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Na Maloom Afraad all set to do some damage at the box office

KARACHI: 

Much like the infamous ‘Na Maloom Afraad’ who wreak havoc in the country, producers of the film, Na Maloom Afraad will follow suit by entering the Eidul-Azha box office race as potential party spoilers.

Given that Shaan’s Operation 021, Shahid Kapoor’s Haider and Hritik Rohsan’s Bang Bang had already earmarked the Eidul-Azha week for their respective releases, the nature of the announcement of the release date of the film comes as a surprise.

The film marks the directorial debut of renowned ad-filmmaker, Nabeel Qureshi, and would be distributed by Eveready Pictures and Hum Films.

The decision to release the film was made public in a curtain raiser arranged for the movie at a local hotel in Karachi. Apart from the principal cast and crew of the film the event was graced by the presence of several members of the Pakistani film fraternity.

“We are confident that we have made a quality product, as we believe NMA is a completely original film with a great storyline. The rest is up to you (the audience) to ensure that Pakistani films such as NMA and Operation 021 do well at the box office and ensure that Eidul-Azha becomes a Pakistani film weekend,” stated the producer of the film, Fizza Ali Meerza.

The cast of the film comprises of veteran actors Javed Sheikh, Salman Shahid, renowned TV actor Fahad Mustafa along with newcomers Mohsin Abbas Haider and VJ Urwa Hocane.

NMA tells the story of Karachi and the chaos and madness that encircles the lives of the main characters played by Javed Sheikh, Fahad Mustafa and Mohsin Abbas Haider. The director was all praise for the cast and crew of the film and further stated that, “the unique selling point of the film is that it is a completely made in Pakistan film.”

To questions about how the film seems similar to several Indian films such as Hera Pheri and Delhi Belly, Nabeel Qureshi confidently answered, “Pakistani audiences are not used to seeing quality products when it comes to Pakistani films and whenever they see a film that is visually brilliant they tend to assume that it has either been made by or in India. We can assure you that it is  completely made in Pakistan.”

The event primarily served the purpose of a music launch for the movie but no song generated as much interest like that of the item song, ‘Billi’. The movie had already generated a lot of buzz when the news had broken that it would be featuring an item song performed by television actress, Mehwish Hayat.

The soundtrack of the film comprises of nine songs of which seven have been composed by the famed duo of Shani-Kami.

Javed Sheikh was of the opinion that this film would be a game changer in the Pakistani film industry commenting, “The film has a different story and is 100% original. If our dramas can be better than Indian TV serials then so can our films.”

The movie has already garnered a tremendous amount of exhibitor interest but cinema owners seem to be in a dilemma about which film to screen. The announcement to release the film on Eidul-Azha has not only taken cinemagoers by surprise but cinema owners as well.

An official of Capri cinema stated that they have signed a priority contract when it comes to the release of Pakistani films but they have already entered into a similar agreement with the producer of Operation 021 and due to a shortage of screens in Capri they might have problems accommodating NMA.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 7th, 2014.

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Life on Constitution Avenue: While some seek revolution, others search for clean toilets and a hot meal

ISLAMABAD: 

When the food comes, the men who are taller, better built, jostle their way to the front. The others wait silently. They take whatever food is left over in the end. Even as Constitution Avenue has become home to hundreds of supporters of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT), party workers say it is easy enough to distinguish between the two groups – especially at meal times, when vehicles loaded with rations arrive at the sit-ins.

“PAT workers follow whatever their leader tells them,” said Masood, a PTI worker from Kohat who works with the party’s central cell and is dealing with security arrangements at the sit-in. “The sun can be shining but they will agree if Dr Qadri says it is night time.”

He explains, “The PAT workers have a spiritual relationship with their leader while we have an ideological connection with the party. There is no option of saying ‘no’ in PAT, while PTI workers, like Javed Hashmi, are free to disagree with Imran Khan.” But, he says, this freedom is one of the reasons for the comparative indiscipline between PAT and PTI workers, especially when food is distributed.

Supporters say many local workers have tried to help wherever they can and they have not slept hungry throughout the sit-in. One female volunteer regularly arrives at the sit-in venue bearing food, they say, while other local workers have invited protestors to their homes to eat breakfast, lunch or dinner.

These visits get protesters a hot meal, as well as an added bonus: access to toilet facilities. “We have had no washrooms since the rally changed its location from Parade Avenue to Constitution Avenue,” said 23-year-old Hamza Khan, who came to Islamabad via Peshawar when the Azadi March began.  He does what many others do, hiding behind trees and bushes when nature calls. “Had the party workers come to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, we would have opened our doors to them,” says Hamza’s friend Rahatullah, also 23 years old. “But today is the first day since the sit-in that I was invited to someone’s home to use the washroom.”

