Discussion with Professor Tofeeq Butt

By: Ahtsham Ijaz Bhalli

As some of you may know that Pakistan held its General elections this past month and elected Imran Khan to be their Prime Minister. Many Pakistanis including many overseas Pakistani were estactic for Imran Khan’s victory since we are in favor for his slogan “Naya Pakistan” meaning a new Pakistan. Shortly after the elections I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Tofeeq Butt as he was visiting some family near the area I lived in. Mr. Tofeeq Butt who is not only a teacher in government college Lahore(one of Pakistan most famous institutions) but also a renowned journalist and columnist  as well. We both had a great discussion about Pakistan and shared our enthusiasm about Imran Khan’s victory and the change that he will bring to Pakistan in the upcoming years.

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We both dream about a Pakistan that is not infested by corrupt leaders and instead has leaders that want the best for their country and its citizen.We both dream about a Pakistan where the justice system is fair for all, no matter what one’s race, religious affiliation, financial status or gender is. We want to see a Pakistan where every institution can play its role independently without any interference. We want to see a Pakistan where police can work freely without any political interference and pressure. We want to see that Pakistan where there is no VIP culture for anyone and all people are treated equally.This is the ‘Naya Pakistan’ of Imran Khan.This is the new Pakistan that many Pakistanis including myself and Mr. Butt are excited about. We are both are eagerly praying for all of Imran Khan’s promises to be fulfilled.

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But we all know that this can not happen over night. Imran Khan faces many challenges not only outside of his party but even within. Khan has to overcome challanges from inside party as well. Mr. Tofeeq Butt has extensive knowledge about Imran Khan political party PTI ( Pakistan Tereek-e-Insaaf)  and we dicussed about it. We want to see a positive change in country which will lead to prosperous Pakistan.

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City that never sleeps

By Ahtsham Ijaz Bhalli

It was a nice spring and crowded day when I decided to visit the city that never sleeps; New York City. The city is certainly a recognized world center for finance, media, fashion, entertainment, tourism, business, and technology.  So I decided to visit this marvelous city as well and I can truly say with certainty that  I will be going back to it very soon.

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It is near impossible to visit all the attractions and tourists spots of NYC in one day, but sadly I did not even have the entire day. I spent about 4 hours in NYC and and spent the majority of the time in Times Square and Broadway. Times Square in New York City is perhaps the most famous square in the whole world. It is a known fact that Times Square is the world’s most visited tourist attraction. When you visit Times Square in Midtown Manhattan it’s easy to see why: tourists from all over the globe come to Times Square to see all the neon billboards, see a famous musical, go shopping in the area and soak up the unique Times Square vibe.

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As I mentioned earlier, I was only in NYC for 4 hours so I did not have enough time to visit more attractions of the city but next time I go I will certainly visit other famous attractions such as the Statue of Liberty and my personal favorite, The United Nations Headquarters.

Say No To Elite Culture

By Ahtsham Ijaz Bhalli

When you are on road as a common citizen of Pakistan, and a policeman tells you to stop, one of the main reason for this is  that there is  convoy of an elite family or person and you must not pass until they have passed. In other words, the policeman is telling all other  tax paying, hard-working citizens “Wait, you’re a worthless citizens of Pakistan, your life, business and time is without any value. Wait until these important elite people pass.”

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It is the bitter truth that these people do not care about time, life and money of other people, as they just care about themselves and their well being. This causes a lot of hassle for other people that are using the public roads and for people that are in life threatening emergency and therefore can not get to the hospital on time because their way has been blocked for unnecessary reasons.

The elite class of Pakistan is getting a royalty treatment  just because they are wealthy . But we should not forget that we live in a democratic government and no royalty of any time should exist. All Pakistani lives should be treated equally and fairly and should not be  segregated upon the amount of wealth a person has in their bank account. The elites have made a  excuse for their behavior and say they need extra protection because they get life threats.

Everyone is equal as a citizen of Pakistan, even a politician or bureaucrat is not superior to anyone. They are here to serve, to provide security and convenience to general public instead of creating inconvenience and humiliating themselves by enjoying VIP protocol.

It also happens sometimes that they issue letters on their official letter pads to some of their relatives and friends , which state that this is my official designation, this specific car is mine so nobody is allowed to touch or stop this specific car. So, their relative and friends also enjoy a part of that protocol and  sometime may carry even carry illegal objects such as drugs and weapons, etc.

Here is an example of one of the official letter  which shows glimpse of this corrupt elite culture and this letter is issued by  a member of the national assembly (MNA) ‘Mr Rana Tanveer Hussain’ who is also a minister in the federal Government of Pakistan currently.

