and homework for the kids of an open-air school in F-6/3 Islamabad. But now they have discovered a new and exciting way of learning through sport and play. “This is the first time I am playing football, learning game rules and enjoying it more than the lessons in books” 14-year-old Farhat Abbas explained excitedly.
A child shows off his football skills to his colleagues
at a summer camp in Islamabad.

The week-long free summer camp for neglected kids was held at Ayub Park School, managed by Master Mohammad Ayub for the last 28 years, where over 260 kids are studying for free. Master Ayub told this scribe that it was for the time an organization has arranged a play activity in his school. “I can imagine how important it is for kids with little or no resources to remain engage in some kind of physical activity.”

26 May, 2013

Children’s Film Festival captivates Islamabad

86 Brilliant films from 32 Countries

Sana Jamal

To celebrate the world cultures, a first-of-its-kind Children's Film Festival was arranged in the capital city that was an absolute treat for the kids, and film buffs. For children, the festivity was a doorway to the magical world of films that sprinkled little magic, heroism, laughter, honesty that our lives are lacking. The films filled them with hope that things will get better, good can vanquish evil and inspired kids to make all their dreams, however scary, a reality.


25 May, 2013

Kids discover Joys of Reading & Writing at Literary Fest

First-ever Children’s Literature Festival in Islamabad 

Sana Jamal

Islamabad - Braving a burning sun and intense heat wave, hundreds of children arrived at the first-ever Islamabad Children's Literary Festival to celebrate the wonders of literature. Tales of remarkable characters and traditions, playful puppets, ancient art of pottery Making as well as films, music and theatre shows took the kids on an enchanting journey of knowledge.


Featuring various interactive readings, discussions and workshops by famous children’s authors and poets in addition to book launches, book fairs, creative writing and book-making, the first-day of the Literary Fest was a day packed with literature geared for kids from play-school to college level. The festival was also a chance to connect young readers and authors. Young ones were seen going from author to artist to illustrator, eager to learn the craft of storytelling and painting.

17 May, 2013

Pakistani Youth – most effective force for development

Sana Jamal

Islamabad – Pakistan, a country with youth bulge, has an opportunity of a lifetime to plan a healthy and prosperous future by transforming the youth potential into a driving force of development. Yet this prospect of a demographic dividend must be realised swiftly.
“If right investments in young people are not made right away, then the youth bulge will become a demographic bomb,” because a large cohort of frustrated young people would lead to social and political instability. This concern was highlighted by the key speakers at a dialogue session held here in Islamabad.

09 May, 2013

First day of life most risky for Newborns: new Report


Pakistan ranked 139th on the list of best places to be a mother
Pakistan among 10 countries with high newborn death rate

Sana Jamal

The day a newborn open eyes to world is the most anticipated one for the mother and a blissful moment for the whole family. But the first day of life is a delicate time for a newborn as it is often the most risky day of a child’s life, according to a report released this week by the humanitarian group, Save the Children. The 2013 State of the World's Mothers Report (SOWM) titled ‘Surviving the First Day’ reflects how risky the very first day is for many babies and mothers in almost every part of the world. 

Global state of Mothers 

More than one million babies are dying the actual day that they are born - making the baby’s day of birth the most dangerous day of their life nearly every country. The annual Report by the humanitarian organization reveals that two decades of progress on mother and child health has been too slow and uneven over the years. Released around Mother's Day, the report assesses the well-being of mothers and children in 176 countries. Finland, Sweden and Norway top the Mother's Index list (global ranking system for maternal and infant health) while Congo, Somalia and Sierra Leone rank last. This year’s Report contains first ever Birth Day Risk Index with the death rate for babies in their first day of life in 186 countries.

01 May, 2013

First Islamabad Literature Festival: City gleams with Intellectual Energy

Sana Jamal


ISLAMABAD – Day one of the Islamabad Literature Festival (ILF) was an eventful day that brought numerous writers and readers together to celebrate literature in all its delightful forms. Though a literary fest in reality, but there was something for all ages, including book fair and book launches, discussions, readings, poetry recitals, theatre etcetera.

