Saturday, July 23, 2005

Is Urdu Ready for the Information Superhighway?

July's cover story in Spider magazine (the Dawn Group's Internet Magazine) is titled "Sifting Scripts: Is Urdu ready for the information superhighway?".

Details and links are on the "Urdu ke Naam" blog:
[Main blog at: ]

The cover package includes a story on the Urdu blogosphere by yours truly:


Monday, July 18, 2005

An Evening with Imran Khan

Famed cricket hero, heart throb, hospital founder and politician, Imran Khan spoke in Santa Clara on Saturday night. It was quite a performance, given that he had just flown in from London and was held up for two hours by the Homeland Security folks.

Imran was the key note speaker at a Forum on Human Development in Pakistan. It was held at the Santa Clara Marriott, in the heart of Silicon Valley. About 800 people listened intently to him as he spoke.

Afterwards, there was a Q&A session. No one wanted to ask the first question so I asked: "Will Gen. Musharraf be in power after 2007." He said, the general will do his best to stay in power. He said that is the problem with dictators. They have no exit strategy and keep on inventing excuses for staying on. He said the general had destroyed all civilian institutions in the country.
When asked how could Pakistan get back on the road to success, he said by having an independent judiciary and an independent election commission.

He commented on the major changes he had seen in India between the time he first visited that country and now. He attributed it to the rise of a two-party system and an independent election commission.

Imran said that in Pakistan the military has equated national security with the number of F-16s and nuclear weapons in its inventory. He talked at length about the poverty of people in Pakistani villages and how much more needed to be done to bring the country up to international standards.

He was asked if he would like to become the next president of Pakistan. He said he would like to become a prime minister with executive powers, as envisaged in the constitution, and not like Shaukat Aziz, who has no powers and is a puppet of the khakis.

He cited a study by ex World Bank economist Shahid Hussain that found corrution was widespread in Pakistan. The local police and judiciary were at the top of the list. He said it was no surprise that there was no justice for the poor and underpriveledged in Pakistan.

When asked who was his role model in Pakistani politics, without any hesitation he said it was Mohammed Ali Jinnah.

He also got three questions about cricket, none of which he answered. For those questions, he invoked his jet lag.

At the end, as he came off the stage, he was mobbed furiously.%

Sunday, July 17, 2005

WikiPakistan: A Pakistan Information Database

I am writing to introduce a project I have "founded". I put that in quotes because I don't really own the project; it is a public resource. And it is partially a further development of the idea behind the "Comprehensive Science and Technology Database of Pakistan (CSTDP)" by PakSEF.

The idea behind this project is to have it open to the public and for no person or organization to have too much of a stamp or ownership.

Here's the intro:
Pakistan Wiki, Wiki Pakistan!, PakWiki, WikiPak, call it what you will, it is now live:

(You may want to avoid "Paki Wiki", since in some parts of the world, that first word is seldom used in affection.)

The basic idea is a national project. A "Pakistan Information Database" to which everybody can and does contribute. And that's where you come in; the site is currently just a skeleton, and it is you, the Pakistani, the member of Pakistan's diaspora, or just someone intrigued by the country and the region that can help collect information. You can read more at: .

At a time when we have, on the one hand, the world discussing the need to engage with Muslims and Islam and, on the other, the outsourcing and offshoring juggernaut rolling through India, next door, and into Pakistan, there is a serious need for real information about our country. It is, after all, the second largest Muslim nation in the world.

But where would you turn if you wanted to find out more about each of those Madrassas in the headlines? Or if your company was starting a development office in Lahore and you needed to find a list of websites to advertise jobs on. Or find out how to register a subsidiary there? Or to find a charity that helps kids get an education and not a job? Or the people actually working on issues like Honor Killings?

The fact is, often we Pakistanis ourselves--both at home and abroad--don't have a way to find the real information we need. Information about what the picture outside of our own circles or what CNN and the Business Plans of IT enterpreneurs show us.

This, however, is not envisaged as just a "feel-good" project. The aim is to treat Pakistan like a real country, not a utopia that we wish it was, or a disutopia that is the reason we live somewhere else. We are hoping to use the collaborative power of a wiki as well as its categorization and indexing features to harness the combined knowledge, energy, and wisdom of the Netizens in Pakistan and around the world--both Pakistani and non-Pakistani--to achieve that aim.

This project is not an effort to dismiss or replace some of the fine efforts that other groups and individuals have carried out in relation to Pakistan. It is envisioned as a central place to link them together and build a community around collecting and organizing information about Pakistan. You will find some of these projects listed at: . Please add your favorites if you have any.

Please consider getting involved. Basically, visit the site and, when you see a page you can add something to, or correct, just hit the "Edit" button/tab at the top. If you do stay for any length of time, please create an account, so you can keep track of things you want to. You can find a list of pages other visitors/editors have requested at: [[Pakistan:Requested]]. Just click on a link to create the page and add information. Or hit Edit at the top of that page to add items you would like information on.

This wiki aspires to cover every aspect of Pakistani life; so there is always something you can add--or are the best person to help us perfect. What's your vocation? What do you know about what's happening in that field in Pakistan and the diaspora? What do you know? What do you want to find out? What are your hobbies and interests? What can you help define--or ask--in those areas?

A few quick housekeeping notes:

The question of who owns WikiPakistan! content might come to mind. All WikiPakistan content, unless otherwise stated, is under GFDL (See: and new contributions are understood to be under the same license unless otherwise stated.

WikiPakistan! is hosted at WikiCities (, a project of the Wikia Foundation. This is the same community that runs the Wikipedia itself, an Open-Content encyclopedia of knowledge. The English version of Wikipeida is at and there is also a nascent Urdu project at: .

We are trying to figure out the the right format for events; news; and updates from groups, corporations and individuals. Please feel free to send feedback via the "Community Portal". Or start something on the wiki and other users can pitch in and discuss.

You can reach the founder of WikiPakistan! at .
There is also a mailing list associated with the wiki and linked from the website itself.

Let's document Pakistan!

With warm regards,