‘Safe transport sharing service’ for women commences in twin cities

ISLAMABAD: For 29-year-old Ayesha Khan, learning to drive a car was a life-changing experience.

“Being able to drive opens up so many possibilities because you are no longer dependent on other people,” she said. Ayesha began driving her father’s car a few years back and practised with him.

“Being able to drive meant that I could even supervise the construction of my house, driving to Rawalpindi Saddar everyday to buy materials. It gave me a lot of confidence.”

Last year, she began working at a government ministry in G-5 and bought her own car to travel to work.

She has now joined the newly launched carpool service, SheKab as a driver, which has made her commute to work an income generating activity.

SheKab is a subscription based ride-sharing platform which uses intelligent clustering to connect riders with drivers and fellow commuters.

Riders sign up using the SheKab website, which also provides estimated costs. For instance, monthly pick and drop from as far as DHA and Bahria Town to F-7 or F-8 costs around Rs8,000 a month.

“I first signed up with SheKab as a rider and was impressed by their model. I could safely commute to work and sharing a cab with other women meant the cost was divided. I even made some new friends,” Ayesha said.

Masooma Zehra, a student at the National University of Sciences and Technology, has also been using SheKab since September.

“Safety is very important to my parents. If there was no safe way to travel to university, I wouldn’t be allowed to attend. In the past I would use private vans which meant I had to leave the house at 6am even if my first class wasn’t until 9am,” she explained.

For many women in Pakistan, lack of safe and affordable transport services means educational and employment aspirations remain unfulfilled.

Cultural barriers combine with inadequate transport services to ensure that many educated women are kept out of the workforce. Where services are available, they are often inconvenient and expensive.

“In some cases women spend up to 40pc of their incomes travelling to work,” said Hira Batool Rizvi, the brains behind SheKab.

Hira’s own experience of growing up in Islamabad had made her aware of the lack of safe and convenient transport services available to women and after completing a masters degree in the US, Hira began work on her idea of launching a ride-sharing platform exclusively for women.

“I began with the idea of women driving women but soon realised that in Pakistan, ideas which are too radical end up failing. Ideas such as the Pink Rickshaw sound great but never pick up because they are too in your face,” she argued.

In the hopes of bringing incremental change, Hira decided to utilise the existing taxi cab network in Islamabad and Rawalpindi.

“I felt the use of technology was already a new thing so combining it with the existing yellow cab network would make the initiative more practical,” she says.

SheKab was launched in August 2015 with a fleet of five cabs. Today, there are 43 drivers signed up with the service, eight of whom are women.

The cars driven by men are regular yellow or black cabs while women drivers use private cars.

In the future, SheKab plans to lease out cars to women drivers who can use their income from the carpool service to pay the monthly instalments.

Cab driver Hamid Raja has been working with SheKab for the last one year and says he always prefers driving women to work.

“In my experience, women are more punctual and usually go straight home after work, which makes it more convenient for the driver,” he said.

His progressive views belie his scant education and he takes pride in driving women to their workplaces.

“Women are a part of society and we can no longer have them sit at home. It is important that we make it easier for them to work by providing safe transport,” he says.

Hira explains that most drivers have leased their cabs from the Punjab government’s taxi schemes and use the income from SheKab to pay their monthly instalments.

Understanding the importance of this additional income to cab drivers, at a time when companies such as Uber and Careem pose a threat to their livelihoods, Hira hopes to continue working with regular cabs.

“Even when we achieve our original model of women driving women, we will not leave out the hardworking men who drive cabs in our city,” she says.

Food Stories: Bombay Bakery’s Coffee Cake

Nostalgia is a beautiful thing — it comes with editing, and our brain selectively remembers only the very wonderful. One memory I cherish is the legendary coffee cake from the famed Bombay Bakery in Hyderabad.

Abu was a marketing executive at a German multinational, the times were the glorious ’70s and ’80s, and every trip to the Hyderabad depot (a few times a month) meant the coming home of the coffee cake, followed by Ami’s exclamation, ‘Let them eat cake,’ in imitation of the famous words by Marie Antoinette.


Discovering the history of Bombay Bakery

The Bombay Bakery is over 100 years old and was the brainchild of Pahlaj Rai and his Swiss wife who famously sold bakery delights out of her home. The bakery was named after the city by the sea, Bombay. Pahlaj Rai is believed to have enjoyed the aura of the wonderfully cosmopolitan city and decided to name his bakery after it.

Or is there a deeper connection?

Also read: Bombay Bakery —100 years and going strong

My research led me in many directions, but I did connect the dots somewhat, throwing in my experience of cake tasting and knowledge of the history and similarities of cake making in cities like Bombay, Karachi and Hyderabad, all cities belonging to the wonderful province of Sindh.

The book Darjeeling: The Colourful History and Precarious Fate of the World’s Greatest Tea by Jeff Koehler says the following:

“In gardens of hill stations during the summer social season, and in the sunny winter down on the plains, tea was served along with sweets – tiffin cake, dholi buns, Bombay golden cake and Gymkhana cake.”

