Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Mount Vernon: Unique Residence of United States’ First President in Washington D.C.

January 21, 2014
By Saeed Qureshi
Dallas, Texas

Mount Vernon is the name of the Home and estate of George Washington, the first president of the United States. Its unique architecture portrays Palladian style. Its original name was” little hunting creek plantation” but was changed to Mount Vernon by George Washington’s half-brother Lawrence Washington. This Magnificent panoramic architectural marvel and its enchanting surroundings are located in the state of Virginia along river Potomac.
The rear side of the mansion faces a captivating picturesque view with mighty Potomac River flowing with its awesome majesty.  George Washington himself defined his estate as “No estate in United State is more pleasantly situated than this”.

Mount Vernon is located at a distance of about 15 miles from the downtown of Washington D.C. or more precisely in the rural vicinity of the federal capital. Mount Vernon is situated at a higher plateau and therefore serves as an ideal vantage point for overlooking the surrounding ancillary structures such as store house, coach house, wash house, stables, fruit gardens and nursery.
Further down one can walk through to see the old and the new tombs of George Washington and his wife Martha Dandridge Custis Washington. Further trekking down one comes across the forest trail, pioneer farm, 16 sided barn and slave memorial.

President George Washington lived in this unique residence for 45 years which means from the year 1754 when he acquired it, to 1799 when he died here. His grave and that of his wife who died two years later are located in a well maintained tomb a few hundred yards away in the garden area.

The history of Mount Vernon reveals that this estate passed through several owners before it finally came into the exclusive ownership of George Washington. After the death of his older half-brother Lawrence in 1752, George Washington took up residence at the house built by his father Augustine Washington in 1735.

The original house built by Augustine was much smaller in size: with two floors: each floor having two rooms. The house underwent certain changes in its dimensions in subsequent times carried out by the previous owners. But the real and landmark remodeling was brought about in phases over a long period time by George Washington himself after acquiring its ownership.
Mount Vernon is thus a kind of self-contained city where one would find an array of huts, houses, warehouse, blacksmith shop, spinning house, kitchen house, smoke house, wash house, salt house, slave quarters, and so on.

This estate, gardens, farms and plantation land measured 8000 acres in the 18th century. After its massive decay and deterioration, the “Mount Vernon Ladies Association” purchased 200 acres in 1853 from the Washington family. Ever since this nonprofit organization is maintaining and operating this most prominent American heritage, wonderful estate and captivating landscape to keep the legacy and heritage of Washington and his family alive for American people. The Association is financed solely by donations and revenue from admissions and tickets to run this huge undertaking. Happily now the maintained area has increased to 500 acres.

George Washington was a cut and dried farmer. So after taking up the residence, he zealously and indefatigably engaged himself into a studied mission to renovate and expand this huge estate in diverse manners. This labor of love lasted till his death in 1799 which means a time span of 47 years. In the hindsight, one can imagine how serious President Washington was devoted and involved in this gigantic undertaking. All these years he kept transforming and reshaping this remarkable place according to his vision and cherished designs and models.

George Washington was fond of finer choices. Being gifted with immense innovative talent, profuse excellence and deep urge, he initiated a process of renovations, recreations, expansion, rehabilitation in accordance with his taste and temperament and indeed idealism. From a vast farmland and a few old style huts and structures, George Washington converted it into an abiding fun place and a charming touristic attraction and as one of the most visited historical attractions for the coming generations.  

In this vast, salubrious and green landscape, one can find the eye catching 21 rooms main residence, a vast and spacious green circular lawn in front, the upper gardens, the lower gardens, the fruit gardens and nursery, the slave memorial, the pioneer farm, 16 sided barn and the forest trail. All this multi-faceted spectacle looks like a fairyland as if the angels and fairies were flying in the air invisibly. The fantastic distillery and gristmill, purely the amazing invention of G.W. himself are located 2.7 miles far from the main complex.

