Saturday, February 23, 2013

[Social Eye] Violence in Karachi

Violence and vice in Karachi has taken center-stage over the past couple of years as instances of bombing, targeted-killing, extortion, kidnapping and drug-abuse have risen many-fold. Political parties are at the center of all this as they fight for supremacy in Pakistan's largest metropolitan and financial hub, often resorting to extreme brutality.

Political entities have established militant wings that mete out street justice to rival political workers and even leaders. Political headquarters of parties are heavily barricaded bastions and politicians in general are more active in eradicating opposition than working for the people.
I trust only myself and my Kalashnikov - Nabil Gabol (Lyari MNA).
Nabil Gabol, Pakistan People Party MNA from Lyari, has only visited his constituency twice in four years. Lyari is home to constant clashes between street thugs and the police force and is one of the poorest region of Karachi. Once a strong-hold of PPP, support has dwindled as Gabol's lack of interest in local matters has dissuaded the local populace. Gabol is more focused on his ongoing popularity-war with, Uzair Baloch, leader of the now defunct Peoples Peace Committee. Baloch has emerged as more of the people's person than Gabol ever was. He has established schools, water and sports facilities for the local residents. Meanwhile, Gabol is striving hard to label Baloch Public Enemy #1 and uses his influence to conduct police raids and register cases against him. The people are the ones that suffer in the end.
At Katti Pahari  natural and unnatural differences meet.

As Karachi grows exponentially, another factor makes the violence in the city all the more frequent - land. Land is the rarest commodity of all which has embroiled the two biggest political parties in the city in a deadly turf war. United National Movement (MQM), catering to the Urdu-speaking linguistic group and the Pushtun-centric People's National Party (ANP) engage in shootouts and murders throughout Karachi. The violence is most pronounced in the region of Katti Pahari (Cut Hill) where the MQM and ANP territories practically face-off. A line of red flags along the main road demarcate the strongholds.
80% of target-killings are political in nature.

As an off-shoot of the political violence, a group of people thrived - hitmen. Although popularly known as target-killers, given the precise nature of their job. Political parties and mafias acquire their services to eliminate hindrances for the most nominal of fees; a typical target-killer is paid between PKR. 70,000 to 100,000 ($700 to $1000) per hit.

These laughably paltry fees for a hitman are because of the increased competition between this niche of criminals. According to a target-killer, whose interview is available on Youtube, there are around 600 cold-blooded killers roaming the streets of Pakistan's biggest city. This killer also stated that 80% of the hits he carried out owed to political differences.

Most target-killings in Karachi are carried out through
motorcycle drive-bys. So quite aptly, this target killer chooses
to give his interview wearing a helmet.
Being backed by political forces in government, these target killers have also gone blatant with their antics. Recently, a religious cleric was gunned down, in broad daylight, on Sharae Faisal, the busiest road in the city. The gruesome act was caught on a security camera but the killers remain at large.

The much reviled local police does almost nothing regarding the deteriorating law-and-order situation. All it is involved in are some showy, search operations in the Pushtun-dominant Orangi town and some much hyped standing-around-the-corner operations in Lyari.

Despite all the violence, Pakistan owes 25% of its GDP to Karachi's economic output. Only recently the real estate heavyweight, Abu Dhabi Group, signed a pact to invest $45 billion in constructions ventures in Karachi. This shows that the situation in Karachi has the potential to improve. Although, this might not happen overnight but the oppressed of Karachi have a window of opportunity in the coming elections. If they use their vote rightly, they might oust the forces that are gradually constricting Pakistan's carotid artery. If they don't, Karachi will slip deeper into this mess of animosity and brutality and become a lighted-fuse that would threaten to explode the powder-keg that is Pakistan.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

[In Review] Wateen Broadband

Pakistan is going through an Internet boom and there are a lot of internet service providers [ISPs] available for buyers. However, I have seen a lack of reviews for these ISPs which would have helped people weigh-in the pros and cons of each connection before actually acquiring it. I have seen people blindly delve into endeavors they tend to regret later on so I have taken an initiative in providing Pakistan's Internet community with some unbiased ISP reviews - fromm the viewpoint of a customer.