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Personally, I think that this corrupt elite culture is also one of the important reasons why my motherland Pakistan is going downhill.  In  civilized and developed countries like, USA, UK, Canada etc. no one is above the law and all citizens enjoy same rights. No one can dare to issue such letters to anyone in his official capacity. Henceforth, we all should say no to such behavior and work towards making Pakistan a great and prosperous country for all citizens.

Talent has no limits

By Ahtsham Ijaz Bhalli

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Photo: Software engineer Saqib Sheikh with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella at Microsoft developer conference

“As engineers we are always standing on the shoulders of giants and building on top of what went before. For me it’s about taking that far-off dream and building it one step at a time”, Saqib Sheikh said.

Saqib Sheikh is a software developer from London, United Kingdom currently working for Microsoft. He lost his sight when he was 7 years old.  Instead of getting disappointed life he started learning language of computers. Like millions of other blind people around the world, he also thought of being able to lead normal life but the difference is that millions of other only thought it and Saqib actually did it. In 2016 he created an application named as, the Seeing AI, which is a voice assisted application and assists visually impaired people.

The 36 years old software engineer said that, “I have been working on the application for the past three years in the hope that it will improve the lives of people like me. One of the things that I have always dreamt of since my college days was this idea of something that could tell you at any moment what’s going on around you.”  The image analysis processing, artificial intelligence and cognitive computing in the application that Saqib uses allows him to see the world around him without physical eyes that was only possible in fictions before. The Seeing AI is not the first application developed by him, but before that he had also took part in the development of softwares such as, MSN, Bing, Edge and various other mobile apps.

The application not only runs on smart phones but  Pivothead sunglasses can also be used so that a person can also be hands free. These glasses have camera in it so that person can take photos and videos and in this way he can recognizes objects. This extraordinary application has lot of functions in it. This application can read texts like menu. It can recognize currency, it can describe age and gender of person near you. It can tell you what is going on around you and it makes you alert.  With the help of this application Saqib and many other persons like him who are unable to see can travel around the world alone and independently.

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Currently this application is working in nearly 9 countries only, on iOS platform and in English language. If i say that the Seeing AI has great scope then it is not wrong. Microsoft arranged a developer conference in 2016 in which they invited Mr Saqib Sheikh to appreciate his efforts and released a video about this special application.

“It is an honor to share a stage with Saqib today. He took his passion and empathy to change the world. He is here to inspire and teach about these applications. Microsoft build is all about taking the dreams we have to reality”, said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella during the release of the video.

He further said, “Now is the time for greater coordination and collaboration on Seeing AI,” says Nadella. He lauded what Saqib has done with AI. “This approach is a start, but we can go further,” he said.

At the end i would like to say that talent has no limits and if anyone has passion and aim to do something he can do it even if he is a disable like Saqib. It is a well known phrase that, “God helps those who help themselves”.

 

 

Exploring the beauty of Virginia Beach

 By Ahtsham Ijaz Bhalli

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It was a beautiful sunny weekend when I decided to visit Virginia Beach in Virginia, USA. It is an independent city located in the Commonwealth of Virginia in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. Virginia Beach is a resort city with miles of beaches and hundreds of restaurants, hotels and motels along with its oceanfront. This beach has become one of the major tourist attractions due to its beauty.

 

My first visit to Virginia Beach:

This was my first visit to Virginia Beach and third visit to any beach in the world. To get to the beach I had to use my private car because I had to stay there for one night and there was not any problem for me to get any car parking there. Although it was during the weekend yet it took about 3 hours to reach there from my house.

Oceanfront view from hotel:

 

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After reaching my hotel room at the 10th floor and after standing at terrace one of the fascinating view was of the beach  and Atlantic Ocean that I could see as far my eyesight could go. It was an amazing view indeed.

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Life on the beach:

 

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I started my beach tour as soon as I could. The beach was full of life. The people were enjoying there if they had no stress at all. They were playing with each other, with water, taking sunbath and swimming. It is not wrong to say that life on beach was full of colors. One of the amazing views was that color of the water and the sky looked identical and blended in perfectly.

Some people were enjoying bicycle riding as well after hiring it at price of 25 $/hour for smaller one and 30 -35 $ for bigger ones. After spending 3-4 hours on beach I returned to my hotel room as it was night time so I had to take rest.

I had a great time:

Next day I had to return home but my trip was a lot of fun and was an amazing experience. I wished I had spent more time there but alas, I had to leave as my weekend was going to be over.

Why not visit this beach if you have an opportunity, you too will find the experience as exciting and interesting as I did

Pride of The Nation

By Ahtsham Ijaz Bhalli

It was 5th December 2016, when ex-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had approved to rename the national centre for physics as the Abdus Salam centre for physics along with five PhD fellowships annually in the Abdus Salam’s name. This was a wonderful surprise, as this positive step was taken by the same state that had earlier failed to show respect and honour the first Nobel Laureate of Pakistan.

