The case of stolen side mirrors and stereo systems

Fahad Ahmed, a banker by profession, was provided a company-maintained car by his employer. After having upgraded from a two-wheeler and now commuting in luxury, this brand new 1300cc vehicle was the car of his dreams. Little did he know that soon he would be coming under tremendous stress, just in order to keep this car safe from various criminals, roaming the streets of Karachi.

It was a Sunday and Fahad had gone to his in-laws for dinner with his wife and two kids. After attending to the social call and exchanging farewell, the family returned to their brand new car only to discover that the side mirrors were missing. Soon they realised that someone had actually broken the entire frame along with the mirrors and the only part left were the wires hanging out from the sockets. That very moment, all their dreams were shattered and the trip back home was a torture.

Aliya Mir works at a multinational company and drives to and back from work in her 1800cc vehicle on a daily basis. Having her side mirrors stolen was a routine affair for her, but one fine day when she stepped out of her office and reached her car, she realised that the driver’s side window was smashed and her in-car entertainment system along with the air conditioning vents and knobs were missing. She had to drive back home without any air conditioning and an empty space where she once had her expensive entertainment system installed.

Although the car was insured and she would get the stolen items compensated for, but it was the mental agony and the fact that someone actually broke into her car and stole something that belonged to her that bothered her.

Such instances are now a routine activity for Karachiites. Be it outside a mosque, a mall, grocery store, marriage halls and banquets, bank or even your own houses, no place is safe and these robbers strike with impunity. A little research on this rapidly growing crime has revealed the following facts:

Types of criminals

These are not your regular muggers or street criminals. These are instead a group of highly skilled technicians, who have connections with vendors operating in the automobile parts and accessories markets in Saddar, Sher Shah etc.

They have the required skills to disarm a vehicle’s security system, dismantle different types of frames and compartments (be it an old one or a brand new model), in a matter of few seconds and get away with the loot.

Modus operandi

These criminals work in pairs. They ride pillion on a motorbike and as soon as they spot an unattended car in a secluded neighbourhood, one of them – the tech guy – moves towards the targeted vehicle while the other one is on a lookout duty to keep an eye out on any law enforcers, owner of the car or the general public.

The tech guy circles around the car to make sure that no one is watching and then assesses the security system of the vehicle. Experienced ones enter the car by breaking the rear quarter vent and make it to the front portion.

The entire dismantling and escaping the crime scene takes hardly 20 seconds. Most of these criminals use proper tools and will leave your car unscratched, taking just the stereo system/ entertainment system only or most of the time, the entire air conditioning panel.

Side mirrors are easier to steal. All that is required is a small screwdriver and a little bit of expertise. Some of them are quite ruthless and do not hesitate in chipping off the entire frame, which again takes just a few seconds.

What kinds of cars get targeted?

These criminals target different models of Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Honda City and from the imported category of vehicles, their target vehicles include Toyota Premio, Allion, Belta, Vitz and even Toyota Fortuner. The latest models come with panels that can very easily be dismantled without even using many tools, which makes it more convenient for thieves to get their job done in a matter of a few seconds.

What should the general public do?

Those who can afford should drive in the company of domestic help or be driven by a chauffeur. It would be safer if the car needs to be parked in open or at an unguarded location. Installing one of those security systems with sensors and remote-controlled vibration alert systems can be of some help.

Smash-proof films can be installed on the car windows that can stand blows and attempts of break-ins. Vendors of such films are located in Badar Commercial, Zamzama and Khadda Market.

One should be mindful that these criminals operate in pairs and one of them is mostly carrying a firearm. It is advised not to get into any kind of confrontation with them upon encounter. A safer option would be to raise alarm.

What can the police do?

All stolen parts are sold at Sher Shah and Saddar. If the police want to curb this menace, all they have to do is set up surveillance around and inside the markets dealing with used and stolen vehicle parts and catch the criminals on the spot.

Why they haven’t done so yet is, well, not hard to imagine.

from The Express Tribune Blog http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/30549/the-case-of-stolen-side-mirrors-and-stereo-systems/

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If you’re looking for a Tamasha – don’t watch this, if you’re looking for passion, this is your movie!

