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Public Utility Charges – but what for?

This month citizens of Karachi have received (or will receive it if they have not yet) a new kind of bill or rather a tax which they are liable to pay to the City District Government (CDGK) for using its infrastructure i.e. roads, bridges, flyovers, parks, underpasses and streetlights – and for benefiting from its ‘solid waste management system’. This new tax, Public Utility Charges (PUC), will help CDGK earn upto Rs 2 billion annually to cover their budget deficit. The bills would be issued on a quarterly basis and would have separate charges for residential, commercial and industrial property.
For residential houses/plots/flats, the per month charges are as follows:
  • Rs 70 for an area up to 80 square yards
  • Rs 150 for 81 to 120 square yards
  • Rs 200 for 121 to 240 square yards
  • Rs 300 for 241 to 500 square yards
  • Rs 500 for 501 to 1,000 square yards
  • Rs 800 for areas above 1,000 square yards.

Commercial units established on 200 sq yards to 10,000 sq yards or above will have to pay Rs 500 to Rs 5,000 as PUC. Industrial units on a covered area of 1,000 sq yards to 5,000 sq yards and above will have to pay Rs 500 to Rs 2,000 per month under the same head.

Initially when the resolution for PUC was passed on 2nd June 2008, a Chinese firm – Shanghai Shen Gong Environmental Protection Company Limited – was contracted for the collection and disposal of solid waste from all parts of the city. But unfortunately, Karachities have not seen any sign of them and the solid waste collection program to-date stands unlaunched. So whats this tax for???

With the economy already in such a bad shape and the inflation and other utility charges at its all time high, PUC seems to be an unwanted burden on the public. If CDGK is short of funds then why is it has to be the public that will generate the necessary funds for them. What about the water and property taxes whose collections directly fall in the lap of CDGK. And why a new tax at such a point in time where the Government is deciding on changing the current local government system and reverting to the old one. 

Zong – how not to advertise

From the day Zong launched its services as the first international brand of China Mobile, it has resorted to heavy marketing, advertisement and promotion, which is pretty much the norm in the telecom industry. But over the period of time its TV commercials have kind of become montonous. Let me explain how:

A typical Zong advertisement features the following:

  • Comparative advertisement – targeting and criticizing the packages and services of the competitors and offering a lit better package.
  • A model or two praising the Zong services and packages in a narrative style standing in front of the screen.
  • False claims tagged with hidden information e.g. the package that allows subscribers to  call one special number 24 hours – for free! without mentioning anything about the monthly subscription of Rs 500+Tax.
  • Presenting non-existent deals and offers – like mixing the good points of all the packages and presenting it as a single offer as they did in their very first commercial which also happens to be a copy of a TV commercial made by Dolphin Telecommunication Provider.

Calls for a serious change in the marketing strategy – may be a peak at Ufone and Mobilink commercials may help.

ICL and Pakistan

Finally some good news in Pakistan cricket – Sindh High Court has ordered Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) to lift the ban from the 11 players that had signed contracts with the rebel Indian Cricket League (ICL) and PCB owing to public pressure has finally allowed them to feature in the next round of Quaid-e-Azam trophy matches.

According to an ICC spokesperson:

Banning a player from playing in domestic cricket because he participated in the ICL is not a matter for the ICC. Instead, only a member board can take such action. The ICC executive board therefore resolved in 2008 that member boards should take such action against ICL players as they considered appropriate, in light of and in accordance with the requirements of their own local laws. 

The question now is that can such a regulation be applied on international matches? If according to the local laws a player can feature in domestic matches then why can’t the same be applied to international tournaments and encounters. What if the court orders PCB to lift the ban from the international matches – in such a scenario isn’t PCB bound to obey the laws. If political and security reasons can be used as a tool to decide WHERE, WHEN and HOW cricket is played then a similar case should be valid for legal situations and matters. Given the loss Pakistan cricket team has suffered because of the ban on the ICL contracted players and the lack of support and authority by the ICC and its member boards especially BCCI, PCB should go ahead and lift the ban but obviously following the approciate procedure i.e a legal case and the appropriate decision by the High court or even the Supreme court. And guess what could be their comeback tournament – ICC World Twenty20 2009 – a real smack in the face.

May be some hope for the 11 players – Mohammad Sami, Abdul Razzaq, Hasan Raza, Shabbir Ahmed, Mohammad Yousuf, Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, Tahir Mughal, Shahid Yousuf, Khalid Mahmood, Naved Latif and Shahid Nazir.

Swype – text entry made faster

Ever imagined entering more than 40 words per minute on your cell phone? With Swype finger-tracing text entry, this is now very much possible and not only on the cell phones but on a number of other devices like tablets, game consoles, kiosks, televisions, virtual screens, etc. Instead of typing the entire word, the user simply needs to trace a random path around the letters and the application smartly and accurately detects the word enabling much faster text entry. The application has a database of more than 65,000 words and provides an ability to add more words by simply tapping in i.e. the traditional way.

