31 May, 2011

Anti-Tobacco Laws remain unimplemented

World No Tobacco Day being observed today
Published in Pakistan Observer (31 May 2011)
Sana Jamal

Islamabad - Today, people around the globe will mark World No Tobacco Day (31 May) with a hope to have a tobacco free society. This hope remains more distant for Pakistanis because almost a decade has passed since the 'Prohibition of Smoking and Protection of Non-smokers Health Ordinance 2002' was promulgated and six years since WHO 'Framework Convention on Tobacco Control' (FCTC) was ratified, the enforcements of these legal frameworks remain a challenge for the government.
This is the reason that this year’s World No Tobacco Day theme - “the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC)” turn out to be most relevant for Pakistan.

Talking to Pakistan Observer, several anti-tobacco campaigners have complained that Pakistan has neither worked out a solid program to minimize use of tobacco in Pakistan nor a concerted effort was made to compile a regular data on tobacco hazards.

Dr. Arif Azad, a health campaigner said that “Pakistan has been too slow to implement the anti-tobacco laws”. He urged that educational institute should be targeted to launch anti-tobacco campaigns.

29 May, 2011

Extensive bilateral ties between Pak, Iran stressed

Sana Jamal
Islamabad—An Iranian lady envoy stressed the need for extensive bilateral ties and exchange of information between Pakistan and Iran so that the two Islamic states should not be represented through Western media.
Dr. Masooma Muhammadi, Presidential Advisor on Women and Family Affairs was interacting here with Islamabad-based lady journalists at national press club on Saturday.

The Iranian emissary noted that Iran was being wrongly projected by the West and “Iran’s real picture could not be portrayed in the outside world via western media - that is biased towards Islamic states.”
She urged that “there is a need for greater collaboration between Pakistan-Iran at all levels especially in educational field through student exchange programmes so that Pakistani and Iranian students can learn from each other’s knowledge and experience.”

Discussing the women participation in Iran at different levels, Dr. Masooma Muhammadi informed that “Iran has 71 women parliamentarians and the women literacy rate is above 80 percent.”
She explained that contrary to the claims in western media, Iranian women have achieved their extensive right under Islamic Revolution. Iran is also perhaps the first country which maintains a separate Iranian Women News agency but due to lack of propagation it could be extended to regional world.

Over recent years, women in Iran have achieved greatly in fields like education, political participation, and social mobilization and Iranian women generally prefer different fields of academia, she told. Women in Iran were granted right to vote in 1963 and since then, several women have held high-ranking posts in the government or parliament.
She also said that Iran was not ready to implement western woman image in the country “as Islam preaches that woman’s first responsibility is to serve the family at home”.
Dr. Masooma Muhammadi he said that it was her first visit to Pakistan and she was glad to see that Pakistanis are hospitable nation and she was eager to extend socio-economic development.

Visiting Iranian Advisor to the President Ahmadinejad with
lady journalists of Islamabad at Press Club.

27 May, 2011

Young Film-makers earn recognition

Published in Pakistan Observer (27 May 2011)
Sana Jamal

ISLAMABAD - The three-day short film festival concluded here in Islamabad with a vibrant ceremony in the presence of seasoned silver screen personalities and young brilliant film-makers.
‘Overcoat’, a 10-minute film, directed by Afzaal Yousaf Baig was declared the ‘Best film’ of the film fair. The film was lucky enough to win an additional award of ‘Best camerawork’ for the amazing camera skills of Afzaal Yousaf Baig and Muhammad Toqeer. The ‘Best Director’ award went to the film ‘Invasion of a Psychopath’, a 9-minute film, directed by Jamal Sohail and Arsalan Baig. A six-minute film ‘Life’ directed by Furqan Dogar received the award of ‘Best Editing.’

25 May, 2011

How Tobacco Taxation can Save Lives and Enhance Revenue?

Sana Jamal

Extensive use of tobacco has become a public menace globally, as it is causing 5.4 million premature deaths each year and current trends predict that one billion people will die from tobacco use in the 21st century.

In Pakistan, cigarette smoking and other forms of tobacco use have increased in recent years. According to Pakistan Health Education Survey (1999) tobacco kills almost 274 people per day and is causing at least 25% of deaths in the country. Tobacco use is largely concentrated among males in Pakistan; however the ratio between young urban male and female smokers is now 2:1 (Global Youth Tobacco Survey 2003). Smoking among youth has also become a serious concern lately as studies show that 1200 Pakistani children (ages 6 – 15) begin smoking every day.