Mount Vernon’s main residential building is a unique structure with three stories. It is in rectangular shape with front and back verandas. In a relatively primitive environment some 150 years ago this house must have been a Marvel although then it was not as spacious as it looks now.
Yet it is still a marvel of construction and would remain so for the posterity for its beauty, elegance, scenic beauty and dazzling vastness and immaculately preserved household things, furnishings, beds, furniture, rugs, chest, tables, wall hangings and other artifacts. The bulk of these precious relics and invaluable articles are kept in the Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center located within the periphery of the estate.

Undoubtedly Mount Vernon is a spectacular national heritage, a lofty monument and a living witness to the history of United States in making. The visitors however, should not think that the existing constellation of buildings including President George Washington’s personal residence somehow bears close resemblance to the original structures. Most of these have either been massively overhauled, renovated or rebuilt. But to a great degree, the dimensions remain the same as these existed when George Washington died. About a dozen structures are in original form.

This article would remain incomplete without a brief mention of the gigantic river Potomac. As already mentioned the Mount Vernon mansion and estate is built atop on the bank of River Potomac. The Potomac River watershed covers the District of Columbia and parts of four states. In a way it looks like a dividing line between three states namely Maryland, Virginia and Washington D.C.
It is a life line for the inhabitants in all these states through which it runs its course. Potomac River is the fourth largest river along the Atlantic coast of the United States and the 21st largest in the United States. It covers a distance of 405 miles from its origin Fairfax Stone to the final destination the Chesapeake Bay, located along the mid-Atlantic coast of the United States. An average 486 million US gallons (1,840,000 m3) of water per day is withdrawn daily from Potomac River in the Washington area for water supply.

We should generously appreciate and applaud the “Mount Vernon Ladies Association” providing abundant information facilities to enlighten and bring into sharp and detailed focus, the life of the first president of the United States and his family. One would be certainly adequately knowledgeable and well-informed after watching and attending the programs presented and the artifacts exhibited at Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center, Robert H. & Clarice Smith Auditorium and Ford Orientation Center. There are such facilities as gift and book shops, Food court, the Mount Vernon Inn and National Library provided in a covered and decently kept covered Mall.

A detailed colorful brochure published by the management for the information and guidance of the visitors is available at the tickets’ counter and other places.  However, there is a glaring lacuna in this folder. For instance, incredibly, there are no exclusive pictures of the front and rear portions of the Mount Vernon residence. 

One wonders how this essential feature could be missed by the organizers, who otherwise are managing this national monument with enormous zeal, laudable professionalism and exemplary dedication. Also is missing the contact phone number of “Mount Vernon Ladies Association”.

Moreover while this whole estate is an amazing feast for the eyes, it would have been desirable if there was a mural or a signboard giving a crisp chronology of the various steps and important phases to enlighten the tourists as to how this estate was developed with the passage of time? Such a signboard or a plaque should have been erected outside the shops or main entrance or at the start of the circular “Bowling Garden”. A brief and one glance list of events and dates would be more handy and beneficial.

After visiting this amazing site one undergoes a tinge of sad feelings also. Undoubtedly, although the buildings, the gardens, the cities, the citadels and countries created by human beings survive and last on earth, yet their creators and the owners have to pass away. This irreversible phenomenon and fact reminds us that humans are mortal and have to leave behind whatever they possess and create with hard work or ingenuity or out of sheer passion. 

In case of Mount Vernon, this priceless, abiding and larger than life legacy of iconic father of the American nation, George Washington would last interminably and keep inspiring and giving hope to the successive generations like a beacon or the morning star.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Karachi should be handed over to the Army

January 9, 2014

By Saeed Qureshi

The assassination through a huge bomb blast, of the Superintendent of Police, Chaudhry Aslam, a vanguard and fearless CID police officer fighting against terrorism and lawlessness, reinforces the gnawing fear that the outlaws were still organized and possess the means and network to put up a defiant combat to the law enforcement agencies including the para military core Rangers. 

The combined onslaught and operation of police and rangers have restored the peace albeit partially in Karachi. This confrontation between the law and order agencies and gangs of killers including the ethnic and religious mafias seems to be a long haul.

The rebellious thugs and entrenched enemies of peace have to be dealt with promptly, mercilessly and need to be completely eliminated not only in Karachi but elsewhere in Pakistan. The accomplishment of that pressing and imperative mission can be achieved only by the armed forces of Pakistan. 

