Item(s) for August, 2008

Aug 21,2008

By By Azeem Samar

More than 200 national and international organisations dealing in defence related products and services will be participating in the fifth International Defence Exhibition and Seminar (IDEAS) 2008, to be held in November. However, the organisers are claiming that they are focusing on a host of measures in order to lessen the inconvenience that may arise for the general public in the five-day duration of the seminar.

Due to the extraordinarily heightened security during previous IDEAS events, especially the last one held from November 21, 2006 to November 24, 2006, the inhabitants of the areas in the vicinity of Karachi Expo Centre and commuters of the arteries around the exhibition venue had to face serious hardships. Reaching two important healthcare institutions of the city i.e. Liaquat National Hospital and Aga Khan Hospital virtually became a mission impossible due to the extensive closure of roads around the exhibition venue.

Citizens have serious reservations as why a venue in the virtual centre of Karachi, with a consistent track record of sabotage activities, was chosen for such a massive assembly of sensitive defence equipment, military hardware, mechanised weapons, and armed forces personnel from the country and abroad. “The IDEAS organisers have no right to virtually put on hold the life and business of the people inhabiting or owning shops near the Expo Centre,” said Naeem Qureshi who lives near Hassan Square on University Road just across the centre.

“It is a much advisable option that the event be relocated to a properly allocated space or exhibition area near Super Highway, Malir Cantonment, or even in the vicinity of Islamabad where the movement of VIPs and military hardware will not cause such unbearable and colossal discomfort to the masses for several days,” said Qureshi who also runs an event management firm.

The fifth IDEAS will be held from November 24 to November 28 this year including the day of the inauguration ceremony. The event organisers, however, will have a tough job selecting the chief guest for the ceremony as Pervez Musharraf will not be around to grace the occasion. He was the principal protagonist and patron of the arms and had attended every IDEAS exhibition since 2000. “It has been the affairs of only presidents and prime ministers to grace as chief guests at different IDEAS events. This time around again such VVIPs will be invited for the opening and proceedings of the exhibition,” said an associated event manager.

Captain Siddiq Akbar, a spokesman for the Defence Export Promotion Organisation (Depo) the organiser of IDEAS, said on Monday that so far no chief guest had been chosen for the inaugural ceremony. Dr Kursheed Nizam who is President of the E-Commerce Gateway, the event manager of IDEAS, told The News that almost 98 per cent of the stalls, pavilions, and other spaces available for the event had been reserved by the prospective exhibitors of armed and related products from the country and abroad. Some 65 per cent of the 200 participating companies whose military hardware and defence-related products will be on display during the exhibition, are of foreign origin.

The exhibitors of military equipment are from USA, UK, China, Turkey, South Korea, Italy, France, South Africa, Romania, Sweden, Belgium, Ukraine, Russia, Brunei, Thailand, Malaysia, and Canada. The Depo has sent invitations for official participation of the governments, concerned ministries, and departments of 80 countries, said Akbar.

In the 2006 exhibition, 221 defence manufacturing firms from 27 countries participated with 148 foreign and 73 domestic companies. Some 30,000 armed service personnel, concerned professionals, and analysts visited the fourth IDEAS exhibition inaugurated by the then president and chief of army staff Pervez Musharraf.

Mussadiq Aziz, who was himself involved in IDEAS 2006 as manager of the stall of an exhibitor, some two years back had to face serious inconvenience in reaching the Aga Khan Hospital where his wife was undergoing treatment. His ordeal started at least three days prior to the inauguration of the event, as he could not avail the normal passages through the Habib Ibrahim Rahimtoola Road or any road near the Civic Centre to reach the hospital.

“Such advance tools and systems of surveillance and security are now available in the country, that there is no need of the complete closure of roads in a radius of lets say five-kilometres around a high-profile exhibition area like that of IDEAS,” said Aziz who himself is experienced in event management. He said that during the fourth IDEAS exhibition, owing to a disruption in the shuttle bus service, the exhibitors, organisers, and visitors at times had to walk for 20 minutes from the National Coaching Centre where the parking facility was developed for the mega event.

In a written communication from the Depo Headquarters in Rawalpindi, the following measures have been taken for minimum disturbance to the people of Karachi when conducting the exhibition this year. The Depo is in liaison with the Karachi Traffic Police in order to maintain a smooth flow of traffic during the entire exhibition, with a minimum closure of roads in the vicinity of the Expo Centre.

The timings of the exhibition have been kept during the non-rush hours so as to avoid traffic gridlocks at Sharea Faisal. The Depo is also going to be in close liaison with the FM radio channels to give live updates to the public about closed routes and roads to avoid any traffic jams while suggesting alternate routes.