Watching the promo of Tamasha, I felt more than a little disappointed. Although I love Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone, the promo was a little too much like Yeh Jawani Hai Dewaani or any other Bollywood chick flick. After a mind-boggling and goose bump-triggering film like Highway, a chick flick is not what I would expect from Imtiaz Ali, hence the disappointment.

As a self-proclaimed writer myself, I have always looked up to Imtiaz Ali for his ability to write a simple story and turn it into something phenomenal on screen. Highway, I felt, was his magnum opus. So I decided not to judge Tamasha by its preview and give the movie a shot.

Tamasha means show, I assumed the film would be about theatre, as the name itself suggested and the trailer showed glimpses of the actors on stage. After watching the film, it would be safe to say that Tamasha is indeed about a show, just not the kind of shows performed on a stage but in fact the shows we perform in our everyday lives.

Photo: Tamasha Facebook page

The story is simple and you might think you’ve heard/seen it before, maybe because you have actually heard or seen it before or maybe because it is so incredibly relatable that it might feel a bit too familiar to you.

The story is about Ved (Ranbir Kapoor), a small boy fascinated by the fictional world where imagination has no boundaries or borders and where one can think of whatever one wants. He lives in his little world of stories, the characters in these stories seem real to him, more alive than the actual people around. When listening to or telling a story, he is oblivious to the mundane, real world where his inability to understand math and lack of focus on academics is a concern for his family.

Photo: Tamasha Facebook page

But, like many children, Ved’s fantasy world and imagination are put to an end by his family, customs and societal norms. A young man cannot be running around listening to and telling stories, he must study, become a doctor or an engineer and be a part of the race we are all eventually pushed into running. So Ved does what he is told, buries his passion for storytelling and becomes a robot. His life becomes mechanical, waking up, going to work, back to bed, repeat.

Photo: Tamasha Facebook page

It is when he takes a one-week trip to Corsica that Ved becomes his old self again. There he meets Tara (Deepika Padukone) and together they spend their week lying to each other, making up stories and playing characters. Tara falls for Ved for she sees him as a larger than life kind of person, who is witty, charming, talks to mountains and tells the most wonderful tales.

Photo: Tamasha Facebook page

However, once back in India, when Tara meets Ved (who is back to being the robot he was forced to become), she can barely believe he is the same person. They grow apart and that is when Ved begins to realise that what he has become and what he really should have been are two different people.

Photo: Tamasha Facebook page

Simply put, Tamasha is about passion versus duty. It is about who we are told to become versus who we really are. Life is a show, we are all playing different roles at different times, many a times these roles do not do justice to who we really are but we still put on a good face and carry on the act because the Tamasha must go on.

Imtiaz Ali brilliantly shows us flashes of Ved’s personality through contrasting scenes from his everyday work life, how he was in Corsica and how he was as a little kid in a world of stories.

From a dynamic and charming stud, to an average, engineer who trembles in hesitancy and intimidation, Kapoor could not have acted more brilliantly. He is perfect in each scene, especially when he talks to himself through the mirror. On one side of the mirror, he is his shaky, robotic self and on the other side, he is the passionate storyteller he was supposed to be. You can see his passion coming out when he sees himself in a mirror.

Photo: Tamasha Facebook page

Padukone is good in the role that she has but I feel her acting potential remained untapped. Ali could have used her potential more than he did and that was a little disappointing.

However, Ali likes the audience to really focus on one character so much so that you feel like you actually know them. Like Ved in Tamasha, Veera in Highway or Jordan in Rockstar.

Photo: Tamasha Facebook page

The songs of the movie have many different flavours. The fast tracks are fun and upbeat. The slower ones, however, grab the essence of the story. My favourites are Tu Koi Aur Hai sung by the powerhouse AR Rehman. The lyrics of this song capture the message of putting on masks and pretending to be somebody else.

Also, Safarnama is a beautiful track that plays in the background as Ved begins the journey to finding himself. It is sung by the soulful Lucky Ali, who lent his voice to a movie after a very long time.