Any delay in the deployment of army to restore order and normalcy in Karachi would entail more loss of precious lives and continuation of vandalism and violence. The army had achieved this lofty goal in Swat valley where Taliban had proclaimed a state within the state of Pakistan.

Pakistan is emerging as one of the most unsafe places for its citizens. Karachi, a port city and leading industrial metropolis has become the battleground for gang wars, target assassinations and extortions. The criminals and outlaws seem to be more daring and overpowering than the law and order outfits. There is a free-for-all mayhem devouring precious lives every day and every moment.  It looks as if a mini civil war was underway that might erupt into a full-fledged war sooner than later.

In the wake of escalating lawlessness and soaring gang wars for  sinister motives in Karachi, the government and its law and order agencies seem to be handicapped or crippled .The target killings before the eyes of the Karachiites, Pakistan and the entire world is surging unabated.

Karachi is divided into so called “no go areas” where merciless gangs keep their sway as local lords. They fight back if another gang wants to take over their area of control. The leaders, bureaucrats, and high government functionaries are escorted and protected by an army of bodyguards and bullet and bombproof vehicles.

However, the ordinary citizens are direly exposed to the persistent lurking threat to their lives. The people are turning paranoid or senseless about the gruesome tragedies and horrifying killing sprees going on around them. People are dying every day because the killers shoot or kill them with rare abandon or without any fear of state writ.
There is an atmosphere of dread and fear that pervades every lane and street, public place and every mind. Those who eke out their living by ordinary means on road side stalls, or kiosks or the peddlers or the laborers are also targeted by the invisible assassins whose prime motive is to destabilize and destroy the normal life and scuttle the smooth commuting of the people whether by walking or in vehicles.

There are rangers, and there are government moles and intelligence network, police and sometimes troops but all these have failed to contain or break the macabre chain of killing of innocent civilians. It is evident that the successive civilian governments both federal and Sindh provincial government have failed to halt or diminish the escalating and unremitting cycle of massacre of the people by mafias, gangsters, trigger happy killers, extortionists and enemy agents.

Under these stifling conditions, there is no harm if strife-torn and terrorism infested city of Karachi is handed over to the armed forces for a specific period of time. The incumbent government elected with the popular franchise should summon army to restore order and safe environment.

If the civilian law and order agencies have thus far failed to curb the mushrooming violence then let this city be handed over to the army that has the capability and muscle to curb fast spreading violence. The political parties and civil society institutions should support the army’s deployment in Karachi for this most urgent task of restoring order and peace.

The social and business circles have been crying hoarse for the deployment of army in the largest city of Pakistan to quell the sinews of a mini simmering civil war. The office bearers of the federal chamber of commerce and industry are imploring the government to come to their rescue against the extortionists. The business community is moving to other cities of Pakistan and gradually the shops, the business centers and even industries are closing down.

If army takes control of Karachi it should impose curfew from dusk to dawn and if necessary for parts at day time. Its first and the foremost task should be to de-weaponize Karachi. It should cordon off and lay siege of notorious localities one by one.  The male members should be ordered to assemble during the curfew hours at a certain place and during that time their residences and hiding places should be reached.

The army is fully trained and capable of dealing with the emergencies. But just by way of advice, it should deploy contingents in markets, schools, hospitals, bus stops and similar other public places to ward off and if necessary haul the miscreants. The army should be given powers to hold summary trials, flush out the known criminals and bad characters and to sort out their activities.

The army should have powers to kill the trouble makers on the spot. With such drastic strategy that can be only executed by the army on war footing, that this mammoth menace and burgeoning curse of terrorism and crime can be definitively nailed.

It is extremely inevitable that all the foreign residents living in Karachi should be ordered to register themselves. Those who are illegal must be deported without fail and hesitation. Those with legal status should be checked and their activities and places of living minutely verified.

They should be asked to report their presence periodically at the local police stations. The police stations should be told to keep an eye on them. Those among the local population harboring the illegal aliens must be dealt with severely.

The war with an external enemy might be a remote possibility. But the country needs to move against the war within the country that is wreaking havoc with the social peace and economy; all the more the port city of Karachi that generates a big chunk of wealth for the country.

