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MAY 4-10 2014


The organic dream Kot Addu closely follows the rules of environmental sustainability

Cover Story

A Renaissance of faith The Pentecostal movement gains momentum among Christians in Pakistan



Worth your salt The Namakmandi in Peshawar enjoys a salty reputation





6 People & Parties: Out and about with beautiful people 50 Review: Books and movies 54 Tech: 3G and 4G in Pakistan

Magazine In-charge: Sarah Munir and Sub-Editors: Dilaira Mondegarian Creative Team: Essa Malik, Jamal Khurshid, Samra Aamir, Kiran Shahid, Munira Abbas, Sanober Ahmed & Talha Ahmed Khan Publisher: Bilal A Lakhani. Executive Editor: Muhammad Ziauddin. Editor: Kamal Siddiqi For feedback and submissions: Twitter: @ETribuneMag & Facebook: Printed:

PEOPLE & PARTIES The House of Arsalan Iqbal opens its flagship store in Lahore

Maham with a friend


Duaa and Fakhra

Uzma and Asma

Amna Babar


Asma and Mahnoo

6 MAY 4-10 2014

Xille and Sonia

PEOPLE & PARTIES Cinestar Cinema holds the premiere of Total Siyappa for the opening of Taj Cinema in Lahore


Faraz and Fariha

Asra Elahi, Nadia Ramzan, Uzma Rao and Shireen

Yab Zahra and Baila


8 MAY 4-10 2014

Romana, Ali and Awais

PEOPLE & PARTIES The Turkish Embassy showcases a performance by the Istanbul Historical Turkish Music Ensemble in Karachi


Mahnaz Shah and Shahid Javeed

Ayesha Sarfraz and Roxane


d Yasmin Hyder an Joan Dodman

10 MAY 4-10 2014

Nasreen Akhter Joel and Corina Sanders

PEOPLE & PARTIES AkzoNobel Pakistan celebrates Dutch artist Piet Mondriaan in Islamabad Waqar Mustafa Khan and

Mariam Naeem

Muddassir Khalid

n Qureshi

n and Imra

Kha Jehanzeb

Robert Dresen and Nabeela Ahmad Omair Malik

Nadia Kanwal

12 MAY 4-10 2014

Madiha and Nadia Bajwa

A Renaissance of faith

Local roots, global vision — a new movement for Christians in Pakistan BY SHER ALI KHAN PHOTOS BY MALIK SHAFIQ DESIGN BY SAMRA AAMIR

The chants of “Hallelujah, Hallelujah” resonate from the Burt Hall field tucked away in an obscure part of Garhi Shahu, Lahore. The field is flooded with nearly 40,000 anxious Christians who have gathered from all over Pakistan for their annual convention. The intensity of their devotion is evident in the curve of their bowed heads and the length of their arms raised towards the sky. All eyes are transfixed on the middle-aged Pastor Anwar Fazal who occupies the stage and is revered widely for his spiritual healing. Support for the Christian movement — which has largely been dominated by tradition and the hierarchy of churches and historically never been able to connect with the local spiritual consciousness that was prevalent in Punjab — seems to be growing through a new wave of Pentecostal Christianity. The Pentecostal movement, in which believers receive gifts from the Holy Spirit and have spiritual experiences such as healing, is arguably the second largest denomination within Christianity. In Lahore, it has manifested itself through the multiplication in the number of independent churches over the past few years, with nearly 300 churches in the working class KotLokpat area and twice that number in Youhanabad. Historically, however, the movement has been slow with the sole Sialkot convention that was started in 1904 by some Presbyterian missionaries and the first Pentecostal assembly which was held in 1952 by the largest Pentecostal organisation, Full Gospel Assemblies on Gurmangat road, Lahore. At the heart of this movement is a cultural globalisation, in which pastors such as Fazal seek to synthesise the folk and local spiritualities inherent in the Pakistani culture with the broader global religious principles. A healing session led by pastor Anwar Fazal’s wife, Nida.