As I was gripped to my seat till the very end, thinking about all the things Ali threw at us, forcing us to think, I could see rows and rows of the audience in the theatre confused or bored. I could hear people whispering to each other,

“Samajh nahi arahi yaar, tumko samajh arahi hai?”

(I don’t understand, do you?)

Or

“Deepika nay iss say shaadi kyun nahi ki bhai?”

(Why didn’t Deepika marry him?)

When people started leaving the hall before the movie ended, I realised it was probably because we, as movie-goers, only want to see dance numbers, songs, romance and the masala that Bollywood promises. If that is what you’re looking for, don’t go to watch Tamasha. Only go watch it if you’re prepared to think about what the story tries to makes you think.

I would give Tamasha a seven on 10 and hope writers like Imtiaz Ali continue to fascinate us with extraordinary tales of ordinary people.

from The Express Tribune Blog http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/30596/if-youre-looking-for-a-tamasha-dont-watch-this-if-youre-looking-for-passion-this-is-your-movie/

There can be no “war on terror” without “war on drugs”

Few have witnessed the senseless barbarity of ISIS without rhetorically asking what these brutes have been smoking recently. As it happens, this question is not only pertinent, but strategically impossible to ignore.

Captagon, although swallowed and not smoked, is a powerful amphetamine that’s historically landed Saudi Princes into massive scandals. The illicit drug is popular in the Middle East as it’s relatively cheap and easy to manufacture, and serves as an effective stimulant for, say, a militant who has to stay up all night looking out for incoming Russian fighter planes.

Turkish authorities have recently seized nearly 11 million Captagon pills near the Syrian border. The similar haul was intercepted last year by Lebanese forces – 12 million pills on their way from Syria to the Lebanese ports, from where they were intended to be distributed around the Gulf. Saudi Arabia alone seizes about 55 million of these a year.

It has long been understood that wars and drugs go hand in hand. For every war you recall, one can Google the staple drug that went with it. The American civil war produced 400,000 morphine-addicted soldiers, since morphine was liberally used back then as an anaesthetic. The civil war in Sierra Leone gave rise to armies of child soldiers high on ‘brown-brown’, a mixture of cocaine and gunpowder.

Some wars were nearly exclusively about the drugs for which they are now known, namely the Opium Wars between the Chinese and British. Speaking of the latter, it ought to be noted that drugs have not only fuelled wars, but colonialism as well. Until the 1920s, the British traded heavily in opium, not just spices, cultivated in India.

Lebanon’s Bekaa valley has long been known as a centre of production of illicit drugs distributed through the region. But since 2011, the production has been overtaken by Syria, particularly by the radical Islamist groups operating in the region. The profits are used to purchase arms.

Analysts have long understood that drugs fuel wars around the world, but the inverse can be just as true. Wars create a market for illicit drugs that can be used to either enhance combat capabilities, or calm the nerves of militants and soldiers suffering from the effects of war. For any terrorist organisation to be able to endure and prosper, there are far more skills involved than knowing how to make a bomb; one needs to know how to cultivate illicit crops, manufacture drugs, and manage their export and distribution.

Many of the drugs smoked, snorted or injected in urban streets, can be traced back to not just to the drug mafia, but terrorist organisations like the Taliban. It is well known how the Taliban have profited from heroin production and sales, with Afghanistan being responsible for roughly 90 per cent of all opium production (which is chemically processed to produce heroin) around the world.

The result is a vicious cycle of wars generating drugs, drugs creating social and political turmoil, and turmoil fuelling the conflicts.

In this sense, it is difficult to ignore the futility of the ironically named “war” on drugs, under which drug use hasn’t dwindled as much as it’s simply been redistributed across different regions.

It’s worth pointing out here that a useful strategy agreed upon by notable economic, security, and even psychiatric experts, is to de-criminalise common ‘soft drugs’ like marijuana (and more recently in Pakistan, shisha) that have limited addiction-potential and fewer adverse effects. The idea is both to unburden the law enforcement system so it has more resources to tackle drugs like Captagon and heroin, while being able to directly tax and regulate the soft drugs, and cut dangerous cartels out of the equation.