According to the deliberations of a recently held workshop in Islamabad arranged by International Union against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (IUTLD) in collaboration with Society for Alternative Media and Research (SAMAR), “tax increase on tobacco products is one of the most effective tobacco control measure that can save thousands of lives as well as increase the national revenue.”

‘Creative Pakistan Film Festival’ aims at revival of cinema

Sana Jamal

Islamabad - Seeking to revive the Pakistani cinema and to provide a much needed platform to the passionate young generation, Creative Pakistan Film Festival began here at Pakistan National Council of the Arts (PNCA). Twelve short films made by amateur film-makers are to be screened during the three-day (23–25 May) Festival, co-organized by Akash Media Group and PNCA.

Adnan Tasneem, the project director of Akash media told Pakistan Observer that “the basic idea behind the film festival is to promote the young talent who are unable to pursue this field due to lack of opportunities.” The event is also aimed to support and revitalize the film industry of Pakistan.

23 May, 2011

Injecting a new life into Sculptural Art

Published in Pakistan Observer (22 May 2011)

Sana Jamal
Artist Imran Hunzai at work.

Islamabad - The sculpture art is picking up fast in Pakistan despite a traditional distaste and lack of enthusiasm by art managers. However, more recently there is a realization about significance of this special art and Pakistan National Council of the Arts took the lead in organizing a five-day workshop on sculpture art in Pakistan. Three artists, Sajjad Akram, Ayub Wali and Imran Hunzai were the trainers at the art workshop - “Creating Sculpture”.

Sculpture - the art of making ordinary things into extraordinary is a three-dimensional artwork created by combining different materials such as wood, stone, clay, metal, glass, sand, ice, and even balloons and chocolates.

The world of sculptures is purely constructed on the artist’s imagination and demands a lot of focus and patience till the end result, which is worth all the effort and leaves people in state of awe” Sajjad Akram told the students while demonstrating one of his projects.

“The sole purpose of this workshop is to promote the ignored art of sculpture” said Mussarrat Nahid Imam, Director of Visual Art department at National Art Gallery.

Talking to Pakistan Observer, Sajjad Akram said that “over the years, the performing arts has received popularity in Pakistan, but unfortunately, the visual arts and especially sculpture failed to gain its due place in society.” Explaining the reasons of the low scope of sculpture, he said that “in addition to a large amount of time and energy, this art also requires resources for the tools, studio space and specific environment.”

The participants at the workshop included students from colleges and young artists. Sharing her experience at the art workshop, Beenish Raza, a student of Islamabad College for Girls said that “in a very short period, we have learned about all the basics of sculpture, from drawing to relief work to modelling, to moulding and casting.”

Imran Hunzai, an artist who is presently teaching at National College of Art (NCA), Rawalpindi, lauded the response of the students as a marvellous achievement. “I have suggested PNCA to continue art workshops on a regular basis to back up the art education for students who cannot afford the expensive art schools” he commented.

Batool Fatima, a student at beacon house school, a participant of the workshop said that “the training provided me a golden chance to learn directly from my mentor, Sajjad Akram.” She added that “sculptures have always inspired me and I am surely going to pursue my career as a sculptor.”

Maryam Mushtaq, a Fine Arts student in Foundation University found the workshop too good to be true. “I have learned so much about sculpture in just two days that I am willing to continue this art now.”

22 May, 2011

“Creating Sculpture” - Art workshop at PNCA

Published on 17 May 2011

Sana Jamal

Islamabad - In South Asia, the first known sculptures were found at sites of Mohen-jo-daro and Harappa (in Pakistan) from Indus Valley civilization around 3300–1700 BC. However the art of sculpture could not flourish in the country as the artists were not encouraged to work in this medium due to religious and societal reservations. Realizing the significance of the art of sculpture, Pakistan National Council of the Arts starts a Five-day workshop on “Creating Sculpture” today.

Sculpture is a three-dimensional artwork created by shaping or combining hard materials - typically stone, marble, metal, glass, or wood. The objective of the workshop is to facilitate students and interested individuals to express their creative potential in this lesser explored medium.