Reading the same led me to research on Bombay golden cakes, which led me to the fact that the Parsis of Bombay have been baking cakes for the longest time, as have the Parsis of Karachi. Armeen’s and Mrs. Mistrey’s cakes were the rage of the ’80s and ’90s in Karachi, not to mention the Persian Bakery in Saddar, Karachi.

This led me to research Persian and Parsi cookbooks. I came across the name of an exotic one named Vividh Vani, published in the year 1903, before the opening of the Bombay Bakery. Dan Sheffield, a lecturer at the Dept. of Near Eastern Studies at the Princeton University, U.S, says about the book:

“By this time the Bombay Parsi cuisine had already been Anglicized. The book, which is around 1500 pages, has recipes for 57 varieties of cakes, ranging from coffee cake and cherry cakes to things with exotic names like cake Napoleon, Chantilly cake and Bakar Khani, etc.”

Vividh Vani narrates other interesting stories leading me to my next conjecture. It says the following:

“The second spate of Irani Zoroastrians that fled from the Islamic Qajar regime were mainly bakers, sweet makers and café owners.”

So perhaps it was the delicious baking of Parsi experts in early 20th century Bombay that inspired Pahlaj Rai to name his bakery Bombay Bakery, and maybe the coffee cake is inspired from Bombay baking and is a twist on the coffee cake recipe from Vividh Vani.

When it was time for me to try my luck at baking, I stumbled upon a recipe online. Needless to say it was a slice of heaven from the past. However, the sugar I used for icing was turbinado sugar. It tastes just like white sugar but is brown in colour. So the colour of my icing was a tad darker but the taste was just the same. This heavenly slice of cake took me to the sweetest time of my life, its aroma, taste, texture, presentation was as I remember, and here it is, from my kitchen to yours.


How to make Bombay Bakery’s famous Coffee Cake at home

Cake ingredients

7 oz. flour

4 eggs

1 ½ tsp. vanilla essence

1 cup castor sugar

2 tsp. baking powder

8 oz. butter

Method

1) Cream butter and sugar with a cake beater.

2) Sift flour and baking powder, adding 1 tbsp. of the dry mixture and 1 egg into sugar/butter and beating it using cake mixer until all four eggs and vanilla essence are added.

3) Add remaining dry mixture and mix with spatula.

4) Divide batter into two 8-inch cake pans and bake in a pre-heated oven (350 degrees F. or 180 degrees C.) for 20 to 22 minutes.

5) Cool completely on wire rack and ice.

Icing

1) In a pan, melt 6 oz. butter and ¾ cup white granulated sugar. Set aside to cool.

2) Add 3 beaten eggs to butter and sugar and cook on lowest heat until sugar dissolves and icing has thickened. Set aside to cool.

3) Once cool, add 1tbsp. coffee (dissolved in 1tbsp, water) to icing.

4) After setting the icing in the fridge for 20 minutes. ice one cake, then top with the second cake and ice it on top and all around. Set in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Your cake is ready for devouring and sharing!

The flip side of the coin

Industrial stagnation in the country does not appear to be transient. It would, therefore, be unrealistic to assume auto correction.

The trend reversal will require reorientation of both the policy framework and a change in business mindset.

Sadly the government is too pre-occupied celebrating its achievements in financial management and the CPEC to worry about the persistently eroding industrial base in Pakistan.

While the recent outcry by industry in central Punjab created some ripples, people in the know said the issue has been viewed through a political lens in Islamabad and not much should be expected till the issue, somehow, metamorphs into a full blown crisis.


The blind policy of liberalisation, weak institutions and the lack of government oversight to nudge capital towards socially desirable and economically efficient avenues of investment, have led to premature de-industrialisation


The good news is that the corporate sector has taken notice and has started looking at ways to remove the systemic hurdles in industrialisation.

Source: The Pakistan Business Council
Source: The Pakistan Business Council

It wants the capital to start flowing into ventures in order to capitalise on the country’s inherent advantages in men and material along with the growing size of the domestic market.

Ghulam Murtaza Jatoi, federal industries minister, was not particularly happy with the situation.

His discomfort, however, appeared to be rooted more in his own weak position in the power corridors rather than in the slow pace of industrial growth or its premature shrinking share in the country’s GDP.

“What policy? The status of this ministry has been reduced to a post office that receives and forwards demands of the industry to the relevant departments and ministries”, Jatoi retorted in frustration over phone when approached in Islamabad.

“For this ministry to deliver, it needs to be empowered”, he insisted without coming up with a solution, if any, to promote industry.

“No industrial policy is on the cards”, confirmed Khizar Hayat Gondal, federal secretary industries.

“It is not our place to direct businessmen. We are committed to a free market. We are facilitating those concerned all we can. The government has given incentives on the import of machinery, offered tax breaks in many sectors and dedicated industrial zones. If the private sector is still not inclined to commit capital to industry and prefers other businesses, it is their choice”, he explained.

“After the 18th Amendment provincial governments have assumed a bigger role in managing their respecting the economies; this also includes industrial development.

“At least Punjab and Sindh have been active in this regard”, he added mentioning some industrial zones.