Most drugs are fairly simple to produce. The trick is to control the market, by stabilising the political and social dynamics of a region.

But political upheaval and social decay follow the wake of every battalion. It’s in the dust cloud left behind a militant’s boots, that we find a bustling market for either numbing people’s pain, or granting them a boost of raw energy needed to fight.

With such vicious synergy, it is impossible for us to talk of drug control, without war control being on the table as well.

from The Express Tribune Blog http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/30581/there-can-be-no-war-on-terror-without-war-on-drugs/

Women, power, privilege and Black Friday videos in Pakistan

Every year during the US post-Thanksgiving Day Black Friday sales, videos of brawls in the midst of the shopping madness at “big box” stores like Walmart and Target go viral.

This year in Pakistan, on the same day, a video was widely shared of women fighting during a one-year anniversary sale at the retail store Sapphire, which claims to provide “affordable designer clothes to the masses”.

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The Sapphire sale — like the door-buster Black Friday sales at Walmart— is designed to create a mad rush. Sapphire marked down limited, heavily-marketed and widely-desired products by 50 per cent. If you didn’t get to the item first, you wouldn’t get it at all.

Why aren’t oil companies apologising for the oil spills in Nigeria?

The current world economy is structured in such a way that the fossil fuel industry has unquestionable hegemonic power. Developed and developing economies alike need energy to sustain and grow. This energy market is monopolised by the fossil fuel industry.

Oil, natural gas and other energy producing fossil fuels have not only helped build some of the biggest companies in the world, but have also aided the development and solidification of certain national economies like the Gulf states and Venezuela.

This monopoly in the energy sector seems to have given oil corporations power over states – allowing certain companies to be careless in cleaning up massive oil spills, such as the one in Ogoniland, Nigeria.

A recent Amnesty International report has accused the oil company of not implementing the clean-up recommendations by the UN. Of course, the oil company has denied all such claims.

One could argue that Nigeria has had a harder time dealing with its oil spill as compared to the United States, because of its weaker political clout in the international arena. In 2010, the US government made BP accept its moral responsibility for the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and fined the company $18.6 billion for a one-time occurrence. Whereas in Nigeria, there have been a number of oil spills and nobody has taken full responsibility.

UNEP report says that cleaning up Ogoniland might take up to 30 years.

That’s three decades of hard work to rectify the destruction caused by an aloof and irresponsible corporation. Damage to the environment to this degree is absolutely criminal and there should be some form of retribution.

Yet, nothing has happened. The world sleeps while Ogoniland becomes inhabitable.

Oil spills can be extremely damaging for the environment, as evidenced by environmental damage caused in Nigeria and the Gulf of Mexico, but for me, the bigger problem is oil itself. Oil companies are surreptitiously causing an even bigger environmental hazard by emitting Green House Gases (GHGs) into the atmosphere. Moreover, their hold over the global economy and their power grabbing ways has made it difficult for the world to endorse renewable energy.

While many countries are trying to reach a deal for the future of our planet in Paris, big oil has been constantly lobbying to make it difficult for an agreement to be reached. Fortunately for us, they are fighting an evolving economy, one that won’t have much room for them in the future.

The elephant in the room, and the third reason to be wary of fossil fuels, comes from a seventh grade geography book – fossil fuels are called non-renewable energy sources because there is a finite amount that we can dig up. Oil wells will eventually run dry, and when they do, the world economy will be in a flux.

In fact, even before the wells dry up, we can foresee a situation where demands would far exceed the supply and prices would start shooting up. The process has already begun.

We are all well aware of the fact that a scarcity of resources can lead to intense competition and outbreak of violence. One of the reasons for the civil war in Syria has been the diminishing supply of water in rural areas.

Unfortunately, a recent study has revealed that Pakistan has much higher oil and shale gas reserves than what was previously known. For me, this finding is a curse disguised as a natural resource blessing. As the world moves closer to an agreement on climate at the Conference of Parties (COP) in Paris, the prevailing economic structure in the world is going to have a fundamental transformation, where renewable and green energy sources will eventually completely phase out fossil fuels. While big oil is spending hundreds of millions trying to promote the fossil fuel industry, public opinion in developed countries like the US is definitely in favour of action against climate change.

