The Stranger

Perhaps one of the greatest inventions of mankind is the invention of Gutenberg printing press. Not only has it preserved many of the classics and traditional wisdom that was on the verge of extinction, it has given people the tools to create and disseminate knowledge.

What used to take thousands of scribes to compile, the press could do it in an instant. It was in the hands of the intellectuals, academics, and publishers in the beginning until the technology became too big for even that. The era of web 3.0 came along where not only anyone could publish, people could interact with them instantly.

The Stranger by Albert Camus is one of the classic French novels that many categorize as a blatant defense of existentialism. Novel’s hero is an Algerian French. Islamic Spain was long ago in history and French morals were imposed on the new colonized Algeria. Along with that, it brought the indifference and apathy that is part of European social fiber.

The story begins with the news of the demise of hero’s mother in another province. Man doesn’t show reactions to the calamity as if it was just another cadaver wrapped in coffin put into the casket. He smokes and drinks coffee and sits in front of it the whole night denying the offer to see the face.

The story goes onto to explain his coming back to work and starting an illicit relationship with a former colleague to mistakenly killing someone and denying the appeal. Finally, he denies the cleric’s plea to convert to Christianity in utter contentment with his destiny, death sentence in this case. Meursalt, the hero is portrayed as hardened, cold character for whom the progression of life comes so natural that peer pressure or public reaction seem to be of comical and childish impulse.

For him, this comes as a huge surprise that people would find his personal life and reactions so immensely aggravating that they would make a point by letting him know. His consistent inability to understand how people around him live seems to be very relevant today when one compares it with the occidental societies and literature. Gloom and doom seem to be an acceptable way of life and when it does talk about happiness, it is always bacchanalia of sin and avarice.

This complacency or apathy by any standards of literary style or decency has no precedent in Islamic literature or even eastern heritage. Ironically this has made its way into Le Monde’s top 10 0books. Jean Paul Sartre’s last-minute explanation of the book made it stand out from the rest, perhaps in his self-glorifying attempt of finding an ally for existentialism. Book has since been translated into many languages.

Eulogizing the worst of the society as erudite scholars and intelligentsia is just one of the ways web 3.0 has brought havoc on moral values and religious injunctions. To the point where Sartre himself in his book Existentialism and Humanism had to talk about so-called intellectuals who could rant nonsense in the name of existentialism. Pandora box was wide open, too late to close and French society too corrupt to fix.

One by one they buttered all demented writers the likes of which we have never seen. Some of the most obnoxious include Foucault and Flaubert etc. It is through them vile movements like feminism, heterosexuality, pornography and pedophilia became the norm in a society already heading south. This smearing of lipstick over stinking dead pig has now brought these very people to their own destruction. Le Pen is going neck to neck with other moderate candidates and if she gets elected, time of King Louis isn’t far again. Muslims would be new Jews.

The ability to feel, acknowledge and think is what characterize a human soul. Having a purpose and goals in life make human journey different from animals whose routine lives don’t follow the vicissitudes we humans go through. Pseudo-scholars and phony clerics make the ends of the societal spectrum a suffocating sandwich to live in for people who seek the truth. Navigating these waters without a mentor is bound to fail. Luckily one of the noblest traits of our faith is hope. The quest for truth with sincerity always brings people to other people who have successfully navigated the same dark forests.

The gems aren’t too rare to find. Prophet SA’s hadith should be enough for all of us wayward, looking for solace and peace.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) was reportedly asked: “Which of our companions are best?” He replied: “One whose appearance reminds you of God, and whose speech increases you in knowledge, and whose actions remind you of the hereafter.”

Punjab body to help Dubai digitalise its police stations

LAHORE: The Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB) will assist the Dubai police in digitalising their police stations and developing different systems, including cyber security system.

A formal request in this regard was made by chief of Dubai police Abdullah Khalifa at a meeting with PITB chairman Dr Umar Saif in Dubai on Sunday.

“The board will integrate all surveillance systems with police stations in Dubai. Besi­des, it will ensure cyber security of financial institutions and other departments, which will be part of a wider security network,” Dr Saif told Dawn from Dubai by phone.

He said that the PITB would develop a crowd monitoring system in connection with Dubai 2020 Expo. It will also digitalise traffic system in Dubai,” Dr Saif said, adding the board would develop all these systems in two years.

