Meeting Held in Police Line Rawalpindi for conducive environment for Mohurram in the backdrop of incident of 2013.

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For conducive Environment for Muharam Ul Haram District Coordinator Officer  Rawalpindi and City Police Officer Israr Abbasi held meeting in Police line with Teleem-ul -Quran  Ulema. Meeting agenda to create conducive environment for  Mohurram in the backdrop of incident of 2013…

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The making of Coke Studio: The 120-person crew, a wannabe Deepika and other fun facts

Nine years down the line, what makes Coke Studio work is not just musical acumen but also quite a bit of marketing expertise.

Consider the way this year’s season kicked off with the heartrending ‘Aye Rah-e-Haq Ke Shaheedo’, timed closely around Independence Day. It then proceeded to undulate through troughs and peaks, culminating with a poignant collaboration between maestros Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and the tragically deceased Amjad Sabri.

The audiences were hooked, waves were made on social media – mission achieved. This drink may have gotten a bit tepid and the bubbles may have waned, but it’s still being guzzled down.

One has to give credit to the Studio for trying to shake things up. The six ‘guest’ music producers that were taken on-board this time were meant to bring new flavours to the platform. This didn’t always work though; the smorgasbord of songs that emerged varied from the very forgettable to the unfathomable to the hits. It lead to umpteen online tirades and the inevitable contradictory opinions from audiences.

And herein lies CS’s success. People may love specific songs or hate them but they talk about the show as if it’s their own – and as long as they do, the show will go on.

“I sometimes think that this show is so much like a Pakistani cricket match,” ponders Bilal Maqsood, who helms the show along with his Strings’ band mate Faisal Kapadia. “If the team loses, it is inflicted with insults and if it wins, it is showered with love. CS inspires similar reactions but ultimately, people feel a sense of ownership towards it.”

This would not have been the case had the show not been a labour of love for music. For nine years now, it has persisted; the concept taking birth in Pakistan and now, having extended to other parts of the world. This year, according to a Google search, the show was watched by 188 countries across the world.

From song selection to artist selection and placement to masterminding collaborations, set design and the final editing, there are many layers to the show that finally filter down to the screen. “We work along with the sponsors, of course, but since Faisal and I are mainly responsible for the show, the final decision lies with us,” says Bilal.

Behind the scenes

“As many as 120 people are working on the show during a single recording,” says Bilal. “Each song is shot in a single live recording; there are no pauses or retakes in order to cover up glitches. The recording studio has myriad cameras and we shoot across the studio.”

The tragically deceased Amjad Sabri with Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and the Coke Studio team during the rehearsals for their join performance of 'Rang'
The tragically deceased Amjad Sabri with Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and the Coke Studio team during the rehearsals for their join performance of ‘Rang’

Many CS aficionados may not have noticed the many clocks lining the walls, all pointing at 9 ‘o’ clock – for this was Season 9 after all! Beyond the camera’s eye, there are rooms that remain clustered during the eight odd months of production. A lounge area is set up where the artistes can relax or better yet, play a mean game of Atari! “Most of us used to play with Atari in our childhoods and so, we decided to get one for the Studio,” says Bilal.

The kitchen remains stocked with snacks, there is a soundproof rehearsal room, a makeup room and a producers’ room which gives a bird’s eye view of the recording area. The walls are lined with images of CS through the ages and of course, there are refrigerators everywhere, fully equipped with fizzy drinks.

“The rehearsals usually go on for around three months and then the post-production work starts,” outlines Abbas Arsalan, Marketing Manager at Coca-Cola. “It’s a location where so much work is being done and we make sure that it is fully equipped.”

The style quotient, a la Ehtesham Ansari

Also very well-equipped is the show’s wardrobe section; presenting options for the male vocalists and the female, the background singers and the main stars. Stylist Ehtesham Ansari has now, for three years, been successfully tackling the CS wardrobe behemoth.

