Light Within

making sense of social media mix

I am Pakistan

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ Friday, August 14, 2015, , links to this post

The village boy

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There are lessons in the first landscapes of every one's life. Mine was a vista of green paddy fields, smoking with Salt Range mist, against a setting of ribbon of River Jhelum which from distance looked like a shore of another land altogether. The rough, rugged hill range appeared uninviting against a sky withering with the morning, interrupted by the dawn's red and blue brush strokes. My first learning in life was also in the village.

In villages, people still live without roads or other civic amenities of this modern age. No telephone or the Internet (smartphone works in my village), even the electricity is the recent phenomenon; some are still without it. You see one village and you have seen all. This was the setting where I spent first twenty year of my life savoring the freedom of adulthood. It is where I decided what (and how) I wanted to do with life. It is where my brothers and friends live. It is where I return whenever my active life allows me to. It is where I want to settle and spend my future.
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posted by S A J Shirazi @ Tuesday, August 11, 2015, , links to this post

Historic Trilogy

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The first thought that came into my mind after visiting Okara can be described by four words: milk, butter, mammals and farms. Peers also told me the same. Besides Harappan ruins, I did not know the area. But one thing I did know, though, was that I should be happy to say goodbye to the place. Two years later, I felt drawn to the area and its people and it was very hard for me to part. There is so much to be seen, so much to be done. Above all, it has spirited, sincere and full-of-love people living in Gogera, Dipalpur and Pakpattan historic trilogy. The distances in the hinterland are short but the landscape is so enormous that it had to be studied in parts like a large mural seen by a child.


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posted by S A J Shirazi @ Tuesday, August 04, 2015, , links to this post

In Shalimar Garden with squirrels

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It's easy to love a place where residents make efforts to feed the squirrels. In the Shalimar Garden, a few senior citizens party with the squirrels every morning.

When my friend Hussain Qazi who is naturalist and a photographer told me about people feeding birds and squirrels, I planned to skip my ‘ritual morning walks’ and decided to visit Shalimar Garden instead; hopping to find more about the party with the squirrels.

The care and feeding of squirrels in Shalimar Garden is a recent phenomenon. Long overshadowed by heritage talk (it is on UNESO’s world heritage list), Shalimar Garden is overcrowded during day. Whether or not Shalimar Garden ultimately can maintain its past glory - and with it, an influx of foreign and local tourists - it's a surprisingly satisfying open space during early hour of the day.

Every morning, two charismatic old men, loaded with biscuits, rice and pluses came to the waiting population of birds and squirrels in the Shalimar Garden. They sit on the same benches and start throwing grins to the birds. When this is happening, one can see squirrels coming down from nearby trees for their breakfast and then those gentlemen dig deep down their satchels and take out biscuits and start feeding the squirrels. The tiny winy animals are so use to those caring hands that they jump to take the first bite.

One of the old men Fazal Karim – a retired primary teacher who lives in nearby Daroge Wala – explained me this phenomenon and said, “I am coming here for my morning walk every day for a long time now. I feed the bird population and squirrels and find them very friendly. I miss them and look forward to meeting them every day. I think they miss me too.”

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ Friday, July 31, 2015, , links to this post

What Matters Most, Men or Machines

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Developments in computer technologies, in the past decades, have had their impact on human life in more than one way. But where this increasing interaction between human beings and computers is leading and how is it defining the focus of research in the field are some of the valid fields of study that are likely to make difference in human lives in future.

The emergence of information technology (IT), the availability of the web, and the user friendly designs are rapidly increasing the use of computers. Despite odds like literacy, availability (and reliability) of phone connection and affordability, the use of computers is significantly increasing in Pakistan as well. E-mail, real-time text correspondence and voice exchange are already popular asides from word processing and spread sheets. But in Pakistan, most of the new concepts are still untested, which makes any analysis inconclusive.
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posted by S A J Shirazi @ Monday, June 29, 2015, , links to this post

Who Own Derawar Fort

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The historic Derawar Fort, enormous and impressive structure in the heart of Cholistan desert, is rapidly crumbling and if the immediate preventative measures are not taken, the edifice will be destroyed and the historians, researchers and sightseers deprived of the view of the legacy of the bygone era. Like so many other historic sites in the country, Derawar Fort is yet another sign of old times we are poised to loose forever due to the apathy of those who are responsible for its upkeep and preservation.