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COVER STORY The healer Ten years ago people would not have recognised Anwar Fazal, one of the most popular televangelist preachers in Pakistan and the founder of the first 24-hour Christian television channel in the country, Isaac TV. He is also referred to as Pakistan’s Benny Hinn, the famed American televangelist known for his miracle crusades. The 45-year-old preacher also specialises in spiritual healings and holds a healing session every Wednesday in Lahore which is attended by thousands. Fazal started out in the late 1990s from a shanty one-bedroom abode in Bahar colony, Lahore, and undertook several odd jobs before becoming a pastor. He set up the Eternal Life Ministries (ELM) of Pakistan, a non-profit ministry that blossomed from four members into thousands over a matter of few years. His sermons and ability to connect with the locals soon shot him to prominence which also resulted in an invitation by the former American president George W Bush for prayer before his second term election. Fazal has also been invited by Hinn to appear on his television channel on several occasions. Even though similar attempts to bring Hinn to Pakistan have been unsuccessful due to security concerns, the trend of foreign televangelists such as Marlyn Hickey, the controversial Morris Cerrelo and Korean minister David Yonggi Cho visiting the country has had historical roots. Their visits coincided with a number of festivals and conventions being held across the country. For many of the ministries, this was a planned effort in an attempt to spiritually connect the local congregations to the global network of

televangelism and link it financially to the vast donor network worldwide. Personally, Fazal sought to follow the footsteps of international televangelist preachers such as Billy Graham (spiritual advisor to several American presidents) who transcended the localised Christian gatherings to become a global icon. The first step towards achieving this was setting up of Isaac TV in 2003. Initially, the channel had to pay local cable operators to get it on air and even provide equipment in certain areas where a cable network was not available. Over time, it has switched to satellite and even started online streaming in 2010, which has allowed its reach to expand into the Middle East and South Asia.

Right: Isaac TV’s head office in Lahore with a staff of nearly 50 members. Left: Members of the Christian community during a prayer session at the annual convention.

Right: Isaac TV is the first 24hour Chrisitan channel in Pakistan. Left: Anwar Fazal and his wife host Winning Souls, a live call-in show where they invite guests and take calls for prayer and discussion.

Initially, cable operators had to be paid to air Isaac TV locally. Over time, the channel has expanded through satellite and online streaming into the Middle East and South Asia

“Since this is Christian television for Christian people, we don’t want to expand it nationally. If we do, we may have to stop some of the initiatives we are running and it will also cost us more,” says the channel’s director Pastor Asif Nazir. “Also most religious channels are not meant for commercial use.” The channel which runs on donations from local and overseas sources has its head office in Lahore with a staff of nearly 50 people and several smaller bureaus in Karachi, Quetta, Peshawar and other cities. Isaac TV has a wide-range of programming content tailored according to Fazal’s personality in the same manner as is done on channels owned by American televangelists Benny Hinn and Joel Osteen. For example, there is Winning Souls, a live call-in show and one of the most popular ones on the channel, which is hosted by Fazal and his wife Nida, who routinely invite guests and take calls for prayers and discussion. According to Nazir, the content has been developed around Fazal due to his popular support among the masses. Then there are also ELM shows, which host testimonials of prayers performed by Fazal along with translated shows from abroad.

Connecting through music Earlier this year, the channel also tried to broaden its evangelism through another initiative called Isaac’s Best Worshippers, a localised version of the American Idol singing competition. The show aimed at promoting aspiring Christian singers from the region and providing them with an avenue of expression. It featured nearly 1200 participants and the top ten contestants were awarded Rs5,000. The top three winners were also given Rs25,000, Rs50,000 and Rs100,000 as prize money. “Earlier we had gospel albums but those were recorded by bigger names so no one from an average background was given an opportunity,” says Nazir. “This was our trial show and now we want to take this to every city 33 including Dubai.” MAY 4-10 2014

