Saturday, 31 January 2015

Iran to supply 2,000 MW power to Balochistan



Iran has agreed to supply 2,000 megawatts (MW) of electricity to Balochistan out of which 1,000 MW electricity will be utilised in the Gwadar project while the remaining 1,000 MW will be supplied to the rest of the province.

This was stated by Balochistan Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik during a joint press conference with Iran’s Sistan-Baluchistan province Governor Aqai Ali Osat Hashmi on Monday.

The CM said that he has invited Iranian entrepreneurs to invest in Pakistan’s fisheries, industry, and mining sectors. He also expressed hope that the Pak-Iran gas pipeline project will be implemented soon.

Speaking about the prevention of border incidents, Dr Malik said that border committees of the two countries will meet on January 27 and 28 to discuss necessary measures.

On the other hand, the Iranian governor said that Pakistan accords much importance to its relations with Pakistan, adding that some mischievous elements want to create disturbance on the border to harm Pakistan-Iran relations.

< Pakistan Today >

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

In the shadow of Balochistan, the Jhal Magsi rally comes alive


JHAL MAGSI: Within the ‘drivers’ paradise’ lies a land full of curious faces and twinkling eyes, faces that have been consumed by the vast emptiness of the space around them; yet they smile — men, children and youngsters alike — with guns slung around most shoulders, a normalcy for the people of Jhal Magsi, the people of Balochistan.

Travelling to the province for the first time, driving by sparse greenery that burst into fields of crops at random intervals, the most dominant aspect was the brown, lonely landscape. Truck stops broke the monotony every now and then, with cats and dogs aimlessly crawling around the scattered tables and parked trucks, whose drivers take a tea break.

The 10th Jhal Magsi rally was the perfect opportunity to not only witness how far motorsports in Pakistan has come, but was also a chance to experience the vast differences within the same homeland; the bumps – literal and figurative – that came one after the other as the hours ticked by on the long journey there.

The desert spoke as the winds blew, beckoning for help, asking for mercy. But amidst that stood local men and children at different parts of the rally track, wrapped in colourful shawls with sand-streaked hair, chewing on sugar cane straight from the crop, waiting in anticipation for the race to start.

“This rally is what gave Jhal Magsi its identity,” said one of the organisers. “There is a lack of entertainment for the people around here so for them, this is a big day.”

The locals nodded in agreement, once again smiling away. In a place which has little to offer, this was their time, their moment. It was clear how much they had been waiting to feel the thrill as the cars sped by.

“Meri speed check kero [check out my speed],” screamed one of the locals excitedly as he tried to race his bike over the bumpy, stone-covered terrain prior to the race.

However, the waiting faces were tested some more. The fog had the final say, covering the horizon menacingly, delaying the rally by a couple of hours and cutting the 200km race short to 119km.
There was confusion and haste, and a change of plans. People shuffled around; the drivers had a different starting point now but everyone at least knew who was going to set out, in full force, hoping to take advantage of a first-place start: Ronnie Patel. Just the day before, the qualifiers had determined the line-up.

‘Ronnie nikal gaya, Ronnie nikal gaya’, screamed the walkie-talkie and cell phone exchanges as soon as the race began. Everyone had picked their spot where they wanted to watch from, where they wanted to hear the crunching of the gravel, see the trail of dust left behind as the cars lurched forward.

“The first person to take off gets the advantage of the virgin track, undisturbed by other sets of wheels,” explained a regular participator in the race.

Here it is not always the results that matters. What matters was the track, what it represents and the hopes that lay within it.

“It’s truly a driver’s paradise,” said Patel, who, as fates spoke, was unable to finish the race due to an accident, a sad end as he seemed to be the expectant winner.

Patel has been part of the motorsports scene since 1979, predominantly in Pakistan, but he has also experienced racing in Dubai twice.

“This 220km track has every kind of conceivable terrain on earth; rocky tracks, stones, rivers, canals, hard surface, soft kind of sand, sand dunes. I think this is the only track in the world that has been graded, which is quite expensive, but it ensures that there aren’t any sudden ditches.”
How does one take up such an intense sport and commit? It’s neither easy nor cheap, but Patel had an easy answer to it.

“It has to be a part of your system right from the beginning and you have to be absolutely driven to get through the challenge,” he said. “People fear for your safety but honestly it’s not the track that will break you, it’s that one wrong decision that may ruin everything.”

As he spoke of the funds required, he indirectly made it clear that only those who could afford it had a chance. “It’s definitely an expensive sport given that we don’t have sponsors for individual drivers here in Pakistan, and if you are in the ‘A’ prepared category like me, you need to be on top of your game and spend the right way to prepare the kind of car that will get you through to the finish line first.”