Capital city seemed to gleam with intellectual energy as First Islamabad Literary Festival, on Tuesday, gathered and celebrated authors writing in diverse languages, genres and traditions. Organized by Oxford University Press (OUP), the two-day festival will see 70 speakers and around 35 sessions at Margala Hotel in Islamabad.

Instilling a love for reading among Pakistanis was the basic idea behind the literary festival, said Ameena Saiyid, OUP Managing Director. Instead of a common system or syllabus, what we need is “teacher training, improving curriculum and providing children better quality books to encourage the reading habit” she said. Asif Farrukhi, co-founder of the literary festival, said that literature remains the medium to express the society's feelings and status.

25 April, 2013

Chambaili to overwhelm Pakistan with fragrance of Hope

'Chambaili: The Fragrance of Freedom' - New movie is expected to spark a wave of Patriotism & mark a new beginning for Pakistani film industry

By Sana Jamal

Islamabad - After decades of absence, seeds of new initiative has been planted in Pakistan’s fading film industry. Chambaili, the sweet-scented flower from the seeds, is all set to bloom on 26 April all over to overwhelm the people by the fragrance of hope.
Film Poster.

There are some flowers, they say, that will not yield their perfume till they are bruised. This seems to be true for the both; the characters and makers of the new Pakistani movie ‘Chambaili’, who had to go through tough times to revel in the fragrance of hope of a better future. “It took blood, sweat and tears of the team to create this idea into a complete film,” tells Shahzad Nawaz, the writer and co-producer of the movie. “Chambaili is a film with a purpose that offers the message of hope” he says at a sneak preview of the film in Islamabad, arranged by Communications Research Strategies (CRS).

Shahzad Nawaz - the man
behind Chambaili.
The film “Chambaili: The Fragrance of Freedom” is about almost everything Pakistanis, of all ages and statuses, have been talking about in recent times, suggest the movie trailers. Reflecting social apathy, the film deals with the greater debate: What is wrong with the system? “There is no fault in the system of Pakistan; it only needs proper implementation in its true spirit” says Nawaz, a passionate and patriotic soul.

“Chambaili is a different kind of love story,” he says before adding: “if you consider loving your country romance.” Love for one’s homeland and taking pride in one’s country is not just a fancy thought but an idea whose time has come, believes Shahzad Nawaz.

21 April, 2013

Bake-a-Bon Week: Little Bakers make delicious Cinnabon treats

Sana Jamal

Islamabad – Fun activities and sweet signature aroma of Cinnabon baked goodies, filled the surrounding of the Centaurus Mall, an hour before the opening time of Mall during last week. The excitement and sweet scent originated from a corner where the school kids were busy making and baking at Cinnabon, the famous American chain of baked goodies. 


Image Courtesy: Cinnabon Facebook Photos
It was ‘Bake-a-Bon’ week at Cinnabon and the little bakers, aptly dressed in chef hats and aprons, appeared as dedicated as the staff, in preparing the world-famous cinnamon rolls of Cinnabon. The mixing, rolling and rising of the dough thrilled the little ones who had a unique learning bakery experience. The chocolate filling and cutting part delighted Mahnoor most. “It was fun spreading chocolate on the dough but the cutting is what I just loved!” says Mahnoor Amir, a young baker. 

Some 20 students of Sheikh Zayed International Academy-Islamabad visited the Cinnabon outlet each weekday. “The visiting students are from pre-school level to grade 8” tells Naima Emad, Vice Chancellor of the School. “I love the idea of letting the kids try their hands on different and creative things” and it was a great learning experience for them. “It is so pleasing to see them having so much fun.”

17 April, 2013

Effective Policing to prevent Extremism

Reforming Pakistan’s Police can help curb Extremism 

Sana Jamal 

ISLAMABAD - A comprehensive state policy along with mechanism to strengthen the police force of Pakistan are the key solutions to tackle extremism, according to a Report launched here on Wednesday. “Despite the surge in terrorist attacks in Pakistan since 2005, there has been no consistent effort to address the problem” to fight the menace of extremism, as indicated by the Extremism Watch Report 2011-12. “If extremism is to be effectively tackled in Pakistan, the police force has to be substantially strengthened and the factors debilitating it removed, the Report suggests.  