COVER STORY Yousuf Nawab, an evangelist in the early 1970s and one of the judges on Isaac’s Best Worshippers now, is no stranger to the role of music in making religion accessible to the masses. After dedicating his life to missionary work, Nawab toured the entire country and visited countless large and small congregations. What set his work apart, however, was his contribution as a popular music producer. By 1973, Nawab helped produce a cassette with Ernest Mall, a popular Pakistani-American gospel singer under the banner of Full Gospel Assemblies of Pakistan. The gospel music produced during that period was inspired by the contemporary film music and is said to be a turning point for the local Christian movement. The traditional churches would also go on to set up the Workshop Audio Visual Education (WAVES) studio in Lahore which infused religious melodies with much of the local popular music influences. Renowned names such as Ghulam Abbas, Mehnaz, Afshan, Turanam Naz, Mehdi Hassan and others also sang gospel songs which played on a local radio channel and were distributed at religious gatherings at various remote villages. “Earlier, songs were limited to the church but a new trend began with these recordings. They were distributed in the remotest of areas, where they were sold for a minimal price and some were even copied,” recalls Nawab who has produced over 14,000 songs. Daim Gill,the 19-year-old upcoming singer and winner of the current season of Isaac’s Best Worshipper, shares the same opinion. “The channel has really awakened our community since it runs in every household. Even people who don’t go to church watch it,” he says. “It has actually developed a unique culture which is why you see this increase in the number of churches and congregations.”

The channel has developed a unique culture which is why you see this increase in the number of churches and congregations Singer Daaim Gill

Local roots, global movement There has been little research around Christians in Pakistan. However, one of the latest books on the subject, The Unconquered People: The liberation journey of the oppressed caste, by scholar John O’ Brien provides a historical and ethnographic linkage for the community known as Chandala in classic Brahmanic literature and commonly referred 34 to as Chuhras or sweepers during colonial rule. MAY 4-10 2014

Right: Nearly 40,000 Christians gathered from all over the country to attend the annual congregation at Bert Hall field, Lahore. Left: Anwar Fazal performing a healing — one of the key principles of the Pentecostal movement in Christianity.

Right: Anwar Fazal is widely revered in the Christian community as a spiritual healer. Left: The channel also hosts Eternal Life Ministries shows highlighting testimonials of prayers performed by Fazal.

Brien argues that the Christian identity has become more fluid due to the structural changes in terms of how cities and the state have developed over the decade. Increasing globalisation and the advent of modern inventions such as television and the internet has also enabled the use of cultural tools such as poetry and music to make religion accessible at the grassroots level. Gill’s own musical ambitions have now been connected to this growing Christian movement since it has provided him with an avenue like never before. The rise of a more adaptive and open religious outlet

catered to Christians, that is inspired by American and Korean televangelism, is projecting itself in a Pakistani form but at the same time remains insulated from Pakistan’s mainstream. This is a sign of an impending local movement with global outreach that caters to the outcasts and fringes of society but remains largely ignored in our typical daily lives. T

Sher Ali is a culture reporter for The Express Tribune. He tweets @sherakhan46

The organic


The residents of Kot Addu reap an organic harvest that is akin to export-quality produce TEXT AND PHOTOS BY NUZHAT SAADIA SIDDIQI DESIGN BY ASIF ALI

Fame and misfortune have swept across Kot Addu in equal measure. The city that is home to one of Pakistan’s most iconic folk singers, Pathaney Khan, and a victim of the 2010 floods that occurred after a breach in the Abbaswala Bund, is currently trying to get back on its feet through organic farming. 38

Located in the south of Punjab, at a distance of 89kms from MAY 4-10 2014

Multan and 16kms from the mangled steel structure Taunsa Barrage, the city boasts strawberries that are as plump as their British counterparts. The strawberries are grown in the year-round hot and humid climate by a handful of generational farmers in Basti Sheikhan Wali who refrain from using chemical pesticides and use less water and slurry to ensure a healthy yield. Although the strawberries from their field are tart and green and nowhere near the ripe ones pic-

The fields that were flooded in 2010 after the breach in Abbaswala Bund.

