Quota for women in medical colleges

Published in The Frontier Post  on 2 November 2014


Every year we have an orientation day for the new entrants in the university. After they have been introduced with the faculty and informed about the university rules, they are allowed to ask questions. Few years back one student asked a question that, “Why can’t you limit the intake of girl students. They just get married after graduation whereas boys struggle to find a job with low merit” To this one of the faculty members simply replied “Who has stopped you from studying. Why don’t you work hard. Also, allow your wife to work once you get married”

On 27 September 2014 Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) made its new admission policy public. According to this new policy, girls will not be given more than 50 percent seats even if they are on merit. The reason behind this decision of PMDC was the fact that girls don’t practice medical due to various reasons. Instead of addressing the real problem the government has conveniently decided to kill merit. Its like calling a heart surgeon to treat a bone fracture. Medical is a profession where a little negligence or incompetence can lead to someone’s death. PMDC is now openly allowing incompetent men to enter the field of medicine to avoid competent females.

Due to increasing number of female students its about time that we address the reasons behind them leaving their professions. Its never easy for a a women who has burned the midnight oil to acquire higher education to leave her profession. She has to make a choice between her family and a career, and its always the family that wins.

Countries like United Kingdom allow women to take one year leave after giving birth to a baby. This gives women enough time to spend with her newborn and breastfeed the baby for one year as recommended by the health department. Although, Pakistan is a Muslim country and Islam directs woman to breastfeed her children, women are only allowed to take 12 weeks maternity leave. Lactation break during working hours have never been given due consideration by the organizations hiring women. The woman is not even settled in her new role as a mother when she is required to go back to her work. This often results in a constant feeling of guilt of ignoring her baby and leaving him at the mercy of maids at this young age. This guilt leads to the decision of leaving professional life for good.

There are not enough day care centers where women can leave their children while they go to work. Also, there are no after school clubs where children can be occupied while mothers are at their workplace. Flexible working hours for women with small kids should also be introduced. Facilitating women in carrying out their familial duties will automatically result in women pursuing their careers. It is important to understand that given the opportunity women can lead a very successful career and a very happy family life. It needs to be understood that if you want a women to work you cannot ask her to choose either family or career. She cannot stop being a mother and a wife if she chooses a career. Working environments need to be made conducive for women. Killing merit will not solve the problem. It will instead aggravate the problems due to the incompetent lot who don’t have the merit for the jobs they are doing. This decision of PMDC makes me afraid that it will set a precedent. Tomorrow Pakistan Engineering Council might issue similar notification. Such biased decision will only result in limiting opportunities for women in every sphere of life where they already have too little choices to make.


Trouble in the cloud leaves businesses tied to their servers

Published in the Conversation on 15 May 2014

Republished by phys.org on 16 May 2014


Cloud computing is being heralded as the next big thing. Gone are the days when people and businesses need to maintain expensive hardware to store their information, they can now pay someone else to look after it and access it whenever or wherever they like. But problems with the way the cloud operates are holding us back. Users are not quite ready to move completely to this brave new world because of some potentially serious glitches.

One particularly exciting feature of the cloud is the cost of using it. You spend money on storing information on someone else’s server rather than maintaining your own.

But the cloud has a significant caveat. It is essentially a black box. Users know little about its internal structure, how it functions and who has access to the data inside. We put information up there and hope it comes out again, without knowing anything about what happens in between.

Amazon Web Services, one of the biggest providers in the world, has tried to win the confidence of users by publishing information about its security mechanisms. But a look at this informationreveals that, due to the unpredictable nature of the internet, the company cannot guarantee the security of user data. The users are therefore responsible for protecting and backing up their content.

Careful reading of Amazon Web Services’ customer agreementshows that the company is not liable if your data is altered or deleted, nor if it is affected by any kind of security breach. The only thing the company promises in the service agreement is that the cloud will be available 99.95% of the time. If it isn’t, the customer gets compensation in the form of credit.

That means if the customer has paid upfront for using the cloud for ten hours, they are tied to the contract, even if the uptime was below 99.95%. All they get if the service was down is more time in the cloud. They don’t even get a refund.

This is a significant problem that could put customers off. If a business has stored large amounts of data in a cloud service and there is a fault, the cost of the downtime – even if it is very short – may be significant. It might even be more than the investment made in using the cloud service in the first place.

Getting locked into the wrong cloud in this way is a major concern for users and prevents them from adopting the new service. Due to the non-negotiable nature of service agreements, users have little recourse if things go wrong. The cloud service provider is always in a win-win situation.

We identified a number of other risks that cloud users might come across. These included the potential for insiders with malicious intent to access their data; difficulty accessing the data for other reasons; and the need to comply with certain standard set by the industry.

Problems like these could lead to financial losses, a loss of customer trust, damage to business reputation, losing company secrets and even the risk of going bust. The risks are huge and cannot be ignored.

Silver lining

Most of these problems can be solved though, and the solution lies in the agreements users make with cloud providers.