Having said that, let’s bring the issue back home.

Why should Pakistan care about climate change and big oil?

Given that we have vulnerable areas and people are already being affected by climate change, we need to become cognisant of our environmental situation. Although, all of us would certainly like the idea of having some of our own oil to ensure self-sufficiency in the energy sector, we desperately need to allocate some of our resources into developing renewable forms of energy in the country.

from The Express Tribune Blog http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/30469/why-does-the-world-not-care-about-the-oil-spills-in-nigeria-why-arent-oil-companies-apologising-for-the-oil-spills-in-nigeria/

He Named Me Malala is the story of an ordinary girl who made a tough choice

“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

This bit of wisdom comes from Paulo Coelho, in his bestseller, The Alchemist.

The other day when I was watching the film He Named Me Malala, the incredible story of the youngest Noble laureate and activist for education from the Swat district of Pakistan, Coelho’s wise words echoed in my heart. I realised that once an individual decides to stand up with courage and conviction for a great cause, nothing can stop him/her from achieving their goals. One just needs to conquer the fear of failure.

He Named Me Malala is directed by the Academy Award winner Davis Guggenheim who spent 18 months with Malala and her family for this project. The documentary covers Malala’s family life in her adopted home in Birmingham and her journey from the assassination attack by the Taliban to her United Nations address, receiving the Noble Peace Prize and beyond.

I believe the documentary challenges stereotypes at many levels. It has educated millions, like me, to examine our traditional worldview.

Here’s how her story is important.

It challenges the ills of gender discrimination and speaks for all women.

We live in a patriarchy where men are supposed to lead in almost every walk of life. The birth of a girl is often unwelcomed in certain villages. When it comes to remote areas, girls remain deprived of proper education and even nutrition, and they have little or no role in making their own decisions. That is evident from the fact that we hear the tragic news of vaniswara and karo kari so very often.

Ziauddin Yousafzai, Malala’s father, however, chose a different path. He didn’t clip her wings, instead he felt proud when she was born. He provided her with education and blessed her with equal opportunities. He didn’t impose anything on her. Malala herself chose this challenging path for herself. He, an educational activist, let Malala speak up, not only for herself but for girls all over the world.

Malala’s story proves one can change the world, and that age and gender are not hurdles.

She started writing Urdu blogs for BBC with the pseudonym Gul Makai in 2009At that time, she was just 12-years-old. Those were difficult days; the Taliban had issued threats against girls’ education and had blown up schools. Moreover, the sight of public execution and headless corpses was common, and the writ of the state was nowhere. While everyone was scared, Ziauddin remained firm and continued to run his schools. Malala started penning blogs highlighting the atrocities of the Taliban and shared her dream to continue education.

Despite being shot in the head, she refused to be shunned. Instead her voice reached the far corners of the world. She is now no more a lone voice from the remote region of Swat but a global ambassador of change.

She is helping build a much needed bridge between the Muslim world and the West.

Malala is a proud Muslim and a Pakistani. She, in her traditional attire and covered head, represents the culture and common women of Pakistan. She has presented a positive image of Pakistan wherever she has gone. She has shown the world that there are Muslims who are struggling for a peaceful world and need support from the global community.

She was asked in the film,

All this time, you’ve never felt angry?”

She replied,

No. Not even as small as an atom. Or maybe a nucleus of an atom. Or maybe a proton. Or maybe a quark.”

Malala Yousafzai, named after Malalai of Maiwand, the Anglo-Afghan war hero, has turned into a symbol of the hope for millions of women across the world. 

Her campaign is no longer limited to Swat, but has become a powerful voice for more than 60 million girls who are deprived of education. She is a source of inspiration for them. They believe if Malala can do it, they can do it too.

Malala Fund, her organisation, has initiated education projects for girls in Kenya, Nigeria and Pakistan, as well as Syrian refugee girls who have moved to Jordan and Lebanon.