While rally drivers do get most of the credit, their co-drivers can be termed as the ‘unsung heroes’.
Hozaifa Hashim, co-driver to category ‘A’ winner Zafar Magsi, explains their role. “We make notes prior to the race, mark the danger points and warn the driver, especially while going in blind [sand blast from the car before you],” said Hashim, while highlighting on the support, trust and understanding the two drivers had to have between them. “Navigating isn’t our only job though. We tend to study the car and any issues that it may have so that during the race if something goes wrong, we can attend to the problem straight away.”

While talking about this year’s race, he rued the loss of the first section to the fog, which was a true test of a driver’s skill, an interesting and challenging piece of land where the Red Bull speed trap had initially been set to record the fastest time as each car maneuvered through the tricky terrain. Unfortunately the ‘surprise spot’ where they were to be timed had to be shifted.

Despite the setbacks, many of the cars passing through the finish line were greeted with celebratory gunfire.


Not just a man’s turf

It wasn’t long ago that racing was an all-man’s club. However, change has been in the air.
Patel’s wife Tushna, who has been racing for some time, and a newcomer Maliha Elahi, participated in the women’s category, facing the hardships of the course head on.

Tired, dishevelled and barely able to speak after a mentally and physically challenging rally, Maliha talked about her experience as a whole.

“It was my first time racing here and I had my 22-year-old son Abdullah co-drive the jeep,” she said. “I wasn’t racing against anyone; I was racing against myself, hoping to beat my personal best time.
“We were welcomed and treated well and given the moral support to get through such a challenge. However, it was also difficult, being a woman, because of the kind of society we have as everyone keeps staring.

“When I was in the car I felt like either I was a caged monkey or Princess Diana,” Maliha, who took this up as a hobby, chuckled. “We are from the same county but lead such different lives, it’s kind of sad really.”

At the end…
The eerie darkness of the night blanketed itself over the mountains and the valley, over the lonesome mud huts with its lonesome people left to face another bumpy day.

It was 10 years ago when three friends came up with the idea of holding a rally here; it was 10 years ago when Jhal Magsi was given a glimmer of hope. And now with everything done and dusted, its people will wait another year to feel the place come alive again.

< Express Tribune >

Monday, 26 January 2015

PM assures increased funds for infrastructure development in Balochistan



ISLAMABAD - Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has said that the Pakistan Muslim League-N government is focussing on developing infrastructure in all parts of Pakistan and would provide increased funds for this purpose to Balochistan.

The prime minister was talking to Balochistan Minister for Mines and Minerals Sardar Sana Ullah Zehri who called on him here on Thursday. Matters relating to development in Balochistan and party matters came under discussion. Sardar Zehri apprised the prime minister of the steps being taken by the government of Balochistan for exploitation of mineral resources in the province.

< Daily Times >

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Balochistan completes third phase of LG polls



QUETTA: With the election on 612 seats reserved for labourers and peasants, the third phase of local government elections was completed in Balochistan on Wednesday in a peaceful manner amid heavy security.

Balochistan is the only province in the country which has complied with a Supreme Court order regarding local bodies elections.

Of the 1,486 seats reserved for labourers and peasants, candidates on 769 had already been elected unopposed while 105 seats are vacant because no nomination paper was filed in Awaran and parts of Turbat and Panjgur.

Tough competition was witnessed on six seats in the Quetta Metropolitan Cor­pora­tion and eight in the Quetta District Council where the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) and All Parties Democratic Alliance (APDA) comprising the PML-N, both factions of the JUI, PPP, ANP and Hazara Democratic Party were in the run.

Both panels have strong candidates for the top slots of the corporation and council.

The PML-N and PkMAP, coalition partners in the provincial government, are fighting for the post of mayor and district council chairman.

According to unofficial results, the PkMAP and APDA have won three seats each in the Quetta Metro­politan Corporation and four seats each in the District Council.

Dr Kalimullah, Jamshed Dotani and Yousaf Khan of the PkMAP and Nadir Ali, Faiz Lehri and Yahya Khan Nasar of the APDA have won the elections.

Observers believe that both Kalimullah Khan and Yahya Khan Nasar could be candidates for the post of Quetta mayor.

Provincial Election Commissioner Syed Sultan Bayizeed said that polling was held throughout the province peacefully and no untoward incident was reported from anywhere.

Heavy contingents of police and other security forces were deployed at 338 polling stations.

Later addressing a press conference, APDA leaders Wahid Agha, Rasheed Nasir, Aslam Rind and Raza Wakeel demanded of the Election Commission of Pakistan to hold elections for the offices of mayor, deputy mayor, chairman and deputy chairman of all local bodies’ institutions immediately.

< Dawn >

Monday, 19 January 2015

Govt committed to development of Balochistan: PM


ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday said that his government was committed to the development of Balochistan with a resolve to bring it at par with the developed areas of the country.

Talking to a group of students from Loralai District at the Prime Minister’s House, Nawaz Sharif said that over the years Balochistan was neglected, adding that the province was not only rich in natural resources but also had an equally talented youth.

He said that the nation was proud of its young generation that would help Pakistan get its rightful place in the comity of nations with honour and dignity.