tured in cookbooks, they are large in size and enticing when presented in neat earthen bowls. This effective resource management is part of the World Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan (WWF-Pakistan) project focused on improving the livelihoods of fishermen communities of Central Indus Wetlands complex, a 700-kilometre stretch of land along the mighty Indus River. The project stretches from the Taunsa Barrage in southern Punjab to

Sukkur Barrage in Sindh, involving fishermen who have traditionally been ignored by the provincial government and have no stake in development plans. The project not only educates farmers about sustainability and the environmental impact of farming, but also teaches them ways to minimise the impact by adopting environment-friendly methods without compromising on the yield. According to Umer Waqas, the site coordinator of the project 39 MAY 4-10 2014


A nursery at Taunsa Barrage. in Kot Addu, the strawberries were just an experiment that succeeded and they be will trying their luck with grapes next. “The most famous grapes in the market are touted as being from Iran or Afghanistan. We’re trying to grow grapes here through sustainable methods to try and give the exports stiff competition,” he says. Sanawan, a tehsil of Kot Addu, is already famous for its vegetables in the surrounding areas. The vegetables available in the market are fresh and plentiful due to the right mix of climactic patterns and fertile land. Farmers in the area are always on the lookout for sustainable alternatives to grow traditional water-hungry crops such as sugarcane. Even the cucumbers grown using water-efficient techniques are crisp and fresh. The fresh water often used to grow these vegetables is wasted, points out Waqas. And in case of used water, it is almost always contaminated with household or solid waste. “There is no water treatment plant in this area so people make do. Being so close to the river makes them believe that they will never run out of fresh water,” he says 40 wryly. “But that is obviously a false asMAY 4-10 2014

A boat on the Indus River near the Bela Wildlife Reserve. sumption. That’s the mindset we are trying to change by persuading farmers and fishermen to use water wisely, whether for farming or fishing.” There is no dearth of inspirational stories in Kot Addu. Right next to the Taunsa Wildlife Sanctuary Information Center, replete with posters, charts, activity wheels and informational signs chronicling local biodiversity, is a small roadside café serving freshly caught and freshly prepared fish in a variety of ways. Fish with rice pilaf, fish kebabs, fish kofta and spicy fried fish are the mouthwatering dishes on offer by Liaqat Hussain, who belongs to a fisherman community and is now

A flood marker near Abbaswala Bund. involved in sustainable fishing. Overfishing after the 2010 floods has left him seeking other ways to maintain a steady income. Without proper governmental support and reforms and the age-old contract system of fishing still in place, Hussain sees little hope of sustaining a regular livelihood. Although he manages to earn Rs80,000 in the winter season, because of the influx of domestic tourists and city dwellers who enjoy the delicacies of the Indus in colder months, he cannot say the same when the days become warmer. His concerns are echoed by Haseena Bibi, a stout, bright-faced mother of five who started a kitchen garden on

The Abbaswala Bund also acts as a makeshift road for locals. a 10-marla plot she inherited from her father. Her entrepreneurial spirit saved her family from many health complications caused by the consumption of contaminated vegetables. She shares her harvest with neighbours and anyone who comes looking for organic vegetables. “My children love salad vegetables, but so do pests,” she says. “I have made an organic concoction out of bitter gourds that repels them. No chemical goes into my plants.” Haseena’s seasonal vegetables are the talk of the town as she grows a wide variety to suit a diverse palate. She is one of the many women who have partnered with Waqas’s organisation in Basti Sheikhan Wali and Basti Al-

lah Wali to run their kitchen garden. While some keep the vegetables for themselves and others sell them for a small sum, the fact remains that each household with a kitchen garden saves Rs6,000 on average per month by not buying vegetables from the market. The dream of sustainable agriculture resonates with many including Javed who has dedicated his life to bringing local communities together to fish sustainably and find alternative livelihood options in low-catch season. While translating Haseena’s lilting Seraiki, he informs that he started working to conserve local plant and fish species at a young age and relies on his own strength to do the conservation work

since there has been little official support for the cause. He currently runs his own community-based organisation and heads a small network of community-based projects under Umer’s project. “There is no money in what I do. But my father told me he would support me to do good work that helps others,” he says. “When he sees our success, he smiles and says he is proud of us all. I want my fellow countrymen to be proud of us as well.” Such is the conviction of people in and around Kot Addu who have wholeheartedly embraced the organic life. Nuzhat Saadia Siddiqi is a Lahore-based writer and book hoarder. She tweets @guldaar MAY 4-10 2014