A university, for example, is subject to the freedom of information act in the UK. That means it has certain obligations relating to how it handles data. A university cannot afford to send its data to any cloud whose data centres are based outside the European Union because of the Data Protection Act 1998. Those servers may be based in a country that does not have the same regulations as the UK so the data may not be as secure.

Similar problems are faced by health authorities that need to store sensitive information about patients. Even organisations who store less sensitive information may have to deal with completely unanticipated problems if they store their information on servers in far away places.

For these reasons and more, a cloud service provider must inform potential customers if they send data to centres in other countries. For UK universities, this means stating if the centre is based outside the EU. The terms of service are the ideal place to raise this.

Since the cloud is a black box, customers have to rely on the information given to them in the terms of service to make decisions about whether to use the cloud. They also need to rely on the reputation of providers to decide which service to choose. This is of utmost importance because they are, in many respects, handing over the governance of their data to a private company.

At the moment, the terms of service offered by cloud providers are far too static. To make the adoption process work, it is important that they negotiate their terms of service with users according to their requirements.

Different organisations have different needs and that will have to be reflected in terms of service if our future really rests in the cloud. As well as stating where servers are, individual contracts should also be able to provide clear information to customers on any other factors that might undermine their commitments to local legislation.

Businesses want to use the cloud. It is a cost effective way to store the immense amount of data being created these days. But they are wary because of the risks still inherent in cloud adoption. Significant creases need to be ironed out before they can safely ditch their servers.

Banking hours for employees

The letter was published in Daily Dawn on 31 August 2013

This is apropos Hasan Shariq’s letter ‘Banking employees’ woes’ (Aug 27). The writer has well described the woes of the bankers.

I second his argument that the State Bank of Pakistan is extremely strict about bankers arriving at their workplace before 9 o’clock.

The job nature of bankers does not allow them to leave their work place during office hours in spite of the fact that the banks usually require their staff to be in office after office hours.

One may usually find the bank staff in their respective branches till 8pm. Decisions to open branches on Sundays usually happens for the collection of income tax and other government duties.

As a regulator senior SBP officials should make surprise visits to banks after office hours and if any staff is found in any bank’s premises, the bank should be fined.


Democracy in parties

The letter was published in Daily Dawn on 11 January 2008

THIS is apropos of Shahid Javed Burki’s article, ‘The obligation of political parties’ (Jan 8).

Mr Burki said he had given a presentation to the President-General (at that time) Pervez Musharraf about the implementation of a code of conduct drafted by himself and Mohammad Waseem.

I do not agree with his claim that the codes should be implemented by a person who has derailed the democratic process in Pakistan forcefully.

Further, if you state that democracy in political parties should come first, then I should add that there has always been democracy in the political parties of Pakistan as the Central Executive Committee of the Pakistan People’s Party has reposed their full confidence in its new chairman, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.

Please don’t always blame the political structure of Pakistan.

Let democracy reign in the country, and see that the other two forces – capital accumulation and human development for economic progress and modernisation – will also develop.


Warm hospitality

The letter was published in Daily Dawn on 21 December 2010

IN May 2008 China’s provinces Gansu and Sichuan had a devastating earthquake. The government of Pakistan had helped its brothers and sisters in China to overcome the miseries of that disaster.

To compliment Pakistanis, the Gansu province of China renamed their annual international sister city cultural exchange programme to cultural exchange programme. The programme was meant to invite the youth of different countries to see the Gansu province and the culture and traditions of Chinese society.

I was one of the Pakistani delegates who represented Pakistan in Gansu’s 2008 cultural exchange programme. I still remember the warm hospitality extended to the delegates by the government of Gansu, especially to Pakistani delegates.

Now when the prime minister of China visited Pakistan the other day, I would thank the people of Pakistan for extending their warmest hospitality
and would like to advise both the governments of China and Pakistan to work on such exchange programmes to groom agriculturalists, students, scientists, engineers, doctors, businessmen, military, etc.


Threat to the king

The letter was published in Daily Dawn on 12 December 2007

BAIRAM Khan, the Iranian noble, played a very important role in establishing Akbar’s rule in India during his early years in power. He asked the king to execute Hemu which Akbar refused and he himself went and decapitated Hemu.

This act posed a challenge to the king’s authority. He asked Bairam to go for Haj. Bairam Khan was executed on his way to Makkah.

This is one example when anybody who posed to be a threat to the king’s authority was given a chance to go for Haj and then disappeared.

The news of the Saudi ambassador meeting deposed chief justice Iftikhar, who declined a Haj invitation, sounds much like Bairam Khan’s story. It seems that we as a nation have not been able to come out from the primitive ages.

Today when we call the doffing of Musharraf’s uniform a ‘big step’, only God knows how many centuries it would take to get out of the authoritarian rule and bring true democracy where people will be allowed to decide and not be persecuted for belonging to different schools of thoughts.