It is utterly indispensable to stop the sectarian violence that is overtaking Karachi with the passage of time. The ideological confrontations between the rival sects are taking a heavy toll of human life in Karachi. Without fear or favor the army should come down with a very hand on all religious militancy and curb it with full might and backing of the government and political forces.

  Even if the “all parties’ conference” is convened, an iron clad remedy of this ostensibly intractable sore cannot be found out. Even if a consensus is brought about among the divergent political groups, still who is going to chase and engage in bloody combats with the dangerously armed and profusely organized goons.
There is no way that the parleys among the political parties can be effective is stamping out the escalating terrorism and violence. 

The reason for such a failure is that these political parties aid and abet the sectarian killers, the mafias, the gangs, the extortionists and all those elements destabilizing the country.  The stalwarts of these social and political outfits receive a share of the looted money from the bounty killers, extortionists, kidnappers and other rogue elements.

The present government of PMLN that was ousted through a military coup or reaction should shed its psychological phobias and inhibitions and consent to army’s taking over Karachi for a limited time period. For inexplicable reasons the PPP provincial government in Sindh is also strongly opposing the military operation in Karachi.

One wonders if rangers and police have proven to be totally ineffective then why they want this mayhem to continue that is turning Karachi into a ghost city and killing its spirit of openness and liveliness.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Let us beautify Pakistan

January 7, 2014
By Saeed Qureshi

Our beloved country Pakistan reels under a civic system that is out of sync with the imperatives of a modern society. It is decrepit and utterly inadequate to provide decent, modest and worthwhile living environment to the people of Pakistan. The roads and highways network is not enough to cater for fast growing movement of both travelers and freight. Traveling between the cities and within the cities in Pakistan is hazardous, slow, and unsafe.

 Unlike developed societies, Pakistan at first glance, looks primitive, dirty and disorganized. From traffic to business activities nothing seems to be without sleaze and impropriety. Despite our society being deeply religious and people with religious orientation, the ethical practices in social dealings and human interaction are woefully deficient. There is always a wide gap between what we profess and what we do.

 The civic code is outdated. The cities are brimming with filth, stench, encroachments, horse and bullock driven carts and animal and human waste. We have ramshackle old frames and structures of buses without necessary facilities like proper seating, door, air conditioning, heating etc. Overloading of passengers is common scene on Pakistani roads. The traffic rules are ignored by both public and the concerned departments. Traffic transport in Pakistan has ever been messy.

There are no strict codes for raising new dwellings. There is mushroom, unabated and unplanned growth of houses and shantytowns in and around all the major cities in Pakistan, choking and stultifying the already meager and insufficient utilities. The water is rationed by hours, the electric power goes off frequently, and the voltage is low and unstable. There is no well-planned or scientific method of removing garbage and waste from the lanes, roads, houses and public places in Pakistan.

Our railway is ramshackle, mismanaged, a relic of the past and starkly lacking in the modern paraphernalia as we find in the railways of the developed societies. There are countless flaws in our railway system. Our railway is in dire need of complete overhauling so as to make it modern and efficient. 

The railway stations have deplorable and endemic problems such as sanitation, lack of computerized communication and operation system and poor provision of facilities such as water, air conditioning, heating and reservation etc. The duel tracks are nowhere to be seen in Pakistan that if built can save enormous amount of time.
 Same is the case with other public service organizations such as WAPDA, PIA, Customs, Municipal and civic organizations, Police, Courts, Postal Department, Revenue, to name a few. All these organizations and departments are deeply infested with corruption, mismanagement, inefficiency and countless shortcomings.

The Judiciary, Police, bureaucracy and all other similar institutions that should serve the people in the fairest and the freest manner have remained subservient to the interests of powerful local lords, overpowering Individuals, the political mandarins and corrupt officials.

Our social sector is lowest in our national priorities. The health, education, transportation and other public related services are crippled and insufficient due to a variety of factors including paucity of funds, erroneous and faulty policy and planning and lack of vision to make them universal, accessible, organized and modern. The population is growing at an alarming rate.

