Monday, December 10, 2012

Another day in the ‘land of pure’

Belying lofty claims by the federal and provincial governments of putting in place foolproof security arrangements for mourning processions during the holy month of Muharram, terrorists struck two imam bargahs in Karachi and Rawalpindi at will on Wednesday, killing at least 22 people in their destructive trail.

The horrifying and tragic incidents came as the government prepares to host the D8 summit in Islamabad today (Thursday) to be attended by high-profile dignitaries from across the Muslim world, leaving the authorities scrambling over the country’s security situation ahead of the crucial moot.

The bombings on the two imam bargah were not the only violence shaming the government’s claims, as three security officials and four policemen were among nine people killed in terror attacks in Quetta and Bannu, respectively.

The imam bargah bombings came only two days after the bombing of another imam bargah in Karachi on Sunday that killed four Shia mourners. Ironically, Interior Minister Rehman Malik has claimed that there’s no sectarian friction in the country and such incidents of terrorism are the work of a “third power”.
The Rawalpindi blast took place at around 11:30pm outside Qasre Shabbir imam bargah in the city’s Dhok Syeddan area on Misriyal Road, when a large number of Shia mourners had gathered for a Muharram congregation.

The explosion left at least 20 people dead and injured more than 46. Reports said seven hand grenades had been recovered from the site as well.

Sources said the attack had been carried out by a suicide bomber, adding that there were chances of the death toll climbing as a number of victims were critical.

Rescue personnel faced difficulties when mourners refused to leave the surroundings and electricity to the area was cut off after the blast, causing further panic and confusion. Evacuating the injured was another problem as the ambulances had been parked a little distance away from the site of the blast.

The government declared an emergency in all hospitals in Rawalpindi, while Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif ordered the administration to make all out efforts to deal with the incident’s aftermath.

Earlier in the evening, two people were killed and sixteen, including journalists and security personnel, injured in twin blasts that hit Karachi’s Orangi Town.

The first blast occurred close to imam bargah Haider Qarar in Orangi, while the second occurred an hour later next to the gate of the facility.

The blast occurred when a large number of Shia mourners were busy in Muharram rituals inside the facility.
Witnesses said a motorcycle rider was heading towards the imam bargah but collided with a rickshaw before getting closer, triggering an explosion that resulted in nine people being injured and damages to several shops and vehicles.

Security personnel and rescue officials rushed to the area and initiated evacuation and shifting the injured to hospitals.

Just as the rescue activities were underway, another explosion jolted the area, injuring several journalists, security and rescue personnel.

Seven people were shifted to Abbasi Shaheed Hospital with injuries.

Police and Rangers pushed back the crowd and media teams after the second blast and completely cordoned off the area. The Bomb Disposal Squad said initial investigations revealed that ball bearings were not used in the second blast and it was not as powerful as the first one. SIU SSP Raja Umar Khattab said, “Security personnel were busy in investigating the first blast when the second bomb went off. He said it could not be confirmed if the first blast was a suicide attack or not. He, however, said explosives for the second blast were planted in a cement block.

But DIG West Javed Odho said the first blast was carried out by a suicide bomber and killed a rickshaw driver and injured seven others. Odho said the police force was working across the city and the assigned deployments would remain in their locations.

A police official said on condition of anonymity that the second bomb targeted security officials. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Remembering Iqbal Haider

With the demise of Iqbal Haider, Pakistan has lost a leading liberal voice, a committed champion of human rights and the supremacy of law, a valiant defender of democracy, and, above all, an extremely caring person who was always true to his heart. His ideologically-driven active political career spanning over four decades, based on strong convictions and solid principles, is a testament to his consistent struggle for the cause of humanity.

Haider wanted to liberate Pakistan from the shackles of religious bigots. He was a staunch opponent of General Ziaul Haq’s ‘Islamisation’ and a foremost critic of the consequent Talibanisation of society. One of his last deeds before leaving us was to unite his liberal friends in Karachi to establish the Forum for Secular Pakistan, as an institutional response to the growing threat from religious extremism. Reclaiming Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s secular legacy was a cause he always professed and worked for.

Iqbal Haider worked tirelessly for the rights of the unprivileged and supremacy of law in Pakistan. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) was founded in his office and he remained its co-chairperson and secretary general until recently. As a senior advocate of the Supreme Court, he contested many challenging cases, defending the fundamental rights of bonded labour, victims of honour killing and missing persons. During and after General (retd) Pervez Musharraf’s regime, he led the civil society movement to restore the higher judiciary and steadfastly supported the stance of the Supreme Court in high profile cases concerning political corruption, violence in Karachi and the rights of the Baloch people.