Qualification of an electoral candidate

It is being proposed by many people that the electoral candidates should be educated to master’s degree level. These people conveniently forget that Pakistan has a very low literacy rate compared to other South Asian countries. With such literacy rate we cannot expect to have many master’s degree holders. Any attempt by the Election Commission to implement such condition for contesting elections would leave only a handful of people who were fortunate to have been educated in a university to contest election. This will be unjust decision because still more than fifteen percent children had never been enrolled in any educational facility according to the Pakistan Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2011. If this demand of graduate candidates is fulfilled than later it will be demanded that since people with university education can take better decisions, therefore they should be the only ones casting votes. This will negate a basic rule of democracy which says “Democracy is the government of the people, by the people, for the people”. The rule that the electoral candidate should be a graduate or postgraduate has not even been suggested in the most developed countries where every child is given equal right to education.


Accidental fire kills man

The news appeared in Daily Dawn 14 November 2008

SANGHAR, Nov 13: Former General Manager of the Pakistan Railways Yaqoob Ali Zardari died in an accidental fire in Jhando Khan Zardari village near Sarhari on Thursday.

Yaqoob Ali had taken his pedigreed dog for a stroll when area hounds tried to pounce on it. Just to scare the pack away, he hit a dog with his rifle’s butt. Somehow, trigger got pressed accidentally hitting the man in the chest. He was taken to the Aga Khan Hospital, Karachi but died.

Later, the body was brought to the village and buried in the local graveyard.

Yaqoob Zardari remembered

News appeared in the Daily Dawn 24th November 2008.


KARACHI, Nov 23 Speakers at a reference held here on Sunday paid tribute to Yaqoob Zardari for his services to Sindhi literature and history. Yaqoob Zardari recently passed away in Karachi.

The programme was organised by the Sindh Historical Society at the Mumtaz Mirza Hall.

Raees Hakim Ali Khan Zardari, who was the chief guest, said that Yaqoob Zardari was his brother and friend. He said that he was still mourning his untimely death and could not believe he was not in this world anymore.

Sindh Education Minister Pir Mazharul Haq said Mr Zardari was an activist from his student days and he developed a taste for history during his service.

Those who paid tribute to late Zardari included DG culture Monis Ayaz, Suleman Chandio, Sikandar Zardari and Shahnela Zardari.

Yaqoob Ali Zardari (1946-2008)

This obituary was written by Momin Bullo and was published in the Oct-Nov 2008 Issue of The Reporter Magazine


Mr. Yaqoob Ali Zardari, renowned historian & a retired senior official of Ministry of Railways died on 12th November in a tragic incident. He leaves behind a widow, four sons & three daughters and a vast number of friends & fans to mourn his death. I first saw him in early 1980s when he used to visit his son and my fast friend Sikander Ali Zardari at Cadet College, Petaro.

He got his early education from his native village Jhando Khan Zardari near Sarhari, District Nawabshah. To seek his matriculation he moved to Nawabshah’s then famous DC High School headed by late HM Khoja. He secured his intermediate from Govt. College, Kari Mori, Hyderabad. He did his B.E (Civil) from Sindh University Engineering College in 1971, and was subsequently employed as sub-engineer in local government department in Sanghar. His stay in the local government department was brief and soon he qualified Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC) & became Assistant Engineer in Railways. Major part of his service spent in Sukkur in different capacities.

His services mainly centered in his native province. However, whenever the wind blew hot (in the absence of PPP government) he was treated as a kin of Mr. Asif Ali Zardari and was often placed on undeserving positions. But he never cared about and remained engaged in his literary activities. His taste for history & heritage was unmatching.

It was due to his keen interest and diehard efforts that the then PPP government sponsored “International Seminar on Kalhora Rule in Sindh” in 1996. He acted as its Secretary and published and prefaced as many as four books on the subject. The pattern in chief of the seminar was none other but Mr. Asif Ali Zardari.

My series of meetings with Mr. Zardari at his Hyderabad based residence before his departure to Karachi to act as Project Director Rail Cop, I found in him a voracious reader and a copious writer. The fact I judged from his lengthy conversation interrupted with frequent references from my book “Charles Napier Khaan Muhammadmian Soomray Tain”. Infact, I didn’t give him the copy of the said book but he got it from other source and read it thoroughly. During our meetings we also discussed on number of literary issues and also planned to bring out the compilation of varied investigation reports of train crashes that took place in Pakistan. He also disclosed me for having a copy of investigation report of Lahore Mail derailment incident, which took place in 1964 near Oderolal. It is pertinent to note that late Jam Sadiq Ali and Shahnawaz Junejo and others were arrested and trialed in this case.

After his retirement couple of years ago he silently sat to write his autobiography and signed an agreement with a publisher. The fact became known to the entire family and the friends when the publisher appeared in his funeral and disclosed the matter to his elder son Muhammad Ali. The book has been almost composed & its rear part was awaited when the tragic incident took author’s life.

Mr. Yaqoob Ali’s elder sons: Muhammad Ali & Sikandar Ali are reportedly working on the formation of “Yaqoob Ali Zardari Memorial Foundation” to carry forward his literary works. The editor and the entire management of ’The Reporter’, express deep sorrow & grief over the sad demise of Mr. Yaqoob Zardari & pray May Allah rest the departed soul in His peace & give strength to the bereaved family to bear the loss.