  Social vices like bribery, corruption, pilferage of government resources; adulteration and selling of sub-standard commodities, evasion of taxes and a host of other crimes have always been rampant. We sell adulterated food without any moral prick and without any fear of legal or social reprisals.  Despite being deeply religious people lack moral fiber.

The stealing of mail, tampering with revenue records, counterfeit stamp papers, usurping public land and property are part of our morbid system that needs to be drastically operated upon and purged of all the disabilities and disorders. Expired and spurious drugs are sold unhindered without any qualms of conscience or fear of law. Hospitals lack the milk of human kindness and shorn of proper facilities for the ever-increasing patients. The inexpensive and prompt justice, timely decision making and prompt redress of pubic grievances have remained elusive.

 There are no standardized procedures for conducting and regulating the civic life. Even if there are such procedures, no one bothers to follow them in order to check the mal-practices and violations in daily life such as encroachments, breach of building rules and sanitation pre-requisites as well as maintenance of private premises and public places. 

Complicated and unclear rules for issuance of documents such as driving licenses, passports, identity cards etc lead to graft and underhand deals for the needful. In short there is a complete moral, institutional and organizational mess in the society.

Pakistan is to be liberated from the clutches of feudal grip, corrupt mafia, pressure lobbies and special interest groups that have held our society hostage from the very beginning. These groups and powerful individuals don’t allow Pakistan to functions as a liberal, free, democratic, modern, progressive and prosperous country. 

They hate the very concept of a civil society in Pakistan. Civil society means freedom of expression and faith, movement and pursuit of happiness in conformity with the human and fundamental rights. These groups and entities are enemies of progress and therefore of the people of Pakistan.

Pakistan is still far away from having a democratic order that is unvarnished and truly based on the popular vote and people’s aspirations thanks to the intrigues of our selfish politicians. For most part of its existence, Pakistan was under the army rule, bureaucratic dispensation or quasi-democratic system. Elections in Pakistan were seldom free and fair. 

The National Assembly and Senate assailed by the powerful classes would not function in an independent manner and only serve the privileged sections. There is hardly any veritable accountability at any stage and in any department. Accountability in Pakistan is used for vendetta against the political contenders.

The political leadership that was in power all along has thus far miserably failed to address and resolve the myriad socio -civic, economic, political and even day-to-day problems of the people. The hapless people of Pakistan have been waiting for so long for a better time to come. It is foregone that all the leaders are birds of the same flock and lack vision, seriousness and will to transform Pakistan into a modern, liberal and prosperous state. 

With the abundance of natural resources, vast productive land and industrious manpower that Pakistan is endowed with, our country has the capability and potential to stand shoulder to shoulder in the comity of developed nations in a few years’ span.

After more than six decades, it is crystal clear that the privileged and elitist classes that have been running the country via plutocracy, oligarchy or aristocracy, are neither capable nor sincere about good governance. The reason for their inability to earnestly serve the nation and country is that they are not mindful of the common man’s problems nor are they interested in ameliorating the plight of the citizens whose predominant majority is suffering from bad governance. 

A socio-civic revolution is therefore indispensable to improve the quality of life in Pakistan. Let us explore ways and measures by which we can beautify Pakistan and make it look like a state of the modern times.

Removal of encroachments
It is utterly imperative to cleanse Pakistan of filth, traffic hazards and unchecked mushrooming encroachments in streets, bazaars, lanes and roads. We are all witnesses to a repulsive spectacle of khoka or cart sellers covering footpaths and portions of roads hindering the smooth flow of traffic and movement of pedestrians. 

This distasteful social malaise is a common feature all over Pakistan. The main shop owners rent out the front space of their shops to the rehri or cart sellers who squat and thus block the pathways meant for the walkers and shoppers. This foul scene is not only nauseating but an outrageous, sheer violation of the municipal laws.

In 80s the concept of “Friday Bazaars” or weekly “flea markets” or “traders’ village” was floated from Islamabad by a very visionary the then Chairman of CDA late Ali Nawaz Gardezi. That idea in subsequent times was extended to other town and cities. The perception behind these weekly bazaars was to confine the small time retail sellers or so called stall or kiosk sellers to one limited place sparing the rest of the population from the encroachments and ensuing noise and filth created by their presence.