“Last season I had an artist who wanted to perform wearing bridal wear,” he recalls. “She told me that she wanted to look like Deepika Padukone in Ram-Leela. It takes a great amount of diplomacy and patience to devise looks for singers depending on their personality, their comfort level and the kind of song that they are performing.

“Once the line-up of artiste has been decided, I come on-board and listen to the songs being recorded and mixed. Then, I come up with a mood-board, discuss it with Strings, forward it to the musicians and work on it until we come up with a look that we mutually like.”

Mehwish Hayat got a military makeover to differentiate her look from her previous public appearances as an actor
Mehwish Hayat got a military makeover to differentiate her look from her previous public appearances as an actor

The sartorial options vary from clothes that are borrowed off-the-rack from designers to others that are custom-made.

“Natasha Khan, Momina Mustehsan, Damia Farooq and Nirmal Roy all wore Khaadi Khaas and their design team actually sent us sketches that we approved before the clothes got made. Zeb Bangash, in ‘Aaja Re Moray Saiyaan’, wanted to wear a brand that she feels comfortable in. For her second performance, I recommended that she wear an outfit by Shamaeel Ansari. Mehwish Hayat expressly told me that she didn’t want to look like an actress, which is why we chose to give her a slightly military look with a jacket with Emoji badges. We pondered over whether Meesha Shafi should pair a matha-patti with the outfit by Rohit Bal that she wore in ‘Aaya Laariye’. We decided it would work – with Meesha one can really be edgy.”

Aside from the effusion of designer wear, there are colour considerations that may surprise the average viewer. Colours identifiable with the sponsor brand’s many competitors, for instance, are a definite no-no. Even the Coke red and black is avoided because given that the recording studio is in a similar hue, the artist runs the risk of fading into the background.

“Most importantly, the styling needs to resonate well with the music,” explains Ehtesham. “CS is all about fusion and similarly, the wardrobes need to be a fusion of different elements, traditional, aesthetically sound looks with twists to them.”

For the love of music

Beyond the razzmatazz of stars, designer wear and hit (and miss) music, though, CS has played a much more profound role of providing sustenance to a music industry that has long been on the decline.

For instance, violinist Javed Iqbal who has been part of the musicians’ entourage for the past seven years, considers the Studio ‘home’. “I started off with Rohail bhai and continued on with Strings. There really has been no better platform to recognise talent, revive music and bring educated, experienced artists in the spotlight.”

Javed Iqbal
Javed Iqbal

A stalwart in his profession, Javed recalls the early ’80s when he worked on film soundtracks. “Standards were falling in our film industry and simultaneously, so was their music. TV was on the rise then and I found work there, but by the late ’80s, even this avenue was waning. That’s when I found a job at Radio Pakistan and I have been working there ever since. Every year, for one-and-a-half months, I moonlight as CS’ violinist but there are others who come and stay in Karachi for longer periods and the Studio takes care of all their living expenses.”

For many others who are part of the show, wages from a single season are enough to sustain expenses for a year, until the next. “They take care of us, pay us a substantial amount and most importantly, give us respect,” says guitarist Imran Akhund who joined in Season 7.

“It’s an ideal job for any Pakistani musician but, then again, not everybody can be part of the show. For four months, we just practice from 10am till 5pm and we have to be very punctual because Strings are there every morning, before us. When it’s time for the final take, every note has to be on cue because the song is shot in a single recording and there can be no space for error. And a musician has to have the versatility to switch from qawwali music to folk to film songs. It’s not easy, but it’s very satisfying.

Imran Akhoond
Imran Akhoond

“There’s also the boost that musicians get when they are recognised wherever they go,” continues Imran. “I have been playing for 20 years and mostly with Shehzad Roy but it is only now that people recognise me wherever I go. It’s because I am constantly on their screen, playing my guitar.”