Not so long ago, people across the globe used to respond negatively to my country on social media. Now, I feel proud telling them that I belong to Malala’s Pakistan. However, it disheartens me when some of my fellow countrymen believe in silly conspiracy theories and speak ill of her.

The documentary He Named Me Malala is a great source of inspiration for children, especially girls. I urge all schools to show it to their students. She is living proof of the fact that heroes do exist, and they’re just as ordinary as you and me. She goes to school, she does her homework, she plays Candy Crush and card games with her family, she uses Google, she smiles and cries as well.

He Named Me Malala is the story of an ordinary girl who made a tough choice and stood up for a cause larger than life. And that makes all the difference.

from The Express Tribune Blog http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/30571/he-named-me-malala-is-the-story-of-an-ordinary-girl-who-made-a-tough-choice/

A lesson in entrepreneurship: From the Khoka at LUMS to Monal in Islamabad

Luqman Afzal is a graduate from the BSc class of 2002. He graduated with a major in Economics and minor in Social Sciences. During his time at LUMS, his entrepreneurial spirit was nurtured and to date he has continued to cultivate his zest for entrepreneurship. He is fast paving his way up the hospitality industry in Islamabad. Here he talks about his journey, from managing a cafe at LUMS to establishing a fine dining restaurant.

“It still seems like yesterday, though it has been 14 years, when I asked my father for money to buy the LUMS Khokha Inc shares. Buying shares of this facility and operating it for 18 months provided me with my first practical exposure to the real world of business, very early in life.”

Afzal recalls going to the LUMS GM Administration’s office every day, to get a telephone extension sanctioned for the Khokha in order to start free-delivery to hostels. He is very proud of his achievements during his first venture because he transformed a plain snack bar into an elaborate café, offering both ready-to-serve and gourmet meals, with the price of its shares having increased more than five-fold by the time he graduated in 2002.

“After completing my BSc, I continued my business career by developing, on lease from the Government of the Punjab, a family recreational area at Saint Mary’s Park, Gulberg, Lahore in October 2002. I wanted to offer entertainment opportunities for families; something more than just dining out. F-1 Traxx offered recreational facilities catering to all ages: remote control cars on tracks, battery-operated cars for children to drive, E-scooters and petrol quad bikes for teenagers to ride, a snooker/pool lounge, and many other others,” said Afzal.

Along with these facilities, he also set up a restaurant, based on the traditional village theme, which offered a complete range of barbeque, Pakistani gourmet cuisine, fast food, and pizza, along with a large variety of drinks. The meals were served on the best quality clay crockery, provided immaculate service and most importantly the hygiene and sanitation of the kitchens were ensured to maintain the food quality.

In August 2004, Afzal leased another project within the premises of the same park. This was a skeletal cement structure, which, in conformity with the country theme, he transformed into a tree house by decorating it with wooden logs, timber planks, rope and by letting Jacarandas and Gold Mores grow all around it. Within this tree house, he placed chimes that tinkled with the breeze and subtle lights that created an ethereal ambience. A unique concept in Lahore, the tree house turned out to be a huge success.

In June 2005, Afzal decided to bid for a project in Islamabad which changed the course of his life.

“The Capital Development Authority published an advertisement in leading national newspapers in June 2005 inviting expressions of interest from parties with relevant experience to lease and operate a restaurant at Pir Sohawa. This was a great opportunity for me, not merely in terms of business, but to achieve my dream of establishing a world-class, fine dining restaurant. I was apprehensive that not many people would want to travel so far, on a perilous climb, just to eat out. I reconsidered my plans but there was something about the verdant serenity of the silent Margallas that allured me and I took the plunge, and sent in my bid. Twelve parties submitted their proposals and after detailed evaluations and various presentations, three parties were short listed and I won the bid.

My first task after getting the official possession of the restaurant was to equip the designated kitchen areas with the best and the most modern kitchen machineries so that it could serve a menu which would suit the cosmopolitan city of Islamabad and the people who would visit it from within and outside Pakistan. The kitchens comprised different food sections and were made to serve Pakistani dishes as well as International cuisine.”

Afzal recalls the various issues he had to resolve while setting up the restaurant.