He said the PITB had an experience of digitalising 712 police stations in the 36 districts of Punjab. He said that the PITB was also assisting Nigeria to computerise their Haj operation.

Mermaid of Churna Island tells the story of Pakistan’s only female scuba-diving instructor

Mermaid of Churna Island, a 20-minute documentary by visual artist Nameera Ahmed highlighting the journey of Pakistan’s first and only female scuba-diving instructor Rosheen Khan, served as an eye-opener to the environmental degradation of the country’s coastal waters.

The documentary was screened at the British Council Library on Saturday evening.

Some 10 years ago, Rosheen was just a teenager assisting in routine office work at the Karachi Scuba Diving Centre when, after watching so many of their clients scuba-diving along with her boss and first instructor Yousuf Ali, she requested him to also teach her how to do it.

“He at first wanted to know if I am sure I wanted to do it,” said Rosheen during a discussion with the audience after the screening of the film. “I didn’t even know how to swim then. But after giving me some basic training, he took me 60 feet down. It was an amazing experience for me. I didn’t want to come back up,” she said, adding that after that initial time she learned how to swim to be able to learn proper scuba-diving.

“Sadly as more and more tourists head for Churna Island now, I also find trash there. When I dive I also collect the trash from underwater to bring up and dispose off properly.”

Later, after getting her certifications and licence to teach scuba-diving to others, Rosheen was facing bigger challenges. No one wanted to learn from her because she was a woman and they didn’t feel confident enough to dive with her. Her family, too, objected to her working with men as there are far more men than women involved in the activity.

“I explained to my family that when suited up to dive with all that equipment it is even difficult to tell me apart from the males. Then it is just some divers blowing bubbles underwater but they were not so understanding. I had to leave my home for my love of scuba-diving,” shared Rosheen, who now also teaches scuba-diving internationally.

Filmmaker Nameera Ahmed said that through the film she hoped to dispel stereotypes in Pakistan. Though she didn’t think about making Rosheen the subject of her documentary right away when she was her student, the idea came to her after two or three years of diving with her. “She inspired me,” she said. “It was also when I started taking the camera in the water for underwater photography. “I collected some 13 months of footage, which I edited later on,” she shared.

Shot both underwater and above ground, Mermaid of Churna Island also sheds light on why the scuba-divers in Pakistan go to the Balochistan coast for diving. “It is because the Karachi coast has been ruined due to pollution,” said Rosheen. “It is completely destroyed, along with the marine life there, thanks to the dumping of sewerage directly into the ocean,” she added.

Rosheen Khan with filmmaker Nameera Ahmed at the British Council library screening of 'Mermaid of Churna Island' — Photo by author
Rosheen Khan with filmmaker Nameera Ahmed at the British Council library screening of ‘Mermaid of Churna Island’ — Photo by author

“I don’t know what are environmental agencies are doing when all this is going on. Apart from the sewerage, people throw food boxes and wrappers into the water, too.

“Sadly as more and more tourists head for Churna Island now, I also find trash there. When I dive I also collect the trash from underwater to bring up and dispose off properly. We also educate our boatmen to not throw any trash such as ghutka or pan wrappers into the sea as the fish mistake it for food and die as a result of swallowing all this,” Rosheen said.

“And this is not all. The oil jetty near Churna is also a huge threat to marine life in the coral reefs there. This pristine area, too, will be turned into black waters as the oil is always leaking from the work at the jetty,” she said.

Having enjoyed niche audiences while being screened at Turkish and American universities and colleges, international film festivals and culture centres, the documentary was part of the British Council Library Karachi’s ongoing ‘Unique You’ campaign for the month of May highlighting trailblazers and passionate individuals who have forged their own fearless path.

No policy for domestic commerce

Domestic commerce, according to current official data, contributes 32pc towards the GDP and employs 20pc of the labour force.

However, the domestic commerce sector is continuously ignored by the government and multilateral development agencies. Their focus is on promoting international trade.

The development of domestic commerce helps produce more export surplus. Therefore many developing countries have invested heavily in the development of domestic commerce.

The Ministry of Commerce has established a Domestic Trade Wing but a comprehensive policy on the promotion of domestic trade is still awaited. The Ease of Doing Business Index 2017 places Pakistan at 144 out of 190 countries measured across ten different business environment related variables.