Of course, CS’ platform has led to the formation of several similar shows and created recognition for Pakistani music worldwide. Now that film is traversing an uphill path to revival, the future of local film music looks promising. But back when it initiated nine years ago, CS was a beacon of light in a scenario that was pitch dark.

“It was fresh and unique and it reintroduced music into the country with an all-new formula,” recalls Ameed Riaz, executive director at EMI Pakistan, the country’s largest music company before the industry tumbled into decline. “Musical rights are more or less ignored in Pakistan and talented artists lead impoverished lives and die, completely destitute. CS improved the situation to some extent.”

Govt challenges tariff for power transmission line

ISLAMABAD: The government has challenged around 71-paisa per unit tariff for the 878km Matiari-Lahore transmission line determined by the power regulator as the Chinese contractor has expressed its inability to pursue the $2.1 billion project for being unviable.

A government official said the Private Power and Infrastructure Board (PPIB) — the one-window entity set up by the water and power ministry to facilitate investors — had filed a petition before the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) requesting it to review its decision in the interest of foreign investment so that loadshedding could end by 2018.

A Nepra official said the regulator would invite public comments in a few days before holding a public hearing to reach a prudent decision on the matter.


Nepra says it will invite comments before holding a public hearing to reach a decision on the matter


He said the mega project was the first private sector investment in the transmission line and, therefore, any decision on it would set a principle for such projects in the future.

A PPIB official said the Chinese investors had declined to go ahead with the project at the tariff and, therefore, the regulator had been requested to consider a revised tariff of about 95 paisas per unit — up by about 30 per cent.

On Aug 18, the regulator had approved the upfront tariff of 71 paisas per unit to be charged to consumers for evacuation of up to 4,950MW of electricity from Tharparkar, Hub and Karachi to load demand centres in Punjab as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. The transmission line is crucial for evacuation of electricity to be produced at three coal-based projects in Tharparkar, Hub and Port Qasim currently in development phase.

The tariff petition filed by the country’s only transmission line operator with 14,000km of operational lines — National Transmission and Dispatch Company (NTDC) — was twice rejected by Nepra in November 2015 and January this year. The authority said it was against the rules to offer an upfront tariff for a single project and also objected to the tariff being executed without competitive bidding.

However, it allowed the tariff for the project when the petition was filed by the PPIB on behalf of the NTDC along with government directives. The NTDC and the China Electric Power Equipment and Technology — a subsidiary of the State Grid Corporation of China — had already entered into a cooperation agreement in April 2015 as part of priority projects of CPEC.

Based on engineering procurement and construction cost of $1.76 billion and other cost build-ups totalling $2.1bn, the PPIB had requested Nepra for a transmission tariff of 95 paisas (0.914 cents) per unit (kWh) for 30-year life of the transmission line. It will involve 80:20 per cent debt-equity ratio.

But Nepra worked out the upfront tariff of 71 paisas per unit for 25-year operational life of the transmission line. It noted that the government had given guarantee to the Chinese firm for ensuring payment obligations of the NTDC, protection against NTDC default for any transmission service agreement or any other defaults by NTDC to the Chinese firm and protection against change in laws and political force majeure risk.

The tariff petition was prepared purely on the basis of financial and technical data received from the Chinese firm. The project will be transferred to the NTDC on completion of 25 years. The NTDC and Chinese firms had signed cooperation agreement for two similar transmission lines. Apart from Lahore-Matiari, the other project is 660kv High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) transmission line from Port Qasim to Faisalabad with 4,000MW capacity, but that was not part of the petition.

The 660kv HVDC Matiari-Lahore transmission line will transmit generation in southern part of the country to mid-country load centres.

However, due to constraints on public sector resources and borrowing capacity of the NTDC, the government had announced a policy framework last year for transmission line development in the private sector.

The future of electricity transmission from 660MW Engro Thar coal plants, 1,320MW Sino-Sindh Resour­ces Thar coal plant, 1,320MW Port Qasim project, 660MW each of two Hub Coal Power plants and 330MW Siddique Sons Energy plant will depend on the Matiari-Lahore project.