Worth your salt Namakmandi in Peshawar teems with good food and happy customers TEXT AND PHOTOS BY HIDAYAT KHAN DESIGN BY SANOBER AHMED

Taming the flame on a charcoal grill is perhaps easier than suppressing your appetite in Namakmandi, Peshawar. The brain is involuntarily overwhelmed with thoughts of food as you stroll past tikka shops with lamb and chicken on display. The Namakmandi that takes its name from the salt trade in the region was formerly known as Mewamandi because of the flourishing business of fruit merchants. Along with being a haven for food lovers, the sprawling food market has also carved out space for gem dealers. Nearly 50 gem shops beckon customers with their crushed and polished precious and semi-precious stones that are exported and supplied countrywide. “The street hasn’t lost its traditional charm,” says Nasir Khan, owner of the oldest shop famously referred to as the ‘Charsi tikka wala’. Sitting on a charpoy amid the aroma of namkeen karhai, Kabuli pulao and Dum pukht, Khan elucidates on his shop’s reputation. “It was my father who… would take charas, though not frequently, therefore his shop [became known] as the ‘Charsi tikka wala’. It is now my registered trademark,” says the 58-year-old while sipping on Peshawari kahwa. Khan says his is the authentic Charsi tikka, asserting that all other restaurants operating in the city by his name are ‘fake’. His claim is almost validated by the dozen honorary certificates and pictures taken with visiting celebrities that line the shop walls but stories of fame are similar for the more than 30 tikka shops scattered along the food street. Each of which is contesting to serve the authentic dish perfected over the years by generational cooks. But good food comes at a price. Lamb costs Rs800 per kg and is a favourite among customers ordering karhai. “It is the increasing prices of mutton that is affecting our business as it is now unaffordable for the common man who visits my tikka shop,” Khan acknowledges. Despite soaring food prices, shop owners have decided to keep their doors open for people who frequent the Namakmandi. After action was taken last year by the Peshawar High Court 46 over rising complaints of adulteration, mostly against MAY 4-10 2014

We are taking huge sums of money from customers, how we can provide any substandard stuff? Shop owner Sultan Khan chapli kebab houses for using substandard oil such as animal fat, business in the food street has been slower than usual. “We are taking huge sums of money from customers, how we can provide any substandard stuff?” argues a shop owner Sultan Khan. “There is huge competition among the dozens of shops, providing substandard [quality] means you have lost your [reputation] earned after decades of hard work,” he says. Shops owners are now careful about preserving the reputation they have nurtured over six decades. At the Charsi tikka house, the mutton arrives after being stamped by the food department on a daily basis. With quality control assurance, praise for the food is endless, drawing people time and again to the mandi. “We have a lot of memories associated with the area, compelling us to visit whenever we come to the city,” says a customer Akbar Khan, suggesting the best time to visit is after sunset when the place lights up with laughter and burning coals from barbeque stands. While expressing his love for barbeque and concerns over consuming cholesterol rich foods, he says, “Another reason to visit is that it is the only food street in the city with experienced cooks in these traditional dishes. It is people’s love for this city [famous] for mutton that has helped the business flourish.” While there is no substitute for the experience of feasting on a charpoy under the open sky, many prefer home delivery. Shops have even launched their websites for this purpose. “A single shop receives about a dozen orders via phone calls during the night,” says Riaz, who has been cooking food at the mandi for six years. Even though several international chains have taken up a significant share of the food market in most Pakistani urban centres, the consistent din of customers at the Namakmandi is testimony to the constant tussle between tradition and globalisation. T Hidayat Khan is a Peshawar-based reporter for The Express Tribune. He tweets @hidayat_khan26

47 MAY 4-10 2014


Shared landscape, multiple accounts Writings that take us on a global tour in order to challenge our preconceived notions BY MAHEEN SABEEH

The magazine edition is available at The Last Word for Rs1,350.