The prime minister said that the government would put in all resources to ensure that the children of Balochistan get quality education. He asked the students to focus on their education and lauded their calibre.

He also listened to a number of suggestions put forth by the students in order to create a proper learning environment at the Loralai School. The prime minister announced Rs 15 million for the school and said that he would announce more funds for the students when he will visit Balochistan.

He asked the students to study hard as their parents, despite their limited resources, were spending huge amount of money on their education and grooming. He also asked the school authorities to provide scholarships to the outstanding students.

The prime minister said that the young students were the future of the country and would bring a good name to the nation, adding that the children of Balochistan were equally good as compared to others across the country and assured them that they would be provided with the best possible facilities. Nawaz Sharif directed Senator Sardar Yaqoob Nasir to submit a report to him for and address problems of the school. Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid accompanied the prime minister.

< Daily Times >

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Punjab package for Balochistan




LAHORE - Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has said that inter-provincial harmony will improve due to visit of students of Cadet College Qila Saifullah Balochistan. 

He expressed these views while talking to a delegation of students of Cadet College Qila Saifullah Baluchistan who called on him under the leadership of Vice Principal Abdul Khaliq. He said that the people of Punjab had sentiments of love and brotherhood for their Baloch brethren. 

Shahbaz Sharif announced laptops for the teachers and students of the college. He also announced water filteration plant for the college, Rs30 lakh for the management of college, Rs40 lakh for construction of swimming pool, Rs30 lakh for setting up junior school and a bus for students of Cadet College Qila Saifullah Baluchistan.

The chief minister said that Punjab government had given Rs11 billion of its share to Balochistan in NFC Award and a total of Rs55b of its share had been given to Balochistan during five years.  He said that special quota for students of Balochistan had been allocated in educational institutions of Punjab.

Addressing the students, Shahbaz Sharif said that no nation could progress or achieve a respectable place without education. He said that education, health and law& order are linked with each other.  The Punjab government has taken revolutionary steps for the improvement of education system and empowering the youth which have yielded very encouraging and positive results, he added. 

The chief minister said that allocation of special quota for the students of Balochistan was one of the important steps taken in education sector in Punjab.  He said every child has right over education and Punjab government is providing this right to them. 

The chief minister said that youth would have to play their active role along with government. He said that our elders sacrificed lakhs of precious lives for the creation of Pakistan. He said that Pakistan was achieved so that there should be supremacy of justice, honesty and equality. 

“Unfortunately, corruption, safarish, nepotism and Bradrism have been promoted in the country. Due to four martial laws, the country is lagging far behind. The country is for all of us and we all will have to play our role for its progress,” the CM held.

He said that Punjab government had given gift of a cardiac center to Balochistan and two billion rupees had been released for its construction. The students and teachers of cadet collage paid tribute to the development vision of Shahbaz Sharif and said that Punjab had played the role of elder brother in the real sense.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Words of change: Clearing the coast for the women of Balochistan



Quetta: Dressed in a colourful embroidered Balochi dress, 19-year-old Mariyam Suleman is a reflection of the deep blue sea that meets the shore of her hometown of Gwadar. Unassuming yet dynamic, the teenage social activist is making waves by creating awareness about the rights of women.

A college student and blogger, Mariyam is teaching women English in rural areas of Gwadar in order to give them an equal shot at opportunities. Doing what she does, that too in Balochistan–where proper education is a dream, takes unmatched resolve. And Mariyam’s determination, like the waters that besieges her land, is unwavering.

Mariyam started her endeavour after completing her undergraduate education from America. She recently conducted a workshop with the help of a non-profit organisation in Gwadar where over 30 college-going girls discussed women’s rights and swapped stories of influential Baloch women who changed society as they know it.

“I have not done a big thing, but I feel happy to do something for our society, specifically for the women in Balochistan who are denied access to education, not only because of cultural barriers, but also due to lack of resources,” Mairyam tells The Express Tribune.

She has also organised workshops focusing on tech camps in colleges, training of trainers, women’s day, cultural heritage and international day for girls’ rights.

“I organised a few workshops for college girls in Gwadar and have also been teaching English language along with maintaining my personal blog,” she says in a nonchalant manner that would have you think she is among many doing the same in her area. In fact, Mariyam is one of the first teenage girls to regularly write blogs about education and women issues in the province.

Elaborating on lack of opportunities, Mariyam says cultural barriers are a major issue. “They (girls) are married at a very young age. Sometimes they are forced to stay home rather than encouraged to compete with men out in the world. This is why, at times, they stop dreaming.”

Avenues for girls to pursue an education in Gwadar are extremely limited, even with the attention the coastal city has attracted in the past one decade. “Girls often bury their dreams because of lack of opportunities and cultural barriers.”

Yet, the women of Balochistan are aware of their rights. Mairyam said girls at several workshops have voiced one concern repeatedly: ‘Men should be taught about women’s rights, not women.’

Mariyam’s blogs can be viewed here.

< Express Tribune >