Three artists, Sajjad Akram, Ayub Wali and Imran Hunzai, will be training the participants. On the first day, the participants, students from colleges and young artists, were briefed about the basics of sculpture, its history, tools and materials used and the methods employed in sculpting.

21 May, 2011

Remembering the Legendary Artists of Pakistan

Moeen Akhtar.

ISLAMABAD - To mark the services and contribution of great artists who left us recently, a unique ceremony was arranged on Friday evening in Islamabad at Pakistan National Council of the Arts (PNCA). ‘Yaad e Raftagan’ – a condolence reference to pay tribute to the legendary artists, Moeen Akhtar, Baboo Bral, Khayam Sarhadi, Mastana and Liaquat Soljar was attended by eminent artists of the country.

18 May, 2011

Child speakers’ visions – an eye opener for elders

Sana Jamal

ISLAMABAD - Visionary speeches and suggestions laid down by child speakers of Children Association on Tuesday reaffirmed that future of Pakistan is as bright as their thoughts. The young leaders delivered speeches on child rights at a public awareness seminar on ‘Children’s Right to Participation: Building a Children’s Civil Society’ which was arranged by Children Association in Islamabad.

Children representatives also demanded the reopening of Educational channel to promote distant learning system in the country.

A child speaker, Nayaab Arshad from Islamabad explained the issues of child rights and said that not just the government but parents too deprive their children of basic rights even the right to education.
Areej Waqas and Asfandyar Khan from Mansehra spoke about maintaining a balance between children’s rights and duties said that many children are forced by poverty to work and their futures are forever affected.

Mohammad Naseer and Fakhar ul Islam, child speakers from Mansehra said that if they had the chance to run the country for a day, they would dissolve all the assemblies and will run the country according to the 'actual Islamic laws', where there would be one law for everyone without discrimination.

Relevant International and domestic laws on child rights’ was the theme of speech of Sara Gul while Mustafa Tanveer described how society influences the character building of children and the role children can play in the decision making.

The guest speakers of the seminar included Ms. Bushra Gohar, MNA and social activist; Zafarullah khan, Executive Director of Centre for Civic Education and Zehra Kamal, psychologist and consultant.

Bushra urged that “we must divert our priorities towards children’s affairs and criminalizing the domestic labour could be the first step to prevent our children from further exploitation.”

17 May, 2011

“Best way to defend Pakistan is to be honest”

SDPI seminar on ‘War on Terror: Post-Osama regime’
Sana Jamal

ISLAMABAD: In the current post-Osama scenario, the “best way to defend Pakistan is to be honest” and accountable to the people of Pakistan, said Lt-Gen (R) Talat Masood at a seminar on “War on Terror: Post-Osama regime” organized by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) on Monday.

The speakers urged that the policy-makers of the country should adopt honest approach and accept mistakes in order to win back the credibility at home and abroad after the Osama incident.

The key speakers at the seminar included Lt-Gen (R) Talat Masood, Defence and security analyst; Dr Rifaat Hussain, Chairman of Defence and Strategic Studies department at the Quaid-i-Azam University; Tariq Fatemi, former ambassador and Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri, Executive Director, SDPI.

The participants said that that since Pak-US relations are at cross-roads after the Osama incident, it is high time that Pakistan should review and redefine its policies in the interest of the nation. “Pakistan’s parliament should implement its concerned resolution and there should be an independent commission to fix responsibility for the May 2 event” they added.

Talat Masood termed the ‘May 2 incident’ as a golden opportunity for the country to recover from the ongoing crisis by accepting mistakes and being honest to the nation. “We should end this state of self-denial and challenge the conspiracy theories with truth” he advocated.

Dr Rifaat termed the incident a “unique strategic failure” and said that the time has come to decide whether US is a friend of Pakistan or foe. He predicted a difficult future for Pakistan as “US possibly will pressurize the country to unblock negotiations on fissile material technology”, and would “accept greater Indian role in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s diminished role in end goals in Afghanistan.”

15 May, 2011

‘Pakistan should be hub of Tourism, not Terrorism’

Published in Pakistan Observer (15 May, 2011)
Sana Jamal

Islamabad - Pakistan should become the hub of tourism and not terrorism by promoting the rich cultural heritage of the country. This was stressed at a conference on Gandhara: Road to peace, prosperity and interfaith harmony” arranged here on Saturday by Gandhara Art and Culture Association (GACA).