Haider’s fight for democracy was no less significant. He entered national politics in the 1970s through the leftist Qaumi Mahaz-e-Azadi party of Meraj Muhammad Khan and has always been identified with that wing of politics ever since. The 1980s also saw him joining the Pakistan Peoples Party and serving in various leadership positions, mostly provincial, until becoming a party senator in 1991. In 1993, he served in the second government of premier Benazir Bhutto, first as law minister, then as human rights minister and finally, as attorney general. He never cared about any position of power and had an ability as a parliamentarian to reach across the aisles for accommodating arch political rivals.

Haider was by nature anti-war and pro-peace. He believed in national liberation movements but opposed any recourse to violence for the purpose. He was an outspoken critic of the jihad in Kashmir. In recent years, besides assuming the HRCP responsibility, he proactively participated in the activities of Aman Ki Asha, the joint India-Pakistan media-civil society initiative for closer people-to-people links between the two countries. He campaigned for a nuclear-free South Asia. He called for open borders and greater trade between India and Pakistan. For that, he and other peace activists also received the Mother Teresa Memorial Award for Social Justice in 2010.

Haider was a diehard humanist. Those who knew him long enough knew what a good soul he was — simple, down-to-earth, with no pretentions. There was hardly ever a gap between his words and deeds or between his public position and personal life. In a society where corruption is rampant, he had a long stint in politics, remained senator for over a decade and held powerful ministerial portfolios such as law — and yet, there is not a single charge of corruption against him. It was a great privilege to know him personally. Like most of his friendships, it was a common cause that brought us together back in the mid-1990s, when I reported some gruesome stories of child and woman rights violations in the media. As law minister, he took swift action against the culprits and in support of the victims in each case.

It is hard to accept the tragedy of losing a person who was so full of life and passion. He has left us all too early but with lots of lasting memories. The noble lessons of his upright life and all the heroic struggles it entailed are worth emulating for all those who want to make a difference in recreating Pakistan’s destiny towards a better future.

Friday, October 5, 2012

India clashes with Pakistan at UN

India's external affairs minister took on Pakistan at the United Nations on Monday for raising the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir.

S. M. Krishna told the General Assembly that India has resumed dialogue with Pakistan and wants to normalize relations. But he lashed out at a speech last week by Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardarif, saying the neighboring nation had no business meddling in India's predominantly Muslim state of Jammu and Kashmir, which India claims as sovereign territory.

"An unwarranted reference has been made to Jammu and Kashmir from this podium," he said, adding, "We wish to make it abundantly clear that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India."

Zardari said in his speech that Kashmir remained "a symbol of the failures of the United Nations system rather than its strengths." He said a solution could only be reached in an "environment of cooperation."

As the annual high-level meeting of the General Assembly wound down Monday night, representatives of India and Pakistan traded several rounds of rebuttals before a mostly empty chamber. The Pakistani delegation was seen smiling and shaking their heads as an Indian diplomat issued yet another reply to a statement by Pakistan.

A violent separatist insurgency that started in 1989 drew a crackdown by Indian forces that has killed about 68,000 people in Kashmir, where public resentment against Indian rule runs deep.

The rebellion is largely suppressed, with occasional flare-ups. The Indian army said last week that a fierce gunbattle killed a suspected rebel and a soldier.

Earlier this month, Indian police arrested Merajuddin Wani, one of the longest-surviving rebel commanders in Indian-controlled Kashmir.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Hollywood, land of Opportunity

There’s more to the movie business than just actors, directors and producers. Hollywood also employs a small army of executives who produce, market and distribute motion pictures. 

According to the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp., employment in California’s motion picture and television industry increased by nearly 10% in 2011, adding 11,700 jobs. But while Tinseltown may have a reputation for being more about who you know than what you know, many of its executive positions require a formal post-secondary education.

Many area schools offer advanced degree programs designed to give entertainment industry executives a competitive edge.

Edward Noeltner is president of Beverly Hills-based Cinema Management Group, which acquires, licenses and distributes motion pictures worldwide. He holds a master’s degree in critical studies from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. 

“That sort of critical background has helped me immensely in my career in terms of picking some winners,” said Noeltner, who has licensed movies including “Chicago” and “The Hours.”

“First of all, I got a bachelor’s degree in radio and television production [from the University of Arizona in 1980],” he said. “That set me up for working in the industry … the technical ins and outs.”
Gregoire Gensollen is vice president of international distribution and strategy at FilmNation Entertainment, an international sales, distribution and production company with offices in L.A. and New York. He earned his MBA from UCLA Anderson School of Management in 2006.

