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Friday, April 25, 2008

Baithak Desi Apr 24: Libraries, Azra Raza, More Six Points, ZAB, Jam Minaret, Rauf Klasra, Zahoor

Our national library did not even get space on the main Constitution Avenue. It is tucked away behind the prime minister’s office as if we were ashamed of it. As its website puts it, it is in a plot of 500 by 100; a little over an acre is all the government could afford for a library. It took us 46 years to come up with the concept for a national library. Even today the National Library has 130,000 volumes, 555 manuscripts, 45 reels of microfilms, 48,000 microfiche cards, 845 magazines and 135 newspapers. What a testament of our great civilisation! I might add that this collection does not even compare to a reasonable sized public library in a civilised country. But then I was reminded of who demands books in Pakistan? When I go to my rich friends’ houses, I see no books. A million-dollar household with a hundred-thousand-dollar sports car outside has no books. Rich people who spend thousands of dollars on a dinner do not even spend 100 dollars annually on books. None of our political manifestoes even mention libraries. So perhaps the government is right. There is no demand for libraries in our country. No libraries, no books - Nadeem Ul Haque


Dr. Azra Raza speaks with the fierceness of someone whose existence revolves around life-saving matters. For more than 30 years, she's treated leukemia patients and researched how to treat pre-leukemia cells before they develop into cancer. "Constantly I'm pushing the envelope," says Raza, 55, the director of the Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS) Center at St. Vincent's Comprehensive Cancer Center. "That, no. We are not going to become complacent."
Most wrenching among the many heartbreaks she's seen was the death of her husband of 17 years, Dr. Harvey Preisler, the director of the Rush Cancer Institute in Chicago, who died in 2002 of leukemia. "To that day, even as he could see that the end was clearly approaching him, he wanted other patients to suffer less," says Raza. The MDS Center near Union Square, which Raza has headed since moving to the city from Massachusetts in October, is one of a few that does both MDS research - the study of abnormal cells that can trigger leukemia - and treats patients. Big Town Big Dreams

More Six Points

1. The MQM should be given its share in Sindh and the Center according to the mandate it received in the polls.
2. The Governorship in Sindh should be given to the MQM.
3. The local government set up in Karachi and Hyderabad should not be interfered with and the local bodies set-up should be kept intact.
4. The administrative set-up in the urban areas of Sindh be made with consensus and the police officials involved in the Karachi operation should be transferred.
5. The MQM must be given support in the National Assembly for its bill on provincial autonomy.
6. Conspirators who have created a misunderstanding between the PPP and MQM, should be watched, allegations and political victimization should be avoided and the ordinance committees must be formulated to improve the democratic system. MQM gives PPP 6-point demand By Fareed Farooqui

ZAB was an anti-establishment leader who fully understood the game plan of this evil-empire that eventually took his life. There are two main components that have ruled Pakistan - the baboos and the khakis. Together they wreck havoc on the people. Infact the baboos were the first to encroach on the nascent democratic order followed by the khakis and they neutralised the entire political leadership. For good governance it is essential to contain the baboos and insulate the khakis from the civilian order. Khaki insulation has started with the shedding of the uniform but the baboo onslaught continues an-abated. ZAB took on the baboos in their domain of the file by the asking pertinent questions that had to be addressed not avoided. His notes were exemplary and to the point, response time was short. Most ministries had round the clock file management system to keep pace with the PM. Those who performed had nothing to fear but those who did not could neither run nor hide. Effective results were produced; the files were kept moving till delivery. Bhutto style of governance - Farid Malik

Late last year, after a decade of failed attempts to make the journey, I drove 14 hours across Afghanistan to look upon one of the architectural wonders of the world. The road east from Herat had long given way to dumpy tracks and rocky riverbeds when suddenly - through a cleft in the looming cliffs - I caught my first glimpse of the minaret of Jam, a fragile sliver of tapering, man-made beauty dating from the 12th century and set among momentous mountains.

Minaret of Jam in Afghanistan, photo by Dan Cruickshank
Minaret of Jam in Afghanistan: Cruickshank needed the protection of 60 police to visit it. Photograph: Dan Cruickshank

Rising 65 metres, the minaret is far from inconspicuous, yet such is its remoteness that rumours of its existence only reached the west in 1944. The tallest complete and authentic ancient minaret in the world, it is believed to have been built by the once great Ghorid empire, who in the late 12th century ruled over what are now Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, as far south as Delhi. Before a French archaeologist finally located it in 1957, the minaret had endured more than 700 years of obscurity and neglect after the Ghorids were defeated by Genghis Khan. Now this moving, beautiful building is once again under threat. In 2002, Unesco declared Jam a World Heritage site, the first in Afghanistan, but soon after also listed it as a site in danger. Rich in archaeological remains, the spot has been ruthlessly looted for the past 20 years, while the minaret itself is slowly crumbling and tilting, its foundations undermined by the waters of a nearby river. Repairs started in the 1970s, but were effectively halted by the conflict that subsequently engulfed the country. It was only in 2001 that work to stabilise the minaret and shore up its foundations finally resumed. Meeting with a minaret -Dan Cruickshank [thanks YA]

Ghulaam RoohaiN - Raulf Klasra in Urdu



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