All posts by nnpadmin

Youth no longer reads Urdu books, lament book publishers

The younger generation prefers reading English literature and takes more interest in internationally bestselling books. Books written in Urdu are read now mostly by middle-aged people and the older generations, said Adeel Haq, a publisher taking part in the National Book Festival.

Organised by the National Book Foundation (NBF), the four-day festival concluded on Monday at the Pak-China Friendship Centre.

“I have participated in expos in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad every year and during the last decade, I have observed that young people, especially students, have stopped reading books in Urdu. They know more about the books published in different countries and they ask for them as well,” he said.

Mr Haq added that he used to deal mostly in Urdu books in the past, but now knows more about books in English due to the changing demand.

He said new writers who write in Urdu now do not find fame as the older generations want to read the books written by Qudrat Ullah Shahab, Bano Qudsia, Asfaq Ahmed and other established writers.

“Most of the over 130 stalls at the festival have English books. Parents now want short stories in English for their children,” Mr Haq said.

He suggested that the government should not charge fee from stalls at book festivals because expos are held to promote book reading culture, where books are sold at discounted rates.

Another publisher, Subah Sadiq, who had come from Jhelum, said the impression that book reading is declining due to the internet is not true.

“Those who claim they do not find time to read due to the internet did not have the habit of reading before the internet as well. We have now started using social media for the promotion of books,” he said.

He added that more books are sold at expos in Lahore and Karachi, perhaps because Islamabad is a smaller city.


Is Lebanese eatery Café Beirut worth a shot? We find out

One of probably a couple of restaurants in town claiming to serve authentic Lebanese cuisine is Café Beirut.

Initially opening up on MM Alam Road two years ago, this subsidiary of L’auberge at Faletti’s Hotel finally decided to come out of hiding. From the basement of a shopping plaza they just recently moved to a new location in a congested service road on Gulberg’s Main Boulevard adding to the cluster of quite a few swanky eateries and cafés in the vicinity.

On most days, the hassle to find a parking spot in that tiny space with a couple of other restaurants right next door could be a major put-off, so one should be prepared. The two-storey restaurant follows a black and white theme on the spacious ground floor with Arabic lamps hanging from the ceiling adding some pop of colour, and a rooftop to relish this fantastic weather. Arabic instrumental music plays in the background creating an authentic ambience.

The menu is purely Lebanese instead of a hotchpotch with a smattering of Middle Eastern food. I was told that except for the meat that is procured locally, all major ingredients are imported from Lebanon and the UAE.

For starters, I ordered hummus with meat, a bowl of Fatoush salad and Cheese Fatayers. Though not a huge fan of hummus, this one was smooth and delicious, topped with little juicy chunks of lamb meat and pine nuts, garnished generously with parsley and accompanied with freshly prepared pitta bread. The plate was soon wiped clean.

The Fatoush was equally scrumptious with fresh veggie mixed with around eight kinds of Lebanese herbs and sumac powder for some tartness. This didn’t last too long either. The fatayers are a Middle Eastern savoury stuffed pastry. They were soft, boat-shaped flat bread pastries stuffed with three kinds of cheeses and topped with black cumin seeds, baked in a Lebanese oven especially brought in for the purpose. A satisfying start to a meal.

On to the main course, there was a mixed BBQ platter, lamb rice and grilled fish. The Beirut Mix Grill platter consisted of melt-in-the-mouth lamb skewers, mouth-watering lamb kabab, tender chicken Shish Taouk and chicken kabab served with three sauces and two pitta breads smeared with Lebanese chilli base. Priced around Rs1,500, it’s good enough for two diners, but nothing out of the ordinary.

The brown Lamb Ouzi Rice served with chunks of baked lamb meat and topped with pine nuts and peanuts is supposed to be served with a special ouzi sauce prepared in-house, but I didn’t get one for some reason, while the manager completely denied not serving it on being asked. The rice had a very homely feel to them, but a bit bland for my liking.

I did like the Grilled Hammour though. This was two pieces of grilled hammour fish topped with a beautiful, sour butter cream and served with sautéed vegetables with a generous portion of saffron rice on the side.

For dessert, I had the traditional kunafa. A thick base of slightly sweetened akkawi cheese topped with a wafer-thin layer of fried semolina and pistachio sprinkled over it. The best part about it was that it was light and not overtly sweet as most desserts tend to be. I wish I had appetite left for the baklava and date cake.

One must try the traditional, refreshing rose water drink, and top off the meal with a special tea made with Lebanese tea leaves, honey, cardamom, saffron and rose water. Might sound rich but is a beautiful culmination of a healthy, clean, mostly non-spicy meal.

While the appetisers were promising, the main course was generally above average – good food, but nothing exceptional with little or no attention paid to presentation, which is fair, I guess.