Swype - Key Features

Swype - Key Features

 

It sure is a giant leap from the current T9 predictive technology and especially suited for the new smart phones hitting the markets. We can very easily call it T9 for touch screens.

Australian Downfall – worth it

Its often said that reaching the top is not that great as staying there or bouncing back when one is down. Infact the true test of greatness is when one is down and under pressure to regain the top position. When judged on this criteria the current Australian cricket team seems to have completely wiped their greatness ever since they have resorted to unsporting behavior. The current case in point is the first ODI between Australia and New Zealand where Brad Haddin played a controversial role in breaking the crucial fifth wicket patnership between Neil Broom and Ross Taylor.

Akhtar’s new enemy

Shoaib Akhtar is one character in world cricket who has to have at least one active enemy and incidentally it has to be the skipper of the team. After Inzamam-ul-Haq, Shoaib Malik is the new entry in this list. After losing the second ODI against Sri Lanka in Karachi, Malik openly critisized his fitness and commitment and rightly so. In the two ODIs that Akhtar featured in, he failed to complete his quota of 10 overs in either of the matches and gave away 88 runs in the 13 overs that he bowled grabbing only a single wicket. He also appeared sluggish in the field showing signs of the same old  fitness issues.

Malik’s argument centered around the fact that to stay in the team a player’s fitness has to be no less than 100%. Akhtar may be a match winner for Pakistan in the past but if he is not 100% fit and cannot survive two consecutive ODIs how can he manage a test match or a full-blown ODI tournament. Additionally, by giving him opportunity after opportunity, Pakistan is unable to give any chance to the new talent that has shown their capabilities in the domestic circuit. Its time to look beyond and target the future rather than cherish the past and opt for a bleak future.

So far no outcry has been witnessed from Shoaib Akhtar but his axing from the third ODI and Pakistan’s dismal performance in the last two ODIs may prompt one especially against Shoaib Malik. Even if Akhtar doesn’t come out with a statement, he has to do some decision-making. The choice (play or retire) is simple but how to get it is tough – either he has to improve his fitness and perform at his best or again indulge in a war of words with the skipper. May be following Waqas’s advice may help and do some good.

Israel’s deliberate attack on UNRWA school in Beit Lahia

Following is just a small snapshot of what the Israeli attacks on the Gaza strip had in them. Need not to say anything – the pictures say it all.

UNRWA school in Beit Lahia bombarded by Israeli white phosphorous bombs – rain of inextinguishable fire balls falling from the sky in all directions, deliberately designed to cause maximum death and destruction.

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Farah Dogar – MBBS

Ansar Abbasi seems to have directed all his energies in trying to crack the case of illegal re-assessment of FSc result of Farah Hameed Dogar. Ever since breaking the story in November, he has diligently continued investigation into the matter. In his recent articles, Glaring flaws in Farah case verdict and Farah Dogar got two marks out of one!, he has virtually challenged the decision of Islamabad High Court by coming up with the examination copies of Farah Dogar and highlighting the obvious mistakes in her answers and the favours bestowed on her by the examiners.

Just have a look at this glorious master piece.

Farah Dogar's answer script

On a funny note, it seems that MBBS is destined for her – just look at her handwriting. Additionally, although her answers depict a clear lack of interest in subjects like physics, urdu, english and history but it doesn’t prove anything about Biology – she might have scored 110 out of 100. Ansar Abbasi, next time you need to work a little harder to prove her wrong and please no more attack on the independent judiciary 🙂

Obama’s car – The Beast

So the first change is here – Obama’s new car nicknamed “The Beast”. Being dubbed as the safest car in the world and especially built from scratch for the new president, this fortress on wheel can shy away any terrorist attack be it projectiles from assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, high explosives and even bomb attacks from under the vehicle. It is equipped with run-flat tyres, a secondary power source and an unfeasibly powerful non-standard engine. An embroidered presidential seal is positioned in the centre of the rear seat back panel as well as on each rear door trim panel. Presidential seals are also fixed to the exterior rear doors. The US flag is placed on the right front wing and the Presidential Standard is located on the left front wing when the President travels in the vehicle.

The Beast - Obama's new car

According to the US Secret Service, the 2009 ‘Beast’ would be a “valuable asset” in providing the President with the highest level of protection. “Although many of the vehicle’s security enhancements cannot be discussed, it is safe to say that this car’s security and coded communications systems make it the most technologically advanced protection vehicle in the world,” Nicholas Trotta, Assistant Director for the Office of Protective Operations said in a statement. The new limousine is the responsibility of White House Transportation Agency.

The Beast