“The first task was acquiring water for the restaurant. We used mineral water for cooking, but tap water was required for dishwashing, for washrooms and for the cleaning of the huge outdoor area. Cleanliness and hygiene, especially of the washrooms, is one of critical importance in the hospitality industry. However, water was not available anywhere near the premises, so he had to procure it from the Gokina Village, which is situated four kilometres downhill.”

Since the restaurant was required to meet international culinary standards, the next most crucial requirement was Sui Gas for the kitchens. A multinational company was taken on board to provide bulk cylinders of liquid LPG. To date, liquid gas comes in tankers to The Monal and costs six times as much as the commonly used Sui Gas. The pressure declines in the winters as liquid LPG freezes, owing to which, extra commercial cylinders have to be used in winters to maintain the pressure.

Initially, approximately 150 people were hired from the surrounding villages. The intention behind hiring local staff was to integrate the local people with The Monal in such a way that the social and economic benefits that the restaurant would generate could flow down directly to the local populace and contribute towards its socioeconomic uplift. Apart from direct recruitment, the locals were also involved in indirect ways. For instance, the contract for managing laundry (clean linen and uniforms for the staff on a daily basis) was given to them along with contracts for other supplies of local produce such as milk, seasonal vegetables etc.

The experienced restaurant managers trained and groomed the raw, and sometimes uncouth, staff that was not even aware of the basic norms of the hospitality industry. An eight-hour course was designed for them on personal hygiene, proper wearing of uniforms, professional body language, posture discipline, table layout, service manners etcetera. They were trained not just through instruction, but also through practicals.

The Monal had only just started gaining popularity amongst the residents and diplomats of Islamabad, when the Marriot Attack took place in September 2008. With this tragic event, the scenario of Islamabad’s social life changed altogether. A police check post was created on every major road, as the terrorists continuously threatened to target important public spots and official buildings. During this period, the restaurant incurred heavy losses – both in financial terms as well as in terms of morale. However, the situation eventually improved and The Monal once again started taking flight towards the mid of 2010.

“The Monal emerged as an ambassador of Pakistan. Any foreign delegation visiting Pakistan on the invitation of the Foreign Office, Board of Investment and many other ministries, was brought here to experience the positive side of Pakistan. Any foreigner, who came with the impression of Pakistanis being terrorists, witnessed a perfect civic society, which could live in harmony and coherence, and tolerate each other’s different religious beliefs and backgrounds. The restaurant displayed the human face of Pakistan – people from different parts of the country, speaking different languages, sitting together with families and enjoying the environment in the most civilised manner.”

Afzal shared that a significant reason underlying The Monal’s attraction and success is its affordability. This factor was, in fact, kept in mind while pricing the menu. The restaurant has expanded to catering events as well, with its two marquee halls. Apart from that, the company is also involved with an amusement project at Lake View Park under the name of F-1 Traxx, Islamabad.

“The company presently employs 900 people, which I consider my biggest achievement. The most interesting fact is that The Monal’s team of 450 people is being headed by the same person who used to warm pizza slices at the Khokha and F-1 Traxx. Islamabad’s team, which comprises 150 people, is being headed by the person who used to be the cashier at the Khokha at LUMS. I am proud to have groomed people to hold higher positions.”

Talking about entrepreneurship, Afzal said that it is ‘all about consistency’. He advised aspiring entrepreneurs to not get disappointed if the business does not start paying back from the first day as no business starts paying back immediately.

“Take initiatives, work hard with clear intentions, and then leave the rest to God. A strong belief in your ideas and then a continuous struggle to make other people believe in them, coupled with the ability to fearlessly execute these ideas in a professional manner is perhaps what turns your dreams into reality. Your success is not just the amount of money you are making at the end of the day but also the social contributions you are making and the job opportunities your business is creating,” said Afzal.

The post originally appeared here.

from The Express Tribune Blog http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/30488/lums-grad-narrates-his-journey-from-the-khoka-to-the-monal-from-a-khoka-in-lums-to-the-monal-luqman-afzal-conquers-the-entrepreneur-ladder/