Aug 20,2008

“Season 3 of e2 design comprises six episodes: a profile of Aga Khan’s Al-Azhar Park in Cairo, a 500-year-old dump-turned-”urban lung”; Canadian architect Brian MacKay-Lyons, who applies Nova Scotia’s design pragmatism to projects around the world; Melbourne’s transformation from a tired, vacant city into a thriving, sustainable metropolis; the inspired efforts of world-class architect Renzo Piano to integrate the natural world into his design for San Francisco’s elegant, environmentally responsive natural history museum; the efforts to rebuild New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward in a way that is environmentally, culturally and socially sustainable; and the visionary Amsterdam architects transforming recycled materials into modern design masterpieces.”

Look for the series to debut on PBS starting August 22nd. More details available here.

Aug 13,2008

microsoft-logo.PNGYesterday at Microsoft HQ, Michael Rawding, vice president of the Unlimited Potential Group at Microsoft, and Iqbal Noor Ali, CEO of the Aga Khan Foundation U.S.A., signed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate in the development of innovative technology solutions and human resource capacity through education, health, civil society, financial services, rural livelihoods and economic development programs in Africa, South and Central Asia.

The working collaboration between the Microsoft Unlimited Potential Group and the Aga Khan Foundation U.S.A. reflects a shared goal to expand the social and economic opportunities of underserved communities, irrespective of race, religion, political persuasion or gender.

As an initial area of collaboration, the two organizations will focus on education with the establishment of a global information and communication technology (ICT) strategy for the network of 18 Aga Khan Academies. The first Aga Khan Academy was inaugurated in 2003 in Mombasa, Kenya. Additional primary and secondary schools are in development in 14 countries across Africa, the Middle East, and Central and South Asia over the next 10 to 15 years.

Microsoft plans to provide technical assistance and advisory services to the academies and explore new ways that ICT can help enable quality education and teachers’ professional development, which may include Microsoft’s Partners in Learning program and Microsoft’s Digital Literacy Curriculum. Microsoft also will collaborate with the Aga Khan Foundation in Pakistan and East Africa to help enhance the quality and availability of math, science and technology education programs, as well as to expand digital access through Community Technology and Learning Centers (CTLCs).

“Today’s most pressing issues of social and economic development require more than traditional philanthropy,” Ali said. “Our agreement with Microsoft today marks a joint, long-term commitment to help the most vulnerable in society with the most innovative, appropriate solutions and technologies at our disposal.”

To promote rural economic development, the two organizations plan to help expand access to information and technology through the Aga Khan Foundation’s existing Rural Support Programs. Microsoft and the Aga Khan Foundation also will explore areas of joint research into new technologies relevant to rural populations and ways to raise awareness about the needs of the underserved rural segment among software developers in universities and around the world.

“If we are to meet our goal of reaching the next 5 billion people around the world who are not yet realizing the benefits of technology, it is critical that we look at innovative partners which span communities and geographies,” Rawding said. “We are thrilled that the Aga Khan Foundation U.S.A. will work with the Unlimited Potential Group to help address the needs of the marginalized urban and rural communities in Africa, South and Central Asia.”

Other areas of collaboration include the expansion of youth empowerment programs and shared best practices in ICT skills to help strengthen the development capacity of civil society organizations (CSOs) and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). The first joint project in this area will take place in Tanzania, with the support of the International Youth Foundation. Microsoft and the Aga Khan Foundation also have agreed to jointly explore quality healthcare initiatives and how ICT can help expand outreach and lower costs for financial services for the poor (such as microcredit and savings, microinsurance, and other services).

The two organizations already have collaborated with success on projects in Egypt and India, where they have helped to open CTLCs for marginalized rural and urban areas, offering youth empowerment programs that provide vocational training programs in ICT and advanced courses for professionals to become Microsoft Certified Technology Specialists at the University of Central Asia. The Memorandum of Understanding signed today will expand upon the collaboration efforts between Microsoft and the Aga Khan Foundation to help empower more communities with the ICT access that can create new social and economic opportunities.

Aga Khan Foundation U.S.A., established in 1981, is a private, nondenominational, nonprofit international development organization committed to the struggle against hunger, disease and illiteracy. The Foundation works to address the root causes of poverty by sharing innovative solutions and by supporting over 100 programs in health, education, rural development, civil society and the environment primarily in East Africa and South and Central Asia. Using community-based approaches to meet basic human needs, the Foundation builds the capacity of community and nongovernmental organizations to have a lasting impact on reducing poverty.

The Foundation is an agency of the Aga Khan Development Network, a network of private, nondenominational, development agencies around the world, established by His Highness the Aga Khan, working to empower communities and individuals to improve living conditions and opportunities, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, Central and South Asia, and the Middle East. The Network’s nine development agencies focus on social, cultural and economic development for all citizens, regardless of gender, origin or religion. The AKDN’s underlying ethic is compassion for the vulnerable in society. Its annual budget for social development is in excess of $300 million (U.S.).