Bakht Nasir, a 25-year-old M Phil student at Quaid-e-Azam University, says he has taken many party workers to his hostel for short stays. “It is banned in my dorms, but since many of the workers are my age, it has not been a problem entering the university grounds,” he says. Others have taken to social media, posting messages on sites like Facebook or Twitter sharing their residential address and giving party workers permission to use the facilities at their homes.

Adnan Athar, a resident of Rawalpindi, said that while PAT workers have remained at the venue throughout the sit-in, PTI workers arrive in the evening and usually depart around midnight. “I have taken many of the PTI supporters to my home and will continue to take them whenever they are in need,” he said.

Some party workers have also extended help to their fellow protesters, regardless of party affiliation. “The participants of the rallies have been declared ‘political cousins’,” said Dua Khan, a resident of Islamabad. “I was not able to take any of the supporters to my home yet but I have brought clothes for the PAT girls,” she said, adding, “I will do as much as I can to help our fellow protesters out.”

Published in The Express Tribune, September 4th, 2014.


Analysis: Some questions are best left unasked

If you’re reading this, you don’t need to be told what all has happened in the last few days. ‘How’ and ‘why’ are questions you need answered. You won’t find those answers here. But you will find a few more important questions that need pondering.

It was not supposed to be this way. It wasn’t supposed to come to this. Tear gas was not meant to billow above the country’s nerve centre and the wails of sirens were not meant to shoot through the smog and into the night sky; people were not meant to die and hundreds were not supposed to swarm the emergency wards of nearby hospitals; and, most importantly, the Punjab police were not meant to unleash a wave of terror that shook the most seasoned of observers.

Despite the hardnosed posturing there was malleable talking in the background; and despite the seeming ‘breakdown’ of talks, despite the intransigence, there had been some understandings. If there ever were a sign that it should not have come to this, it would be the involvement of none other than the army chief as an intermediary – or ‘facilitator,’ if you want to use ISPR’s language. Both Imran Khan and Dr Tahirul Qadri emerged buoyant from those talks late Thursday, early Friday. The government seemed more relaxed.

But something went wrong somewhere.

Stitching together what PTI’s Javed Hashmi said in an explosive and damning press conference on Sunday and other buzz on the ground in Islamabad, the reports of what transpired go something like this: The government had apparently agreed that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif would not resign, but go on ‘long-leave’ for a month or so while the inquiry into the election rigging took place. A similar offering was made for Shahbaz Sharif on the Model Town inquiry. That was the last sticking point, because the rest of the demands had been met a few days ago. The decisive ‘long-leave’ option was reportedly communicated to Imran Khan and the PTI sometime on Saturday. Following this, the PTI held a meeting of its core committee in which all the leaders were unanimous on the fact that this offering was a great victory for the party.

More importantly, they decided that the PTI and its supporters shouldn’t move any further (towards the Prime Minister House) from where they were (Parade Ground). Imran Khan is said to have listened to this advice carefully and finally agreed. He was to go on top of the container and announce the victory to the sit-in and followers across Pakistan, and then call of any further move forward and perhaps even call off the sit-in.

However, Imran went atop the container and announced, to everyone’s surprise, that the sit-in would follow Dr Qadri and PAT’s supporters towards the PM House. He even apologised to Hashmi at the end of his short speech – that is when the media picked up that something had gone wrong. Hashmi later insinuated that Imran was receiving ‘messages’ (it was either a phone call or something someone said in his ear) – and perhaps that’s why he decided to move forward. He said that Imran told him that moving forward was a compulsion (‘majboor hain’).

But they couldn’t have guessed what would follow.

It took everyone by surprise when the first teargas shell was fired, shattering to bits a nervous, but effective, status quo of not using violence that had been in place for over two weeks. In fact, few were even willing to believe that it had happened – until the images hit the screens.

And then it spiraled and spiraled some more. It is pertinent to note that there was no real report of any institution coming under attack from protesters before the teargasing and rubber bullets started; there was no real attempt to breach buildings and no stated plan to storm any building. No such information from the media and not even from the army. What was the trigger? Or was this always going to happen?

One more important deduction must be made here on this point: The use of force against protesters came in an area that was, under Article 245, effectively under the operational command of the armed forces. Even though the use of force was executed by civilian law-enforcers, surely a decision that big, and possibly decisive, could not have been made, at least, without the khakis being in the know.  Surely, the government would not have ventured down that path without some sort of assurance that the dramatic scenes that were sure to follow would not be used to launch an intervention of any sort.

The questions that need to be asked here are all related and possible difficult and dangerous to ask: Who was delivering ‘messages’ to Imran so powerful that he felt ‘compelled’ to ignore a unanimous decision by his core committee? And if the army knew that the use of force would be adopted, was this communicated to Imran given that the army chief was after all an intermediary/facilitator/mediator? Or did Imran make this decision despite this?

On second thoughts, dear reader, some questions are best left unasked.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 1st, 2014.