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Dr Abdus Salam was born in Jhang, Pakistan on 29th January 1926. He belonged to a poor family. When he came home on a bicycle from Lahore, at the age of 14, after achieving the highest marks ever recorded for the matriculation examination, the whole town was present there to welcome him warmly. He never looked back and finally, he became as one of the greatest physicists of the 20th century. He received the Noble Prize for his contribution to the theory of the unified weak and electromagnetic interaction between elementary particles, in 1979, together with Steven Weinberg and Sheldon Glashow.

Since 1957 he has been served as a Professor of Theoretical Physics at Imperial College London and since 1964 he has combined this position with that of director of the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP), Trieste, Italy.He was a member of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, a member of the Scientific Commission of Pakistan and was a Chief Scientific Advisor to the President of Pakistan from 1961 to 1974. Furthermore, he was a trainer of Professor Riazuddin, the man who designed Pakistan’s atomic technology.

These were just a few of his long list of contributions to Pakistan and rest of the world. He remained loyal to Pakistan all of his life. He even wore Pakistan’s national dress, the shalwar Kameez and Sherwani whilst accepting the Noble Prize. He kept his Pakistani nationality till his last breath. Dr Abdus Salam wished to establish an institute of science in Pakistan which could do research and train new scientists. He wished it not only for Pakistan but for all Muslim countries and third world as well. But he failed in his own country just due to his religious beliefs and he had to face discriminatory behaviour and label of a traitor. The extremism and hatred won and he lost in his own country.

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Photo: Dr Abdus Salam receiving The Nobel Prize

The money he received from different awards, he spent on setting up a fund for young Pakistani physicists to visit the ICTP. He used his share of the Nobel Prize completely for the benefits of physicists from developing countries and did not spend a penny of it on himself or his family.

He was a man with a firm belief on Allah Almighty. He once wrote: “The Holy Quran enjoins us to reflect on the verities of Allah’s created laws of nature; however, that our generation has been privileged to glimpse a part of His design is a bounty and a grace for which I render thanks with a humble heart.”

He passed away in 1996. We had not paid him such honour and respect as a Pakistani which he deserved, but he was a true patriot who’s efforts for Pakistan will be remembered forever. He is a pride of the nation who will be remembered always.

 

Time to think about global warming

By Ahtsham Ijaz Bhalli

Global warming is one of the major threat to the world. The glaciers are melting, sea levels are rising, forests are dying, and eventually wildlife will finish.We call it a result of global warming. First of all, we have to educate ourselves about global warming. In simple words we can say that, global warming is the unusual rapid increase in earth’s average surface temperature mainly due to the release of greenhouse gases as people burn fossil fuels.

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Climate changed when the planet received more or less sunlight due to subtle shifts in its orbit, as the atmosphere or surface changed, or when the sun’s energy varied. But in the past century, another force has started to influence earth’s climate known as human beings.

The “greenhouse effect” is the warming that happens when certain gases in earth’s atmosphere trap heat. These gases let in light but keep heat from escaping, like the glass walls of a greenhouse. It can be said that roughly 30 percent of incoming sunlight is reflected back into space by bright surfaces like clouds and ice, of the remaining 70 percent, most is absorbed by the land and ocean, and the rest is absorbed by the atmosphere. The absorbed solar energy heats our planet.

As the rocks, the air, and the seas warm, they radiate “heat energy” (thermal infrared radiation). From the surface, this energy travels into the atmosphere where much of it is absorbed by water vapor and long-lived greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane. When they absorb the energy radiating from earth’s surface, microscopic water or greenhouse gas molecules turn into tiny heaters, they radiate heat even after the fire goes out. They radiate in all directions. The energy that radiates back toward earth heats both the lower atmosphere and the surface, enhancing the heating they get from direct sunlight.

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Now the scientists believe that over the past 250 years, humans have been artificially raising the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, mostly by burning fossil fuels, but also from cutting down carbon dioxide absorbing trees. The level of carbon dioxide and methane is increasing day by day. There are two major effects of global warming on this earth:

Firstly, the rise of sea level by at least 82 feet by the year 2100.

Secondly, The increase in the temperature on the earth by about 5.4 to 9 F (3 to 5 C) by the year 2100.

These effects will enhance the frequency and intensity of extreme weather conditions, such as droughts, floods, tornadoes and tsunamis.

Global warming is mainly caused by humans who are still accelerating it. It is our personal duty to handle this issue for ourselves and for the future of our generations. In the nutshell, global warming has become a serious threat to the ecological balance of the earth. Civilization is slowly moving towards  doomsday. All the nations, particularly the developed countries have to be active to take immediate action on this matter, otherwise, our generations have to face an unimaginable peril and that day is not too far.