16 April, 2013

Graduation Ceremony: Golden day for SAS graduates

Sana Jamal

Islamabad – Excitement and cheer filled the air, with smiling faces everywhere as the proud graduates walked up on stage in their academic regalia to receive their hard-earned degrees on graduation day. The graduation ceremony of the girl students of Saudi Arabian School (SAS) in Islamabad was a joyous occasion – a gathering of graduates, parents, teachers, family and friends to celebrate the achievements of class of 2013. 

07 April, 2013

Cure for Silent Killer ‘Hypertension’ is better lifestyle

Children's Health Conference in Islamabad 

Sana Jamal

Exposing the face of society’s silent killer in their revealing and detailed speeches, the brilliant kids at the Children's Health Conference in Islamabad, seemed more knowledgeable about hypertension than the adults sitting in the audience. Adopting a healthy lifestyle with emphasis on proper nutrition, reducing salt and total fat intake, eating fruit and vegetables a day and regular physical activity can help beat the silent killer, informed the children. 

President Hamdard Foundation Sadia Rashid, VC Hamdard University Hakeem Abdul Manan
and Prof Abdul Hafeez Chaudhry with participants of Children Health Conference.

05 April, 2013

Efforts to uplift Environment on Political Agenda

Sana Jamal

Islamabad – To break the silence of political parties on environmental issues, an interesting dialogue was held in Islamabad that concluded on a hopeful note. The discourse, bringing together top environmental experts and politicians and media representatives, was termed as the beginning of a new era, as all the participants, despite of their professional differences, resolved to take care of the environment in their own capacities. 

12 March, 2013

Web Information portal for Citizens launched before Elections

Sana Jamal

Islamabad - As Pakistan prepares for momentous general elections, with extended media hype, there are high hopes for the young voter turnout in upcoming elections that will witness country’s first transfer of power between civilian governments. At this decisive time, a unique learning and advocacy campaign on democracy, constitution and general elections has been launched by a local NGO here on Monday. Citizens Wire is an online information portal for public and media that offers explanatory information about the constitution, election laws, party manifestos, and constitutional reports.

07 March, 2013

Mountain Music Festival - A Mystical Journey

Sana Jamal


Islamabad - Master musicians from mountain valleys of Pakistan and Afghanistan took the audience on a mystical, musical journey of mind and soul at a music festival in Islamabad. The hall of Pakistan National Council of Arts (PNCA) resonated with mystical sounds as the traditional artists enamoured the audience with magical tunes presented using varied musical instruments. The performance, by tradition bearers from Pakistan and Afghanistan, was a devotional expression of diverse music traditions of the region, reflecting how diverse languages and geographies are united by culture and music.

21 February, 2013

Islamabad's enormous new Shopping Mall opens its doors

Sana Jamal 

The long wait is over finally for the residents of Islamabad, who can now savour the authentic shopping experience without leaving the city. Hundreds of Islooites flocked to the Centaurus Mall, city’s first genuine shopping mall, as soon as it opened its door for public (last week). Centaurus Mall, located in the heart of Islamabad, is expected to serve as a key shopping destination for the twin cities.

The Centaurus Mall offers quality products in modern, spacious surroundings with the wide range of variety, that would be an exciting experience for few whereas others are delighted that they don’t have to visit other cities for big shopping. “I could only enjoy shopping in a relaxed environment of a shopping mall on my visit to Karachi or Lahore. But now Islamabad city has its own huge shopping mall!” beamed Sadia Rehman, a shopaholic.

18 February, 2013

New Chinese Restaurant opens doors in town

Sana Jamal
Courtesy: Restaurant Facebook page.

Xinhua Capital Restaurant is the new eating place in town that serves Chinese as well as Thai cuisines - a delight for the taste buds. Many a people joined the exclusive opening of the restaurant and to the delight of the visitors, they were offered a few bites of the appetizers - crispy fish fingers and sesame chicken with a bit of sauce.