Yet this splendid scheme was observed more by breach than compliance. The business of the road-side sellers did not diminish nor was it curbed or eliminated by the city administrations. The cart sellers sell their merchandise for six days on the city roads and in common bazaars and the seventh day in the Friday Bazaars. Thus they benefit from both the venues. 

The allotment of a slot in such weekly Bazaars costs money to be given to the city officials. Those who make biggest offers are given a place. But usually many slots are owned by one big wealthy trader or contractor who employs workers to run those lucrative spots.

We have seen here in Europe and in North America that the cart sellers can operate within the confines of a closed shopping mall and on specific allotted places. They cannot think of even moving an inch from the specified place for fear of heavy fines. Same strict yardsticks apply to the flea markets or the so called farmers or traders’ villages.

Now besides ubiquitous encroachments and widespread obstructions there are animal driven Tongas (two wheeled horse driven coach) that ply all over the cities creating worst and repugnant filth because of the dung dropped freely and openly by the horses. Do we live in a civilized society where animals and humans cohabit in such sleazy conditions?

Now these eyesores and traffic hazards have got to be removed by a strict compliance and rigorous application of the city civic laws. Are our municipalities and local body administrators blind to the very fact that the occupation of footpaths is illegal and no shopkeeper is supposed to enhance or protrude his business beyond the threshold?

So to begin with a declaration should be issued by the city administrations for vacation of the footpaths within a week. Thereafter the stall owners and the shopkeepers leasing out their front portions should be heavily fined or their business closed for a certain period of time. The roving city magistrates should arrest the law breakers and impose fines on the spot.

Transportation Services
In 80s when I was working in the Pakistan embassy in Bucharest (Romania), a modern bus system was operative there. Romania was part of the socialist bloc and was relatively closed and poor. But public services were decent. Unfortunately after 30 years, Pakistan has failed to reach the level of a poor socialist country in matter of civic amenities.

In our major cities, the Tongas (horse driven coach) must be banned and replaced by the taxis or buses that can be given to these people on easy installments. The big corporations would willingly invest in centralized taxis system because of the huge dividends in return. 

There should be countless investors ready to finance such projects and also operate these by taking cue from other countries where such modern systems are in vogue. The municipalities should ensure that these operate by laid- down rules and standards. It is necessary to send batches of civic experts to the developed countries in order to learn the systems.
Why don’t our city planners banish the horse driven carts and buggies and work out a decent plan for a railway, bus or taxi service within the cities. Are these systems not working elsewhere in other countries that we are unaware of their utility and the monumental ease and comfort these provide to the commuters? The rickshaws need to be replaced with centralized controlled taxi system.

 The taxis or wagons should not be ramshackle or run-down lacking heating or air-conditioning system. The small yet makeshift inexpensive bus stops that we see elsewhere in the world can be built on all the routes. It is not a rosy picture or a utopia that I am projecting. Such civic facilities are indispensable part of the city and civic life in many other countries.

Why the city managers are not conscious of the unhygienic atmosphere and pest-infected and germ-ridden air caused by such obsolete and clumsy means of transportation. We have seen the city roads spattered and covered with horses’ droppings and there is no will nor way-out to rub off this filth periodically until the rain washes these superficially.

Graffiti on walls must be banned
There is a dire need to cleanse the walls in the cities from graffiti. Graffiti has spoiled the beauty of the cities with life size scribed business deals or herbal prescriptions or announcement of the public meetings. These writings remain on the walls as long as the walls remain intact. If one travels from one corner of Pakistan to the extreme end and even within the cities one would find the walls around the roads covered and plastered with ugly writings and graphics. This has got to be stopped with full force of law. There should be allocated places or enclaves for display or publicity of commodities or businesses. Any perpetrators that flout the graffiti rules must be heavily fined and run the risk of his business wound up by the city management.

Keeping of animals in the cities must be banned
We should know that Pakistan is one of those socially backward countries where animals and the beasts of burden live along the human beings. The cows, the buffaloes, the goats, the horses, the donkeys and dogs are tied in the streets causing not only horrendous pollution and stink but horrific traffic hazards. The civil authorities have utterly failed to curb these ugly facets of our cities.