Before it disappears, once again, I was on my way to Cholistan: the place that is crucible of one of the world's oldest civilization, where some of the past secrets are hidden, where history is still active.

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ Thursday, June 25, 2015, , links to this post

Budget War

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Budget War and what is in it for common citizens


Annual budget in democracies is such an important event that involves every one. There is much hype and hoopla before and after. As the fiscal year comes to close and governments begin preparing the budget, economists start debating fiscal issues and policies in the media, pointing out the implications on national economy as a whole and effects on common population. Lots of interest is generated and masses wait for the budget statement with enthusiasm, hoping for the relief mainly. Other stallholders like industries and corporate sectors also try to influence the budget makers by highlighting their needs during the preparatory process.

But not much happens here. At least nothing seems to be happening. No body waits for the budget speech any more. For couple of past years, the federal budgets here have reduced to yet another official exercise devoid of any substance. They neither address long term development programs nor give any immediate respite to the commoners. All those who have been following the budget promises in the past will testify that whatever was announced can hardly be seen on ground.

People are not interested in the budget because budget exercise is not for the people of the country. There is nothing for us in the budget," says Abbas Khan, a senior citizen," its usual significance is lost over the last few years because of deregulation and privatization that de-links the utility prices (natural gas, electricity, oil, telecom and commodities) from the federal budget. These prices are fixed separately on quarterly, monthly and even fortnightly basis. We come to know when a vendor selling lady fringes (bhindi) tell that vegetable prices have shot up because prices of petrol have increased or when meat seller charges more on account of increase in the cost of iron ore." What has prices of petrol or iron ore to do with the lady fingerer or meat one wonders?
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posted by S A J Shirazi @ Monday, June 22, 2015, , links to this post

Signs of the past

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ Saturday, June 20, 2015, , links to this post

Fine Art of Mud Architecture

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The future lies in mud architecture. Though this sweeping statement may sound prehistoric, but it is very relevant to modern times. Building living spaces with mud is a tradition dating as back as the start of civilization. Some excellent examples from the Great Mosque - the world’s largest mud building and UNESCO’s World Heritage site – to the oldest surviving mud specimens found in the Harappa, Pakistan, show the continuous use of mud buildings.
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posted by S A J Shirazi @ Saturday, June 13, 2015, , links to this post

Markup and Cost Dispersion across Firms: Direct Evidence from Producer Surveys in Pakistan

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Two top researchers at the Lahore School of Economics have just published an article in the top economics journal in the world. Dr. Azam Chaudhry and Professor Shamyla Chaudry have just published an article entitled “Markup and Cost Dispersion across Firms: Direct Evidence from Producer Surveys in Pakistan,” in the prestigious American Economic Review (May 2015) along with coauthors David Atkin (UCLA), Amit Khandelwal (Columbia University) and Eric Verhoogen (Columbia University). The paper is the first from their world famous project on Sialkot soccer ball manufacturers and addresses the theoretical assumptions made by economists worldwide to estimate mark-ups. In this paper, the authors directly obtain mark-ups by surveying Pakistani soccer-ball producers. 

They document six important facts:
  1. Mark-ups are more dispersed than costs;
  2. Mark-ups and costs increase with firm size;
  3. The mark-up elasticity with respect to size exceeds the cost elasticity
  4. Costs increase with size because larger firms use higher-quality inputs
  5. Larger firms charge higher mark-ups because they have higher production shares of high-quality balls that carry higher mark-ups, and because they charge higher mark-ups conditional on ball type
  6. Correlations suggest marketing efforts are important for generating higher mark-ups.
This is one of the first times that Pakistani economists have published in top economics journals and shows that the Lahore School of Economics is at the forefront of global research. 

The paper can be accessed on the website of the American Economic Review here

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ Friday, June 05, 2015, , links to this post


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