But even if the food is outstanding, unsatisfactory service spoils the whole experience. At most times one could sense a lack of management with orders getting delayed or some customers receiving incorrect orders or some of the dishes not even being available, and one would have to call out the waiters and remind them multiple times of what you’d asked for. If parking isn’t a serious issue, slow service with uninterested servers definitely is.

Chinese firm all but stops work on power transmission line

LAHORE: A leading Chinese company has drastically slowed down work on the $2 billion 660kV high-voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission line from Lahore to Matiari due to various problems, including differences with the government over size of a revolving fund.

For its part, the government has decided not to enter into an agreement over another HVDC transmission line of 660kV (between Port Qasim and Faisalabad) with the company till the completion of the first line (between Lahore and Matiari), according to sources.

The 878km Lahore-Matiari transmission line is part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and is the country’s first project based on direct current (DC). The line will have capacity of transmitting about 4,000MW of electricity.

The Port Qasim-Faisalabad transmission line is also part of the CPEC and has features similar to that of the first line.

Size of revolving fund, delay in building of power plants cited as main reasons

According to official sources, the sites where the Chinese company has either slowed down work drastically or stopped it altogether are near Balloki, Bhaipheru (about 50km from Lahore), and near Matiari (near Hyderabad).

Each site comprises 175 acres and is meant to be used for building two converter stations, for converting alternating current (AC) to DC and DC to AC. The government handed over the large pieces of land to the company in January this year.

The company started construction work there after getting a letter of interest from the government in February.

“The [Chinese] company has slowed down its work on these two major sites due to three major issues that are yet to be resolved. One issue is related to establishment of a revolving fund and the other to operation and maintenance of the project,” said an official of power division in the energy ministry.

The revolving fund, according to the official, is required to be set up for making payments to the Chinese company in case its bills are delayed. But the contentious issue is the amount of money to be allocated to the fund.

The Chinese want the government to quickly set up the fund, but the authorities want to deliberate on the issue well before taking a final decision on the matter.

“The second major issue relates to the operation and maintenance of the project. The Chinese want the government [National Transmission and Despatch Company or NTDC] to purchase spare parts from China on its own and supply it for the operation and maintenance of the project. But the government wants the Chinese to perform this job so that the company could be held responsible for related problems, if any,” the official explained.

The third issue is the delay in setting up of power plants, as four coal-fired power plants in Thar, which were earlier scheduled to be commissioned in May 2020, are now expected to be operational by November 2020.

“Actually this transmission line is supposed to evacuate power from these plants… The government thinks that if the transmission line is ready in May [of 2020] and the plants are not, it will have to pay over 90 paisa per unit in wheeling tariff, which will run into billions for a period of six months [from May to November 2020],” said the official.

“And there are chances of further delays in the commissioning of the power plants. That is why the official date for the start of the project, which has to be completed within a period of 27 months, is yet to be announced by the government.”

The official said that in view of the above problems the Chinese company had slowed down work on the two sites. It had even sent some of the engineers back to China and accelerated its efforts to get the pending issues resolved.

“It also continues to request the government to sign papers about the second [Port Qasim-Faisalabad] line at the earliest. But the government looks to be in no mood to sign them at the moment, as it urges the Chinese officials to wait for a final decision based on the future load after completion of the first line,” the official maintained.

Despite repeated attempts, the managing director of the NTDC could not be contacted for comments.

Iran, Russia can isolate US, says Khamenei

ANKARA: Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday that Tehran and Moscow needed to step up cooperation to isolate the United States and restore peace in the Middle East.

“Full resolution of Syria’s crisis needs strong cooperation between Iran and Russia … Our cooperation can isolate America … This cooperation will restore stability in the region,” Khamenei said during a meeting with Putin.

Putin — on his first visit to Tehran since 2015 — also held talks with President Hassan Rouhani.

The Kremlin strongman will also take part in a three-way summit with Rouhani and the leader of ex-Soviet Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev aimed at bolstering economic ties between their energy-rich nations.

Moscow said Syria will be a focus of Putin’s visit, which comes after Russia, Iran and Turkey pledged after negotiations in Kazakhstan on Tuesday to bring the Syrian regime and its opponents together for a “congress” to push peace efforts.

Russia and Iran, key military supporters of President Bashar al-Assad, and Turkey, which backs Syrian rebels, have organised a series of peace talks in the Kazakh capital Astana this year, agreeing on the establishment of “de-escalation” zones in various parts of the war-torn country.

Wednesday’s talks will also focus on the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which saw sanctions lifted in exchange for limits on Tehran’s atomic programme and which is under pressure from US President Donald Trump.

Tehran signed the deal with six countries including Russia and the United States, but Trump last month refused to certify the agreement, drawing criticism from Moscow which slammed the US president’s “aggressive and threatening rhetoric” against Iran.

Syria peace push

Ahead of Putin’s arrival, Iran’s official IRNA news agency reported Russia’s chief of staff Valery Gerasimov flew into Tehran for talks with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Bagheri to discuss “Syria…and the fight against terrorism.”