 On religious festivals such as the big Eid or the sacrificial Eid, all the open grounds and vacant places look like stables and livestock farms. This tendency of using public places in the name of religious rituals has to be forcibly curbed. The keeping of animals must be banned definitively.  The milk animals like buffaloes should not be allowed within the precincts of the cities. Instead these should be kept in the rural and countryside farmlands. 

The milk and dairy products industry should be organized on modern lines as one can see in developed courtiers. The slaughtering of chicken and poultry in the shops and in full public view has to be forbidden. The frying of meat and snacks openly should be declared as a felony.

Business and shopping centers
Most of the shops, car centers, offices, restaurants, should be relocated out of the residential areas to business enclosures, shopping malls or centers. This would ease the burden on the traffic flow and provide a great relief to the resident to live without the din and noise and sleaze caused by the Bazaars. Such a demarcation already exists in Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan Islamabad. The affluent business community could build such shopping centers of places are marked. The construction of various shopping enclaves would bring additional revenues to the city governments.

A centralized sewerage system in Cities
Till such time that a centralized sewerage and toilet system can be created in the cities, there should be public toilets built in all neighborhoods. Those should be supervised and maintained round the clock. These should have the modern sewerage and scientific systems to dispose of waste, sewage and excrement. The constant running water should be ensured at such public bathrooms. 

I have seen these public bathrooms all over Tehran three decades ago.  The supervisors will have to keep a constant eye so that these cannot be misused by criminal elements. In these civic schemes, the private sector, entrepreneurs and business corporations also can play a vital role. The city management can charge a monthly tax to defray the expenses and to pay to the providers of these facilities.

Nevertheless, it’s time for a paradigm shift from manual makeshift latrines in the houses to a centralized sewerage system in the cities. A few decades back in the United States and also in most of Europe the situation existed. But now all the rural and urban areas have piped water supply and centralized sewerage systems. 

One can imagine how profound this change can be in lifting the quality of life and refining the environment in our cities. If the government doesn’t have funds, the private sector can be involved in laying this system in the big cities first and correspondingly expanded to other cities with the time passage.

The purpose of all these watershed measures is to abandon a primitive mode of living and step into a modern life-style with the enormous attendant benefits and facilities that it offers. A massive, far reaching and stupendous planning will have to be undertaken for this monumental shift on the national level. 

This cherished dream can come true if our leaders, decision makers and even public is ready for such a giant leap in doing away with a rampant socio-civic backwardness and live a great life resplendent with the boons of the modern era. This could stop or reduce the urge of the people to go out of Pakistan to other countries with excellent civic and social services.

This kind of socio-civic revolution would be possible if the prevailing municipal system is transformed into the latest County and City forms of local government where the top office bearers such as mayors and members are elected by the people. They remain under the obligation to serve the people in the best possible manner in order to win the fresh mandate on the basis of their commendable record of service.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

How to Produce Abundant Electricity in Pakistan!

January 1, 2014
 By Saeed Qureshi
 I am laying down here a novel way to produce, instant, cheap and abundant electricity in Pakistan. It is merely a brainwave and could be mere fantasy. Here it is.

Currently Pakistan’s two overriding problems are terrorism and acute shortage of energy. Electricity and gas is fundamental and indispensible to run the households and industries. If houses are lit and warm, there would be a healthy nation both physically and mentally. If we have enough electricity and gas we can embark upon the road to progress with confidence and assurance. 

When the industries would run full time, the people would get jobs and exports would increase voluminously bringing foreign exchange. The quality of life would heighten and a robust nation would start shaping up.

Now the respective governments in Pakistan have failed to generate electric power that was easy from the start as Pakistan is blessed with vast water resources such as lakes and rivers. Unfortunately the upper riparian is India for whom even a miniscule economic and social progress of Pakistan is an anathema.
  The Indus Waters Treaty is a World Bank brokered water-sharing treaty signed between Pakistan and India in 1960.