The domestic commerce sector is continuously ignored by the government and multilateral development agencies. Their focus is on promoting international trade

Several issues hinder the growth of domestic commerce. Important among them is the strict commercial zoning laws that have resulted in squeezing the space available for commercial activities in large cities.

Commercial areas, being developed by private developers in residential areas, result in congestion and traffic problems. Existing wholesale markets like Jodia Bazar in Karachi and Akbari Mandi in Lahore are becoming too difficult to reach due to the vast spread of population of these cities.

Similarly, the large whole-sale centres in Rawalpindi, Peshawar, Quetta, Faisalabad, Multan, Hyderabad and Sialkot are located in old city areas where access through roads has become difficult due to heavy traffic.

Another issue is the absence of strong regulatory support to domestic commerce which is resulting in growth of informal businesses and off-the-court arrangements.

The poor implementation of intellectual property laws is hurting the development of local brands as pirated brands go unchecked. Similarly, the contract enforcement mechanism, ease of registering property and dealing with insolvency issues involve cumbersome procedures and lengthy legal struggles resulting in higher costs for retail and wholesale businesses.

Generally, domestic trade activities involve the flow of goods and services from one city to another. Existing road networks among large cities are crowded and there is continued neglect of commercial centres in the development of new roads, bridges and railway lines.

The existing G.T road linking major towns is in a bad condition and the alternative motorway route is lengthy and costly for commercial vehicles. Similarly, the existing railway network is out-dated and inadequate routes are forcing traders to shift towards costly alternatives.

To make matters worse there is the frequent intervention of provincial and federal governments in the functioning of markets through price controls, subsidies and taxes. Consumers are left with shortages and higher purchase prices.

The policy of subsidising a particular sector (textile, chemicals, fertilisers etc) and taxing the others contributes towards the growth of informal retail and wholesale trade.

The growth of the domestic commerce sector is dependent on the exports of local goods and imports of foreign products. The network of sea-ports and dry-ports in Pakistan is insufficient to actively meet the needs of exporters and importers.

There is a need to devise a suitable policy for the development of domestic trade. Successful examples of other countries, which can be looked into, include the establishment of a separate ministry for domestic trade, friendly rules for domestic businesses, strengthening trade mark related laws, facilitating the registration of retail and wholesale businesses and the strict implementation of contract laws.

‘Security situation in Pakistan not ideal for cricket’

NEW DELHI: Rajeev Shukla, a senior official of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), on Sunday made it clear that the Indian team will not be touring Pakistan due to serious security concerns that have been raised by all major cricketing nations.

Pakistan recently sent a legal notice to BCCI claiming $6.9 million in damages for not honouring the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that was signed between the two boards.

“They have sent a notice and we will give appropriate response. We have had a consistent policy that we will play on each other’s soil. Pakistan’s security situation is not such where you can have a series on their soil. Only Zimbabwe has played a series and no other countries are touring Pakistan because they are not being able to provide adequate security,” Shukla said.

The Congress MP said that if other countries are not feeling secure, it is even more sensitive when it comes to the Indian cricket team considering the tension that persists on the border.

“First you make your venues such where you can provide foolproof security. And for India, the security concerns are even more. How can we risk our players?” said the former BCCI vice-president and still a key figure in BCCI. “Also BCCI’s stated position is that we need government permission. How can we proceed till we get government permission?”

While Shukla stressed that agreement is to play on each other’s soil, a question was asked why can’t the two countries play on neutral venues like they played West Indies in the US.

Shukla said: “That series [two Twenty20 Internationals] was played on mutual consent. We were exploring the US market. It was our series. It’s not because as if we couldn’t play in West Indies and played in the US. About playing Pakistan at neutral venue, the two boards should agree.”

Even BCCI joint secretary Amitabh Choudhary agreed that only government can take a call when it comes to playing Pakistan.

“I can assure you this is a subject on which government has to accord permission. BCCI has already written to government in March regarding out Futures Tours & Programmes (FTP). So unless we get permission from them, I can’t make a comment,” Choudhary said.

But he said that one needs to honour FTP commitments.

“Where it’s FTP between two countries, it’s a contract both will try to honour.”