Located in F-10/3 (at former Café Eclipse location), though away from the commercial area, the restaurant opening is a good news for the local residents since “Xinhua specifically cater to people in vicinity of F-10 and 11, G-11 and E-11 because all the Chinese restaurants are to be found in Supermarket, Jinnah Super or Blue area,” told Zafar Rahim, co-owner of Xinhua Capital.

04 February, 2013

Hope, Love and Care can cure cancer

Sana Jamal

Islamabad – Cancer is a small word that develops a big shock in the mind of the patient. The shock then becomes obvious in patient’s fearful eyes and desperate behaviour, which turns into a nightmare for the whole family. Later the pressure to start a medical treatment that involves surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, is itself frightening enough. However, it has been witnessed that timely cure, proper care and family affection can make the impossible, possible. 
“Love may be the missing factor in the treatment of many diseases. With cancer, for instance, psychological therapy has been shown to have a far greater success rate than any other properly evaluated therapy according to Walter Last, the well-known natural therapist.

11 December, 2012

Khayyam's anniversary - Celebrating Muslim heritage

Sana Jamal


ISLAMABAD - A good number of people had a chance to learn about the ‘Renaissance Man’ of the Muslim world in an incredible surroundings that takes one back to the 11the century for it was the time of Omar Khayyam. The exquisite artworks by Irfan Qureshi, the delightful recital by Usman Qazi, and the outstanding mime act directed by Ms. Indu Mitha added charm to the event held at Gallery6 to pay tribute to Omar Khayyam on his 881st death anniversary.
Born in 1048 in Nishapur (a city in Iran), the poet we know today as Omar Khayyam contributed greatly to mathematics, astronomy, philosophy. The event started with brief video clips that enlightened Khayyam was also expert in the fields of mechanics, geography, music and Islamic theology that make him one of the prominent scholars of the Muslim world. It was Edward FitzGerald who introduced the poet of East in the West through translation of Khayyam's quatrains titled as ‘The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam’. His treasured verses were recited in Persian with English translation by Usman Qazi, clad in traditional gray shalwar kameez completed with headscarf, who charmed the audiences. 

10 December, 2012

Pakistani Rural Women help revitalize Economy

Sana Jamal 

ISLAMABAD – Out of great disasters come great opportunities. This notion has fascinated and revived the humanity out of hardships since the earliest days. As Pakistan shifts from relief to recovery phase in the post-flood scenario, the focus was the rebuilding livelihoods. During these hard times, Pakistani women have emerged as the strength of the economy and the communities as they are helping the families get back on their feet and start their lives all over again.

A conference in Islamabad, organized by U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Entrepreneurs Program, gathered women, particularly from the flood and conflict affected areas, who shared their stories of livelihoods improved, and incomes boosted. The women group from Swat, with their faces well covered in their long hand-embroidered dupattas, is one of the beneficiaries of the Entrepreneurs project. “Earlier these skilled women won’t get due credit or compensation for their art as the major chunk of profits was seized by the middlemen (between the skilled worker and the consumer),” said Farzana Akram, Project Officer at Lasoona, one of the implementing partners of the Project that is providing women micro-entrepreneurs from Swat access to bigger markets and buyers. 

With skilled workers, and access to better markets, the product quality has improved and there has been a huge increase in the incomes of micro-entrepreneurs. “Some 964 women have been trained. And we have just successfully delivered 476 pieces of hand embellished fabrics to Generation, Pakistan’s leading retain chain. The order was worth Rs. 485,000” told Ms. Farzana gladly.

Celebrating the importance of Mountains to life

International Mountain Day

Sana Jamal 
Courtesy: Google Image search

ISLAMABAD – A number of exciting activities were held in the city on the eve of International Mountain Day with intent to share knowledge among the people about the importance of mountains. Pakistan is home to some of the world’s highest mountains and most magnificent mountain ranges: Himalayas, Karakoram, Hindu Kush, Sulaiman, Salt range. Sadly, these long glorified mountains now face the tragedy of being most vulnerable to the effects of climate change and environmental degradation.


“We have the world’s highest peaks but there is no proper promotion of adventure tourism and mountaineering in Pakistan”, underlined Nazir Sabir, Pakistan’s famed mountaineer, reminding of the dismal fact.