“Most of my electives were in the producers’ program in the [UCLA] film school,” Gensollen explained. “It’s extremely hard [for me] to have a macro view of the [movie] business … without having the different classes that are offered at UCLA, both the pure business MBA and the film school.”
As of this year, UCLA Anderson offers an entertainment certificate within its general management MBA.
People considering an entertainment-related degree should take into account not only a program’s ranking but also its location, Gensollen said. He recommends L.A. because of its bountiful opportunities for entertainment internships — he did nine while at Anderson — and networking opportunities.

Legal eagles

The movie industry’s myriad contracts and negotiations provide plenty of work for entertainment lawyers in Los Angeles.

G. Fabricio Lopez, principal counsel at a major entertainment company, enrolled in UCLA Extension’s Paralegal Program upon arriving in Los Angeles from Ecuador in 1994. 

“It was very hands-on,” Lopez recalled. “One instructor was a judge, another a prosecutor, another a paralegal. So they were very academic, but at the same time very ‘This is what you do on a daily basis.’”
Lopez graduated from L.A.’s Loyola Law School in 2004, where he now teaches. His advice to aspiring entertainment attorneys is to seek out schools, like Loyola, that offer the option to focus on this area of law.
Professor David Ginsberg, who heads UCLA School of Law’s Entertainment, Media and Intellectual Property Law Program, advises students contemplating an entertainment law career to choose an undergraduate degree they are passionate about rather than one that necessarily pertains to entertainment or law to better round out their skills.

“Between the UCLA School of Law’s first-year and entertainment law specialization program, we will provide a curricular and analytic approach appropriate to training a well-prepared entertainment lawyer,” he said.

Accounting is another specialty offering good opportunities in the industry. Los Angeles is home to more than 50 accounting firms specializing in entertainment, according to Roger L. Torneden, director of business, management and legal programs at UCLA Extension. 

“Differentiation is key for a new entrant [into entertainment accounting], as is up-to-date continuing education,” Torneden said. “In addition to a bachelor’s degree or higher education … courses in entertainment studies or a new certificate program in accounting, finance, taxation or personal financial planning would seem indisputable evidence of such a personal commitment.”

Supporting roles

As for talent managers and agents — though many have no related academic qualifications — post-secondary programs can help launch an agency career.

“A jurist doctorate or MBA with an undergraduate degree in marketing would be ideal,” said Von Johnson, who created and teaches UCLA Extension’s Business of Entertainment class.  “Students will benefit from electives in content production, post-production and theater.”

“My biggest lesson for students is that they must learn how to network,” said Larry Auerbach, who had a 47-year career at the William Morris Agency. As associate dean of student industry relations at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, Auerbach created the school’s Graduate Certificate in the Business of Entertainment program and its undergraduate Business Cinematic Arts program, both in conjunction with the Marshall School of Business.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Land of the Giants

The battle of Bud Light versus Coors Light is starting to look more like Budweiser, Stella Artois and Corona against Miller, Coors and Blue Moon, reported The Chicago Tribune.

Last week's announcement that Anheuser-Busch InBev had agreed to buy Corona-maker Grupo Modelo (see Related Content below for previous CSP Daily News coverage) is the latest move in a long trend of consolidation in the beer market, leaving it increasingly about two giant players--AB InBev, based in Leuven, Belgium, and MillerCoors, based in Chicago.

Competitors SABMiller, based in London, and Molson Coors Brewing Co., based in Denver, established a joint venture to manage their brands in the United States in 2008. The resulting MillerCoors has also established a craft and import division, which houses brands like Blue Moon, Peroni, Leinenkugel, Pilsner Urquell and Crispin Cider.

AB InBev, which became the world's largest brewer after the takeover over St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch in 2008, will be unable to manage the Modelo brands in the United States after the deal closes, said the report, because the additional brands would send the company's domestic market share past 50%.

Modelo brands like Corona, Pacifico and Modelo Especial will continue to be managed domestically by Chicago-based Crown Imports, which will be owned by Constellation Brands based in Victor, N.Y. Mexico City-based Grupo Modelo is selling its 50% stake in Crown to Constellation as a result of its acquisition (see Related Content below for previous coverage).

AB InBev will continue to busy itself with Bud Light, America's best-selling beer, along with Michelob, Shock Top and other brands consumers might not associate with the brewing giant, including Stella Artois, Hoegaarden, Bass and Beck's, the report said.