“What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much, though.” — JD Salinger, Catcher In The Rye. Salinger was right. He is one of those authors you wish you could call. While Salinger is no longer with us, that exact sentiment rings true for writers as diverse as Haruki Murakami, Teju Cole, Dave Eggers and the relatively lesser-known ThaiAmerican writer, Rattawut Lapcharoensap. Luckily for readers, these remarkable voices can be found in the summer edition of the literary magazine, Granta 124: Travel. The writings tell stories that are terrifying, fascinating and subversive. In fiction, Rattawut Lapcharoensap is quite possibly the best of the lot. His story, ‘The Captain’ opens with the protagonist travelling with his fiancée Dora to Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia and other places before ending up in Thailand. They visit cities, temples, try new food and embark on several adventures together. The protagonist is observant as he notices everyone — war veterans, slum children and drug peddlers. And when Dora reminds him that he is from this place, there is immense confusion in his mind. By next morning, Dora is gone. She leaves him a note as well as the engagement ring. And his reaction reflects his own despondence and self-loathing. “I was beginning to lose a little respect for Dora with each day she passed in my company. I was beginning to lose a little

respect for myself, too, with each day that I passed with the same, but then again I really had little choice in the matter.” From thereon, his unfortunate meeting with a dicey and somewhat deranged group of teenagers brings him to tears. What ensues is a flurry of emotions as his sense of mourning, fear, identity and heartbreak take over. In ‘Man of the River’, Dave Eggers tells a fantastic story about an American man accompanied by a young local as he travels across South Sudan. However, the American has a small open wound due to which he refuses to cross the river while the Sudanese man goes across. What is remarkable is that, in the end, it is neither about the Sudanese nor the American but about a deeper bias and prejudice that exists in almost all of us, consciously or otherwise. Moving on to nonfiction, the book is strong because of the sheer presence of Murakami. We get to join him as he talks about being born in Kyoto, moving to Ashiya and his years as a typical Hanshin-Kan boy. Hit by the Hanshan earthquake, Murakami isn’t focused on the resurrected malls but the quiet, barren landscape and the scars. In a sense, it is as much about Murakami as it is about finding a connection to a place and time you can no longer remember or relate to. With brilliant photo essays in the form of the ‘Archive of Modern Conflict’ and many other stories, Granta 124: Travel will coax you to take off to a remote corner yourself. But until that happens, this edition will do.

Maheen Sabeeh is a freelance journalist. She tweets @maheensabeeh MAY 4-10 2014


Out of line

In a society where everyone tries to fit in, one girl has the courage to stand out


Divergent, directed by Neil Burger, is an adaptation of the 2011 novel written by Veronica Roth while she was still an undergraduate. The film is set in a post-war, dystopian Chicago and shows a society divided into five factions based on virtue in order to avoid conflict. There is Amity, the kind-hearted, Erudite, the intelligent, Candor, the honest and hardworking, Abnegation, the selfless and pious and Dauntless, the courageous. At the age of 16, every child in town is required to take an aptitude test comprising certain designed hallucinations which help in seeking out

the factions they are compliant with. Anyone who falls into more than one faction, like the film’s lead character Tris (Shailene Woodley) is labelled as divergent. The test is followed by a ‘choosing ceremony’ in which the teens use their results to pick the faction they want to join for the rest of their lives. Tris soon finds out that she has an aptitude for three out of the five factions. Not only is this result rare but also extremely dangerous. Nonetheless, Tris, in an effort to remain true to herself chooses Dauntless, which means she can never see her family again. What follows is a series of tests and challenges and a constant tug-of-war in a bid to make the right choice. If Woodley is the protagonist in this film, Kate Winslet is the malefactor. She plays the Erudite leader, Jeanine Matthews, who will stop at no lengths to maintain social order. To see Winslet play a negative role as the icy queen is refreshing and a welcome break from