More than neighbours: ‘Some elements do not want to see a prosperous Pakistan’

PESHAWAR: Iranian Consul General in Peshawar Hasan Darwish Wand has said unknown foreign elements who do not wish to see a prosperous and peaceful Pakistan are involved in terrorism in the country.

Talking during Peshawar Press Club’s Guest Hour Programme on Thursday, Wand said he has spent more than three and a half years in Peshawar and found the people of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa most respectful and hospitable.

“We had only read in books about the hospitality of the Pukhtuns but after spending time in Peshawar, I am witness to the hospitality of Pukhtuns.” The relationship between Pakistan and Iran is enhanced day by day and both the countries have a similar culture, civilization and religion, said Wand.

The consul general said unknown foreign elements are involved in terrorist activities in Pakistan. “Both [Iran and Pakistan] have similar enemies and they should work together to end the conspiracy against the countries.”

To a question about the Pak-Iran Gas Pipeline Project, Wand said, “So far Iran has invested Rs300 million on this project but Pakistan has not shown a keen interest in it.”

Wand said Iran wants to work on different projects for the improvement of culture activities in Pakistan.  Commenting on the Afghan Presidential election, he said Iran wants a peaceful Afghanistan, and will help and support who ever emerges president.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 22nd, 2014.


Scenic Saddar: Some areas become virtual dump sites for sanitary workers

RAWALPINDI: 

Some areas of Saddar Cantt have become a virtual dump site for the Rawalpindi Cantonment Board (RCB) sanitation staff.

Heaps of garbage and trash could be seen strewn on roads and residential areas of Railway Road, Police Station Road, Nougaza Road and other adjacent areas, making roads in these areas virtually impassable besides leaving an unbearable stench in the air.

Locals said RCB workers lift garbage from areas with influential residents and dump them on roads and in residential areas where people with less political clout live.

The people have been asking the RCB authorities to designate a permanent dump site far from residential areas.

The authorities conceded that they have no permanent dump site, compelling them to dump the trash in residential areas.

The garbage heaps have also created public health risks.

Ahmad Rasheed, a resident of Railway Road, told The Express Tribune that the RCB was playing with the lives of the people. “It is quite strange that the sanitation workers are dumping trash in this part of town and the authorities have never taken note of it,” he said. He asked if such negligence and apathy would be tolerated in developed countries. “Are we not human beings? Why are we being treated like second-class citizens?” he asked.

He said the RCB sanitary workers don’t hesitate to dump the waste including plastic, paper, metal and other waste on roads and residential areas.

“There is a need to recycle the waste instead of dumping it in residential areas,” he said.

Saddar Traders Association President Malik Jehangir said Police Station Road has become unbearable for the residents. He said that there were many workshops in the area but people have stopped visiting them due to the powerful smell of garbage. “Our businesses have gone to the dogs due to dumping of trash near our shops,” he said.

He said that the authorities have time and again been asked to solve the issue but the complaints have fallen on deaf ears.

Muhammad Aslam, another resident of the area, said that a water of a filtration plant on the Police Station Road has become useless due to a dumping site nearby, but local residents are compelled to consume the contaminated water. He said that due to the water contamination, diseases such as diarrhoea, hepatitis and other water-and-air-borne diseases were spreading in the area.

RCB head Faheem Zafar told The Express Tribune that they were working to permanently resolve the issue. “We have planned to purchase land for a landfill site some 40 to 45 kilometres from the city. He admitted that the RCB was currently facing problems in purchasing land for the dump site, but reiterated, “We are working to arrange the new landfill site on an emergency basis”.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 17th, 2014.


Nadal’s absence good news for some

WASHINGTON: Rafael Nadal’s announcement that he will miss key US Open warm-up events at Toronto and Cincinnati with a right wrist injury will have some rivals ‘licking their chops’.

So says Wimbledon semi-finalist Milos Raonic, among those surprised to learn that the 28-year-old Spaniard, the reigning US Open champion, would be sidelined for the ATP Masters Series events.

“There’s a lot of people hungry in this sport,” Raonic said at the ATP and WTA Washington Open.

“It’s unfortunate to see him go but … there are too many that are hungry and are licking their chops.”

Doctors told Nadal that he must rest the injury, suffered in training on Tuesday, for two to three weeks. That will enhance the chances of rivals to capture a crown, including Canada’s seventh-ranked Raonic, even though such formidable foes as world number one Novak Djokovic and 17-time Grand Slam winner Roger Federer remain in the fields the next two weeks.

“There’s nobody losing sleep over it,” said Raonic over Nadal’s absence. “Because everybody wants to make the most of the opportunities.”

However, fifth-ranked Czech Tomas Berdych said the game will miss Nadal.

“I wish him a fast recovery,” said Berdych. “To miss a player like Nadal a week or more, it’s always a shame.”

Tournament organisers, certainly, will miss having Nadal as a drawing card.

“He’s a great champion, and his run to the title last year electrified our fans,” said Cincinnati tournament director Vince Cicero.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 1st, 2014.

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