The military might of Moscow and Tehran in Syria has helped prop up Assad’s forces and turn the protracted conflict in his favour with a string of key battlefield victories.

Since the start of the year Russia has looked to cement the gains from its game-changing intervention by spearheading the peace push at talks in Kazakhstan, positioning itself as a broker between key players Iran and Turkey and largely bypassing the West.

Up until now the focus has been on quelling the violence on the ground and the three powers have established four “de-escalation zones” around rebel-held territory in the country.

The zones were initially credited for bringing about a significant reduction in bloodshed, but international aid groups say they are currently failing to curb the fighting.

Now Moscow seems keen on expanding its peace drive in search of a political settlement and on Thursday got Iran and Turkey to agree an initiative for a “Congress of Syrian National Dialogue” that aims to bring together some 33 delegations in the Russian city of Sochi on Nov 18.

India rout New Zealand in Nehra’s swansong

NEW DELHI: India gave retiring fast bowler Ashish Nehra a winning farewell with a comprehensive 53-run victory over New Zealand in the first Twenty20 International here at the Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium on Wednesday.

The hosts capitalised on a blistering start to post a commanding 202-3 before restricting New Zealand to 149-8 to go 1-0 up in the three-match series.

Left-arm paceman Nehra, 38, ended his international career at his home ground nearly 18 years after his 1999 Test debut against Sri Lanka.

Put into bat by a New Zealand side wary of the dew factor, the hosts got off to a flying start with openers Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma featuring in India’s highest Twenty20 partnership.

The left-right duo toyed with the Kiwi attack to plunder 158 runs for the first wicket, aided by sloppy catching by a New Zealand side usually renowned for their high fielding standards.

Dropped on eight by Mitchell Santner at point, Dhawan smashed 80 off 52 balls, hitting two sixes and 10 boundaries in his scintillating knock.

Sharma, whom Tim Southee spilled at long-off when on 16, also scored 80, clobbering four sixes and six fours.

Virat Kohli (26 not out) also got a reprieve when Martin Guptill floored a catch in the deep and the India captain smacked three sixes in his 11-ball cameo.

Leg-spinner Ish Sodhi dismissed Dhawan and Hardik Pandya in the same over but could not stop India passing 200.

New Zealand lost both openers inside four overs with Pandya sprinting from long-off and diving full length to take a stunning catch near the sightscreen to dismiss Guptill.

Tom Latham top-scored with 39 and Santner made 27 not out but New Zealand never really got going.

Rajkot hosts the second Twenty20 International on Saturday.

Scoreboard

INDIA:

R.G. Sharma c Latham b Boult 80
S. Dhawan c Latham b Sodhi 80
H.H. Pandya c Latham b Sodhi 0
V. Kohli not out 26
M.S. Dhoni not out 7

EXTRAS (B-5, LB-1, W-1, NB-2) 9

TOTAL (for three wkts, 20 overs) 202

FALL OF WKTS: 1-158, 2-158, 3-185.

DID NOT BAT: S.S. Iyer, A.R. Patel, B. Kumar, A. Nehra, J.J. Bumrah, Y.S. Chahal.

BOWLING: Santner 4-0-30-0; Boult 4-0-49-1; Southee 4-0-44-0 (1w); Grandhomme 3-0-34-0 (2nb); Sodhi 4-0-25-2; Munro 1-0-14-0.

NEW ZEALAND:

M.J. Guptill c Pandya b Chahal 4
C. Munro b Kumar 7
K.S. Williamson c Dhoni b Pandya 28
T.W.M. Latham st Dhoni b Chahal 39
T.C. Bruce c Sharma b Patel 10
C. de Grandhomme c Dhawan b Patel 0
H.M. Nicholls run out 6
M.J. Santner not out 27
T.G. Southee c Dhoni b Bumrah 8
I.S. Sodhi not out 11

EXTRAS (lb-3, w-5, nb-1) 9

TOTAL (for eight wkts, 20 overs) 149

FALL OF WKTS: 1-6, 2-18, 3-54, 4-83, 5-84, 6-94, 7-99, 8-111.

DID NOT BAT: T.A. Boult.

BOWLING: Nehra 4-0-29-0 (1nb, 3w); Chahal 4-0-26-2; Kumar 3-0-23-1; Bumrah 4-0-37-1 (2w); Patel 4-0-20-2; Pandya 1-0-11-1.

RESULT: India won by 53 runs to lead three-match series 1-0.

UMPIRES: N. Menon (India) and C. Shamshuddin (India).

TV UMPIRE: A.K. Chaudhary (India).

MATCH REFEREE: B.C. Broad (England).

MAN-OF-THE-MATCH: Shikhar Dhawan.

SECOND MATCH: Rajkot, Saturday.

THIRD MATCH: Thiruvananthapuram, Tuesday.