 According to that treaty India has exclusive water usage rights on three eastern rivers namely Bias, Sutlej and Ravi. Also, the treaty gives Pakistan exclusive use of the western rivers Jhelum, Chenab and Indus “but with some stipulations for development of projects on these rivers in India”. Yet India has been flouting this agreement with willful abandon. Pakistan is not in a situation to force India for strict compliance of that accord that deprived Pakistan of three of its rivers.

During the past several decades India has been steadily constructing dams for power generation. As such power is stored in the big lakes and Pakistan remains with fingers crossed when the excess water would flow down for use. Pakistan is an extremely difficult and most unenviable position in getting water from the Indian side and there is likelihood that it would face severe hardships such as famine and drought in the coming years and decades.

The river Indus is getting smaller and smaller as most of its tributaries are located in India and its water is also being conserved in the under construction Indian dams. Thus the prime source of water for Pakistan’s rural sector and for making hydel power plants is being depleted barring the rain water that fills it occasionally during the monsoon season. Pakistan should be prepared to wash its hands of an ensured and enough supply of water flowing down from the upper reaches of Himalayan ranges.

So the paramount question arises: what should be done in face of such a harrowing and dismal scenario for adequate power generation. Let me dish out my thoughts over the generation of electric energy without depending upon the water from the five rivers or a strong and full blown rain shower from the sky every year. 

I am putting up this plan before the experts and engineers associated with the power sector who would be in a better position to judge and scrutinize it and ascertain the possibility of its practical implementation. I would like to have feedback from my countless readers to figure out if this plan is workable and can be put to fruitful use.

Before I start unraveling the contents of the plan I wonder why the respective countries suffering from shortage of power has not envisaged this plan that can certainly help overcome their energy crises. Well I could be entertaining rosy picture detached from reality. Yet I believe that with some modifications if needed, this can be put to test. 

As we all are aware, oceans are huge lakes with interminable quantity of water. The power from hydel project is generated when the turbines are run by a powerful current of water dropped on these. That current comes from the stored water of dams like Tarbela or Mangla Now let us suppose that when the sea water is raised to a required level through pipes and then dropped on the turbines installed along the coast, would it not produce the electricity. The ocean has long coasts and therefore any number of turbines can be installed all along.

There is a technical glitch in this scheme and that is how the water could flow down back to the sea as water keeps its level equal. The other question is from where the power comes to raise the water to a required level that it can rotate the turbine with enough speed and thrust to generate electricity. These are the questions for technocrats and engineers to address. 

What I can say on my behalf is that when the water would be raised to suppose 100 feet it would fall on the turbine down below that can be kept a little bit high from the sea level to allow it to flow back into the sea. Initially diesel or gas can be used to operate the turbine. When turbine become functional the power produced by these can be partially utilized on their operation as well. It would then be self-propelling system.

As for the height or the diameter of the pipes it is again for the experts to determine what could be the best technical data to make the projects feasible. If this project is practicable and takes off, then Pakistan can get rid of the chronic power shortage that has debilitated its economy and undermined the quality of life in Pakistan. These units can function round the year and thus there would be constant electricity supply to the country.

The power thus generated would have to be connected with the main national grid through a transmission line. That remission network will have to be built without any loss of time and there doesn’t seem to be any hitch in connecting the coastal power producing units with the main grid.

The engineers can sketch the plan how long and deep the water carrying pipes should be immersed in the sea water, how high these should be lifted and the location of the turbines for an easy and uninterrupted flow of water back to sea.

A secondary plan could be to build big lakes on the rivers after every 50 or 100 miles. These lakes can be filled with water that can be raised to a required level to be dropped on the turbines. It would be like makeshift dam for both water and electricity production. Presumably ten such walled dams could be built over Indus where not only the river water can be conserved but the rain water from adjoining areas can also flow into these lakes for farming and drinking round the year.

If wonder if there is someone among my readers who have access to the water and power ministry to inform the stalwarts there about this plan. I can elaborate these schemes further if I am asked to do so. I pray and wish that the bureaucracy wakes up to its responsibilities and earnestly unfolds plans that benefit out poor and energy starved country. In the next article I shall present a foolproof strategy to curb definitively the Kunda culture and stealing of the electricity and gas in Pakistan.