Anwer Saifullah Khan, chairman of GACA urged on “restoring and reviving the cultural glory of the region through the establishment of a Buddhist University in Taxila – a city which is as important for Buddhists as is Mecca for Muslims. “This step will greatly improve the image of Pakistan in the international world” he added.

Taxila, one of the oldest cities of Pakistan, was an ancient seat of learning (5th to 2nd century BC) where world’s first University was established in the Buddhist era. Ms. Esther Park, director of GACA said that GACA aims to revive the oldest university in the world by establishing a Buddhist University at the same site. “The institution can become one of the best research institutes on Gandhara, attracting a large number of religious tourists and scholars from across the world, especially China, Korea and Japan.” She also gave a video presentation on Gandhara renaissance.

05 May, 2011

Training Workshop on Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage

Sana Jamal

ISLAMABAD: To safeguard the versatile Intangible Cultural Heritage of Pakistan, there is a need of cultural inventory, which simply means a process of documenting region’s heritage items in order to preserve the endangering the pluralistic features of society. This point of concern was raised by the cultural experts at a four-day (2-5 May) training workshop organized by UNESCO Islamabad and held at Pakistan National Council of the Arts (PNCA), Islamabad.

The workshop was aimed to guide the nominated staff of two major government institutions, PNCA (a body of Ministry of Culture of Pakistan) and Lok Virsa (National Institute of Folk and Traditional Heritage) to properly implement the 2003 convention of UNESCO for safeguarding the Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH).

Ms. Kozue Kay Nagata, Country Director UNESCO emphasized to link culture with economic development, as “Pakistan has very rich cultural heritage, hence it is very important to safeguard both the tangible and intangible cultural heritage.”
Tauqeer Nasir, Dir. Gen. PNCA hoped that training of the PNCA and Lok Virsa staff on safeguarding ICH will prove to be fruitful.

The cultural workshop mainly focused on understanding the 2003 convention, data collection and inventorying and use of Geographic Information System in mapping of ICH.
It is important to note that Pakistan was amongst the first 30 states which ratified the 2003 Convention. But the implementation has been delayed. “So far there is no committee or fixed body to protect ICH in Pakistan” pointed out Prof. Sajida Haider Vandal, an architect attending the workshop.
ICH is simply defined as “the living heritage that lives in the minds and bodies of the human beings, not in archives, museums and monuments.”

Restorative Justice System can help reduce crime

Sana Jamal

ISLAMABAD - “There are currently almost 80,000 people in prison in Pakistan, mostly under trial and belong to poor class” pointed out Anees Jillani, an advocate and SPARC board member. “Normally, a judge has to deal with an average of 150 cases per day” making justice almost impossible. And thus “implementation of restorative justice is the need of the hour” stressed the speakers at a conference on the ‘Restorative Justice System: A missing approach in the justice system of Pakistan’ organized by the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC) on Wednesday.

The objective of the conference was to initiate a debate on the existing justice system, promote the culture of restorative justice for juveniles and find gaps in the justice system of Pakistan and understand challenges of institutionalizing the restorative justice in Pakistani society.

Restorative Justice (RJ) is a response to criminal justice that focuses on repairing harm. Howard Zehr, a pioneer in the field of RJ, states that “it is an attempt to correct some of the weakness of western legal system which focuses on punishing the offender and not repairing harm.”

Riaz Fatyana, Chairperson National Assembly Standing Committee on Human Rights lamented that the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance 2000 exists only on paper. He said “the jails are transforming the minor offenders into professional criminals and “there is a need of a bill including provisions for establishment of rehabilitation centers for juveniles.”

Ms. Rubina Saadat Qaimkhani, Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of Human Rights stressed for the need of rehabilitation for the children involved in the crimes. She invited civil society members to work with her for legislation with the Law Minister for implementation of restorative justice.

Abdul Khalique Shaikh, DIG Sindh Police emphasized that there must be separate justice system for the juveniles. He shared a thoughtful presentation on ‘how the impact of the adult criminal justice system on children who come into conflict with the law.’

Ehsan Sadiq, Assistant Inspector General of Islamabad Capital Territory Police, while discussing the challenges of institutionalizing restorative justice system said that the criminal justice system focuses on the offender and there is little scope for rehabilitation.

Dr. Zafar Ahmed Khan Sherwani, Director Karachi Center for Dispute Resolution suggested ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution) method which refers to a variety of techniques for resolving disputes without litigation.