Inter-Korean peace talks

 By  Ahtsham Ijaz Bhalli

The world is beautiful and one of the main factors of its beauty is harmony and mutual understanding among different countries. North Korea and South Korea are rival to each other and the Peninsula has been split between North and South since the late 1940s after 2nd World war. South Korea and North Korea had a war in 1950 which is still going on technically as both countries never signed a formal peace treaty agreement. The ceasefire has mostly held but tensions erupt regularly. It looks that the inter-Korean relations are getting better with new enthusiasm and passion nowadays.

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Seoul and Pyongyang are on the negotiating table again. A high-level talk was held at the Peace House in Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), also known as the truce village between them on 9 January, making a dent in troubled ties between the two rival neighbours and opened up a new channel of communications suspended for two years.

This was the first meeting between the two Koreas after December 2015. Pyongyang had cut off the communication channel in February 2016. Both sides sent a delegation of five members for negotiation. Both neighbours agreed to shun military tensions, to promote reconciliation, to create an environment for peace on the Peninsula, to initiate families reunion, to engage in cooperation in various fields and to prevent accidental conflicts at the de-militarized border. Both countries also resumed hotline communication. In an Olympic diplomacy, North Korea would also take part in Winter Olympic Games in South Korea next month.

South Korean President Moon is the big supporter of peace talks with North Korea. Washington has also appreciated two Koreas talks.  The talks have also opened up the possibility of negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang. “President Trump expressed his openness to holding talks between the United States and North Korea at the appropriate time, under the right circumstances”, the statement said from Washington. Japan also supported the resumption of talks between North Korea and South Korea. Japan welcomed it by saying that “North Korea’s intent to participate in the Olympics is welcoming”.

Washington and Seoul opted to postpone their annual military exercises until after the Olympics, which analysts believe was done in the hope the games go smoothly.

Russia and China also welcomed the move between two countries. The inter-Korean move is a positive breakthrough. It is opening up a channel of communications and removing ambiguities prevailing since February 2016 between the two Koreas and other countries like Japan, China, Russia, and the United States. This move will help definitely to resolve issues between two countries and to create peace in the region. It is considered a big step towards maintaining a peace process.

However, some critics are saying that “North Korea wants to get some time to continue their nuclear and missile programs”. Now it is the huge responsibility of both countries to maintain their relationships in a successful and peaceful way.

Justice for everyone

By Ahtsham Ijaz Bhalli

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Photo of seven year old Zainab

 

Due to the rape and ruthless murder of seven year old Zainab, protests have started in some parts of Punjab, especially in Kasur city.  The brutal rape and murder of seven year old Zainab in Kasur Pakistan is not the only  incident. According to data collected by non-governmental organisation Sahil, as many as 11 cases of child sexual abuse are reported from across Pakistan every day. This is a terrible situation indeed. Even in Kasur, which became the centre of a massive child abuse case in 2014-15, the rape and brutal murder of nearly 12 minor girls, aged between 5 to 8 years, have been reported in the past twelve months. This situation is not limited to girls only younger boys are also victimized.

In the last year, the total number of reported child abuse cases were 4139, bringing the total number of children being abused in Pakistan per day to 11. Amongst all cases of child abuse from January to June 2017, 62 percent were reported in Punjab and 27 percent in Sindh Province of Pakistan. This is the data of those cases which were reported and are on the record while still there are a lot of incidents of same nature which are not reported just to avoid any insult of family and sometimes due to pressure from criminals.

With the memories of that sad incident in Kasur in which hundreds of children were abused, filmed and later, blackmailed by local mafia about two years ago is still fresh in the minds of the public. Now famous personalities and the general public have raised their voice on media and demanded justice for Zainab’s family.  Unfortunately, the role of law enforcement agencies especially police is not satisfactory in this matter and in previous cases all culprits are not arrested yet. It is not only the fault of police everytime as our politicians are also responsible for that.

After gaining media attention this matter is highlighted and Chief Justice of Pakistan, Army Chief and Chief Minister Punjab took notice of it. Some of the political parties are also trying to polish their politics which is not a good tradition. The CM of Punjab made a JIT  to further investigate this matter but Zainab’s father rejects head of the probe team by saying that, “JIT head is from Ahmadiyya Community so he will not accept this enquiry”.  It is really a shocking and surprising thing that without checking capability standard of anyone just due to his religious beliefs, he is not accepted as a head of JIT.

At the end, I would like to say that religious issues or differences should not be brought forward if anyone is capable of doing something, he must be given a chance to do it. All culprits in these type of cases should be arrested immediately and severe punishment like death penalty should be awarded to them. In this way, justice can be provided to everyone. I do not consider them human beings, they are bloody beasts in the disguise of humans. It is also the duty of everyone living in society to keep an eye on such beasts to avoid any further incidents.