her usual choice of emotionally perturbed characters. Theo James plays the indomitable instructor Four who is assigned to the transfer initiates and trains them to get through initiation. Tris soon forms a special bond with Four and together they try to find out how dangerous it is to be divergent, before it’s too late. Other recognisable names which make up the cast include Maggie Q, Tony Goldwyn, Ashley Judd, Miles Teller and Zoë Kravitz. The movie also launches newcomers Ben-Lloyd Hughes and Ansel Elgort, who will be seen romancing Woodley in The Fault in Our Stars later this year. Director Neil Burger and screenwriters Evan Daugherty and Vanessa Taylor have successfully managed to include key moments and images from the novel while tweaking others to showcase the mythology and progression of the story. This tactic might work for those who have not read the trilogy but will disappoint fans who have religiously followed the books. First-time viewers might also find the plot unimaginative and similar to The Hunger Games trilogy. While both plots share a similar message of breaking the shackles of conformity, they are set in two different futuristic societies and have different obstacles that the protagonist is required to overcome. But while a fluid script, flawless execution and stellar performances turned The Hunger Games into a classic, it is the weaknesses on all those fronts that push Divergent into mediocrity.

Rating: Riza Qureshi is a student and a fan fiction enthusiast who loves watching their movie adaptations



3G and 4G technology come to Pakistan amidst much hype and great promise BY NOMAN ANSARI DESIGN BY OMER ASIM

Long after India, Bangladesh, Nepal and even Afghanistan introduced the third and fourth generation (3G and 4G) of mobile telecommunications technology, Pakistan has finally followed suit.

The higher transfer rates of 3G and 4G networks trumps the widely used 2G GSM networks by allowing users to have significantly faster internet access, making video phone calls and mobile TV possible. The technology will ensure that browsing YouTube on mobile phones will no longer be akin to viewing a slideshow and this is certainly something to cheer for in a nation of nearly 130 million mobile service subscribers, as revealed by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority. The benefits don’t end with entertainment uses. 3G could launch socially useful applications such as e-education, e-medicine and electronic governance which will provide key services to both urban Pakistanis and those living in inaccessible parts of the country. Apart from smart phones, 3G internet can also be used on computers and tablets where broadband isn’t

easy available. The benefits are immense, especially for those seeking development in rural locations. It will hopefully have a small snowball effect on the economy as well, where new investment, businesses and jobs will be created as a result. Pakistanis could have had highspeed mobile internet as far back as 2008 which is when the country had 3G capable networks. Perhaps the government wanted to cash in on the upgraded technology by asking mobile network companies such as Warid, Zong, Ufone, Telenor, and Mobilink to bid on licenses that would allow them the right to offer 3G to their respective customers. Despite the many delays over the years the recently concluded 3G/4G auction yielded $1.1 billion. The biggest spender at the auction was Zong, which took home a 1800 MHz 4G license and a 10 MHz 3G license. Following Zong was Mobilink with a 10 MHz 3G, meanwhile Ufone and Telenor both settled for 5 Mhz 3G. This means that most Pakistani mobile phone users with 3G capable phones should have some form of 3G available to them on their respective networks. While the high-end phones

in the country are capable of using both 3G and 4G and medium-ranged phones can handle 3G, most lowend devices are incapable of taking advantage of 3G networks. Currently the cheapest 3G phone available in Pakistan is priced at around Rs5,000, leaving plenty of room for the introduction of more economical 3G phones. For any customer interested in 3G or 4G, the cost does not end with the device. Mobile network companies are expected to follow similar business models to that of the UAE or Nepal, where they will offer high-speed mobile internet packages at increased prices to their customers in order to recoup their investments. But according to statistics quoted in a PEW report earlier this year, in a country where only 53% of the population owns a mobile phone, out of which a minuscule 3% comprise of smartphone users, it is hard to comment on the extent of the impact the twin technologies will have.

Noman Ansari is a freelance writer and a regular contributor to several publications. He tweets @Pugnate

The Express Tribune Magazine - May 4  

The Express Tribune Magazine for May 04th 2014

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