Thursday, 29 May 2014

Diplomatic Enclave Gate 5: A Non-Existent Entrance

On the occasion of Imran Khan's protest in D-Chowk Islamabad on 11 May 2014, all entrances to the Diplomatic Enclave Islamabad were sealed due to security reasons except one: Gate 5.

Gate 5 of the Diplomatic Enclave is approached from the 3rd Avenue - the road from where the Shuttle service for embassy visa procedures starts - and from the opposite side from Quaid-e-Azam University and Bari Imam.

As we drove in the dark of the night, we spotted the well-lit security barriers of Gate 5 from a distance. They were similar to the other Enclave gates. However, to our bewilderment, we could not make out the entrance to the Gate. We drove back and forth several times searching for a road that would lead us to the gate.

Finally, we drove towards Bari Imam. A couple of policemen stood on the road side. We told them that we wanted to enter the Enclave through Gate 5 but we mysteriously could not find the entrance to the Gate. One policeman asked us to look for water tankers and a broken road with huge potholes.

Had the policeman not indicated what seemed to be a track heading in the direction of Gate 5 of the Enclave between huge truck-like vehicles, we would never have undertaken the dark scary journey on the literally non-existent road with massive mud lumps and potholes.

Relevant authorities should pay a visit to the mentioned area especially in the dark of the night, and construct a road and fix lights to make it look like the Diplomatic Enclave Gate 5 entrance.

This was also published in the Dawn newspaper on 23 May 2014:

Thursday, 15 May 2014

The New Pakistani Currency

Last week, I received a butterscotch candy in lieu of the remainder change at the local grocery store.

In most countries across the world, shopkeepers return the exact change, nearest to the hundredth of a dollar or pound or whatever currency it may be. That would be the right thing to do.

However, in dear Pakistan, most shopkeepers conveniently decline returning the small change especially when they do not have required coin currency.

Amusingly, where the tagged amount is Rs. 1,995 or Rs. 999, several shopkeepers treat the rounded figure to be the total price, staying coolly indifferent about any change due at their side. They probably think who would bother with the feeble change - a minuscule amount compared to large tag price paid by the customer. Though small it may seem, there still is a difference which should be respected and recognised instead of callously being ignored.

Some grocery shops and departmental stores have come up with the idea of giving candy equivalents when they do not have (or so we think) the required change. This introduces the ludicrous notion of 'candy currency' in Pakistan! Imagine purchasing things with candy currency... that would take us back to the barter system. I wonder if such shops would allow me to make a purchase with say 50 butterscotch candies to honour and test the new Pakistani currency!

On a serious note, this 'forced sale' of candies is sheer violation of business ethics. The customer is 'forced' to purchase butterscotch candy from the money that he has handed over the counter. Moreover, whether the change due at the shopkeeper's end is rupee 1, rupee 2 or rupee 5, all the customer gets is a single butterscotch in returnSo much for fairness and business ethics in this part of the world, let alone any attempt to boost customer loyalty and welfare.

The most amusing and unexpected of such instances happened when a highway toll returned a chocolate in return for the 5 rupees due at their side. If every vehicle received a 5-rupee retail price chocolate in place of the 5 rupees change, the toll would be making a decent amount of indecent profit with hundreds of cars moving through the toll either way. What a shrewd business strategy!

To check for such unfair business and trade practices in the economy, there should be strict overseeing authorities and regulations in place to ensure that cashiers everywhere have adequate change in hand in the form of both paper and coin currency. If cashiers attempt to go without returning the due change or in other words try to 'rob' their customers, they should be penalised in a predetermined way.

Even if shopkeepers run out of change, as courtesy and part of basic business ethics, it would be appropriate for them to give the higher rounded version of the money that they have on them. Giving such 'benefit of the doubt' advantage to the customer would help build customers and develop a loyal clientèle while simultaneously honour business ethics.

Sunday, 29 December 2013


The other day, I happened to travel along the majestic Lahore canal after a long time. The excursion brought back many fond memories of my childhood.

My paternal home is located in the proximity of the canal. During my academic life, I used to make trips to and fro along the canal every day. Be it my school, central market regions or my grandma’s home, we had to take the canal. The canal meant home.

Originally, the canal was part of the major populated regions of Lahore. Built during the Mughal era, the 60 km long canal runs through what was once the east side of the city. However, with the swift expansion of the city due to the rampantly growing population, the canal has been pushed further to a side. Now, though I am still living in the same city, I hardly get to visit the canal side of Lahore.

Historically, waterways have been convenient for defining transport routes and civilization abodes. Consequently, many locations have been named in connection with or geographically related to the canal. A two-way road runs along the length of the linear watercourse. The drive along the serenely flowing water banked with tall green trees creates a scenic sight. 

Over the years, the roadway lining the canal was made hurdle-free by constructing underpasses to account for unobstructed traffic flow for vehicles other than trucks and buses. The restriction for trucks and buses was automatically set in place by the height of underpasses.

There were days when the canal was brim full and there were days when the canal was dry. The latter happened when there were efforts to clean the canal, and get rid of the deposits that the water brought and carried along its extensive course.

Every spring season, there used to be a display of beautiful vibrant floats in the canal. These ornate ethnic exhibits were prepared by various art institutes to decorate Lahore and celebrate the festive spirits of Jashan-e-Baharan (Spring Festival).

During the long bright summers of Lahore, young boys were seen swimming in the canal waters to get relief from the scorching heat. However, this unpaid swimming facility caused gruesome accidents several times. Lately, the government has built green fences bordering the canal for safety reasons.