Commenting on the current weak large-scale manufacturing (LSM) data in the first quarterly report of the State Bank, he said, the closure of the Pakistan Steel Mills, fall in tractor, paper/board and cigarettes contributed to the slow down and that they were looking into it.

Ehsan Malik, CEO, the Pakistan Business Council, shared a paper on premature erosion of the industrial base.

The write-up that he said will soon be circulated contained historical data depicting the industrial slowdown and falling share of industry in the GDP.

Talking to Dawn last week he blamed the policy framework for de-industrialisation.

He considered the country’s fiscal policy anti-capital that scuttles the capacity of the corporate sector to re-plough earnings in BMR and expansion. He said the FBR, instead of broadening the base, squeezes more from tax compliant segments.

“We have articulated our perception in an eight-point agenda focusing on jobs, exports and taxes. We made a case for a strong domestic industry.

“The first point of the agenda touches on the misplaced liberalisation policy. We have pleaded that a temporary moratorium be imposed on FTA’s and PTA’s and that the old ones be possibly renegotiated.

“We now have sufficient studies that substantiate the view that these pacts are hurting more than helping Pakistan”, he argued.

Asked whether the mighty corporate sector, that multiplied manifold in its financial strength over the past four decades can be absolved of the responsibility of not doing enough to promote the industry, he opted not to reply.

The fact is that the blind policy of liberalisation, weak institutions and the lack of government oversight to nudge capital towards socially desirable and economically efficient avenues of investment, have led to premature deindustrialisation.

It meant a suboptimal utilisation of national resources in men and material compromising its growth and development potential and limiting the capacity of the economy to capitalise on abundant manpower.

The risk adverse banking sector and an undeveloped business class, lacking confidence, desperate to multiply assets quickly, reluctant to commit investment in long term manufacturing projects, played their part in accentuating the trend.

The corporate class despite its influence, particularly under dictatorial governments, resigned to a policy framework that promoted trading at the cost of industry.

The fact is many big industrial houses opened their own trading houses and turned their factories into godowns stocking Chinese imports that they merely assemble and put their brand on before it hits the market.

“Look at the 30 biggest business houses. They did succeed in multiplying their wealth but in a way that gave a crippling blow to the fragile and limited industrial base of the country.

“Instead of accepting the challenge of competition and taking pains to improve their productivity and competitiveness they opted for an easy route to quick money and hopped the bandwagon of importers”, said an expert.

“It should not surprise anyone if light engineering, home appliances, toys, pipes etc died or are dying”, he added.

Lahore to stage PSL final, confirms PCB

LAHORE: The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) on Sunday confirmed that the final of this year’s Pakistan Super League would be held in Lahore on March 9.

The PCB has confirmed that they are now working on the plans to bring the international players to the country, and if the players are not comfortable with the security arrangements, the PCB is also working on backup plans to replace these players.

International cricket stalled in Pakistan since the attack on Sri Lanka team bus back in 2009. Only Zimbabwe became the full member team to tour Pakistan in 2015 for a short series.

In order to revive international cricket in the country, the PCB has also extended an invitation to West Indies to tour Pakistan for a two-match T20 series in Lahore. However, the tour is subject to security clearances from the West Indies Players’ Association.

FICA, the international cricketers’ association, has however issued a statement which clearly indicates that there is a considerable security threat to players in Pakistan and thus the international players should refrain from touring the country.

Ever since the second season of the PSL was unveiled, PCB chief Najam Sethi had said that the finals would be in Lahore. The board has also taken several steps to bring this plan to the fore, and they have now received security clearances from the Punjab government.

The board has also bought four bulletproof buses, as they do not want to leave anything to chance. They also hope that this would help in building confidence measures and in convincing players to tour the country. Also, the players have been briefed about the fly-in, fly-out arrangements for the team.

The PCB is also trying to convince players to travel to Pakistan but if their efforts do not yield results they will have a new draft in place to replace these players.

The board has also decided that if no International players travel to Pakistan, they would play the finals with local players.

Sethi, who was lauded for the successful completion of the first year of the PSL, sounds optimistic of bringing international players to Paki­stan. However, if FICA recommendations are anything to go by, the international stars could find themselves in a real muddle.

3 killed as suspected militants attack army camp in India-held Kashmir

Three people were killed in a suspected militant attack on a camp of Indian army’s General Reserve Engineer Force (GREF) in India-held Kashmir on Monday morning, the Indian Express reported.

Two or three militants first lobbed grenades at the camp, situated in Battal village of Jourian near the Line of Control (LoC), and then opened fire, killing three civilians.

The civilians killed in the attack were labourers, the report quoted Indian Defence PRO Manish Mehta as saying.

After the firing stopped, the area was cordoned off and search operations went underway. Educational institutes in the area were closed for the day.

In November last year, seven Indian soldiers were killed when militants attacked a major army base at Nagrota near the LoC.

The rise in violence follows the September Uri attack, in which 19 Indian soldiers were killed, the deadliest such incident in a decade.

New Delhi blamed Pakistan-based militants and claimed to have launched what it called “surgical strikes” on militants across the heavily militarised border, sparking fury from Islamabad, which denied they took place.