The transmission line will mostly pass through rural land away from settlements and obstruction with least temporary loss to crops and trees to be properly compensated.

The tariff petition said the Chinese investor had been involved in the project because “currently there exist a number of lengthy, time and money consuming complicated procedures due to which private investors are problem-stricken”, like provision of bank guarantees and finalisation of project agreement with multitude of government agencies.

Moreover, the project is associated with power generation based on imported and local coal at low operating costs that will save billions of dollars every year otherwise needed for import of oil for equivalent electricity generation.

The project will take 36 to 42 months to be developed, although power generation at the plants in Thar, Hub and Port Qasim will start much earlier.

Clarke, Salman to headline PSL players’ draft

KARACHI: Former Australia captain Michael Clarke and former Pakistan skipper Salman Butt are set to headline the star names in the draft for the second edition of the Pakistan Super League (PSL), Dawn exclusively reveals.

The player draft is likely to be held on Oct 18 and 19 in Dubai and the duo join the likes of former New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum and England T20 skipper Eoin Morgan in putting their names forward for selection by the five franchises.

“Clarke will be part of the Platinum category along the likes of McCullum, Morgan, Alex Hales, Jason Roy, Stuart Broad, Lasith Malinga, Mahela Jayawardene and Kieron Pollard,” well-placed sources told Dawn on Sunday.

“Salman is the notable inclusion in the gold category along with other swashbuckling batsmen namely South Africa’s Richard Levi, Zimbabwe’s Gary Ballance and Sri-Lanka’s Lahiru Thirimanne.

“England trio of Moeen Ali, James Anderson and Adil Rashid also feature in the gold category.

“The players draft will also see a selection of 255 players in the Silver category with the likes of England’s Mark Wood, David Willey, Sri Lanka’s Kaushal Silva and West Indies’ Nicholas Pooran discernible among others.

“On the other hand, 26 players will be part of Emerging Players category.”

The sources added that franchises have asked PSL secretariat to sort out players’ release and transfer issues before the players’ selection meeting so that they could easily make their strategies.

“Lahore Qalandars have released Chris Gayle and, once approved by the PSL secretariat, are mostly likely to pick Sohail Tanvir who played for Karachi Kings in the inaugural edition of the PSL,” sources claimed.

The salary cap of the Platinum category ranges from $140,000 to $230,000 while the Diamond category base price will be from $70,000 up to $85,000 with the Gold category base price from $50,000 up to $60,000.

Also, base price of the Silver category will be $22,000 as compared to last year’s $25,000 but could shoot up to $32,000. Base price starts from $10, 000 in the Emerging category which could go up to $12,000.

Each team, as per the rules, has to pick three players each from Platinum, Diamond and Gold categories, five from Silver and three from the Emerging categories.

Formation of Land Port Authority discussed

ISLAMABAD: Finance Minister Muhammad Ishaq Dar on Sunday chaired a meeting to review setting up of the Pakistan Land Port Authority.

Quarter Master General Pakistan Army Lt Gen Javed Bukhari briefed the meeting on border checkpoints across the country, said a statement.

The minister was briefed about the need for modern border terminals in view of growing trade and volume of international commercial goods.

The construction of sufficiently equipped border terminals is needed not only for the purpose of trade regulation but also for tracking the movement of people, both for reasons of immigration and security.

Various models of upgradation of border posts for covered cargo at Jamrud, Taftan and Sosst were discussed.

The meeting was attended by Special Adviser to the PM on Law Barrister Zafarullah Khan, EAD Secretary Maj General Sahir Shamshad, DG MO Maj Gen Faisal Mushtaq, DG NLC and Chairman FBR.

Mr Dar emphasised the government’s priority of establishing a `land port authority’ to invigorate the border trade and facilitate and better monitor those travelling to Pakistan.