Wateen has been a major player in Pakistan's broadband scene for quite some time now. It has the distinguished achievement of rolling out the first commercial WiMAX network in the world and this has been a cornerstone of its success. My experience with Wateen is a fairly good one since I acquired their 1 Mbps Unlimited connection in October 2010.

Installation was done pretty quickly. My external Motorola CPE and the wiring were affixed on the same day that I placed the order. Internet services started later that evening.

Quality Metrics:

The speed of the connection remains close to the one advertised. I normally get around 130 kbps+ for direct download and 28 kbps for upload. Top speeds in torrents remain the same however recently there have been instances where I feel my P2P traffic is being throttled. Torrents with seed/peer ratio of even greater than 1.0 tend to hover between the 20-30 kbps range during download. This speed even goes down to 1 kbps on some occasions. Upload speeds are unaffected. The connection regains its lost torrenting touch after 1 am in the night and continues like that till 12 pm in the afternoon. On the other hand, the ping remains pretty good at between 85-120 ms within the country. (There was no good PingTest server close to my location.)

Recently, Wateen has resorted to throttling torrent speeds.

During my stint with Wateen I haven't experienced any drastic downtimes. Once or twice only I guess. Although, some times you would have to bear with a barrage of DNS lookup failed errors.

Device quality:
I have an external Motorola CPE which is fairly sturdy and weather-resistant. However, these have been discontinued and Wateen now offers the trendy looking Bolt devices. I haven't tried these yet.
One of the new Wateen devices. These devices are USB powered and Wi-Fi capable.
Customer service:
Their internet service was of a very good standard so I didn't have many encounters with their customer service reps before I contacted them a couple of times for the purpose of this review via email. All my queries were answered within a 24 hour period and comprehensively as well. Wateen's selfcare portal is inclusive and you will find everything regarding the management of your connection right here.
The well-rounded self-care portal of Wateen.

Wateen's unlimited packages are not unlimited in the true sense of the word. One would expect an implementation of a fair usage limit of around a couple of hundred gigabytes but Wateen are very thrifty in this matter and their fair usage limit is set to 40 GB. This is very low when it comes to today's multimedia heavy 'net usage.

The Bottom Line:
Wateen comes highly recommended from my side based on experience. There standard of services is fairly satisfactory although their torrent throttling and transfer caps won't satiate the avid downloader. 4/5 stars.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

[Tech Tips] Google Play Download/Update Error Fix

Google recently released the 4.2.2 update of Android Jelleybean and with this returned the old problem of Google Play AppStore giving errors while updating or downloading applications. The most common error encountered by droiders is "Error retrieving information from server rpc:s-5:aec-0". There are two fixes for it.

#1 Remove and re-add your Google Account:

> Go to Settings and scroll down to the Accounts portion.
> Select Google accounts and tap on your email address. If you have more than one Google account for the same tablet then select the primary one with which you access the Play store.

> Now click on the Options button (the one with three vertically stacked dots) and select Remove account.

> Now proceed tor reboot your tablet

> Re-add the same account via the + Add account option in the Accounts section.

#2 Some service tweaking:

If #1 doesn't solve the problem then you will have to go a little deeper.

>Open the Settings menu and select the Apps option.

> Proceed to the All section here and scroll down and select Google Play Store.

> Force stop this app and then proceed to the Clear data.

> Repeat the same procedure with the Google Services Framework app.

> Reboot the tablet.

Note: You will have to repeat #1 after #2.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Lahore Metro Bus Service Route Map

The route of the Lahore bus transit system is as follows:

1. Gajjumata Terminal
2. Dulu Khurd Bus Stop
3. Youhanabad Bus Stop
4. Nishtar Colony Bus Stop
5. Atari Saroba Bus Stop
6. Kamahan Bus Stop
7. Chungi Amar Sidhu Bus Stop
8. Qainchi Chowk Bus Stop (8A on map)
9. Ghazi Chowk Bus Stop (there is some confusion regarding this stop because there are two bus stops of the same name in the city and as you can see, the one labeled as 8B on the map (near DHA Phase-I one) seems to go way off-route and so it is neglected. Ghazi Bus Chowk is effectively number 9 and 8B is just there to show you that where the second bus stop of the same name exists.)
10. Ittefaq Hospital Bus Stop
11. Naseerabad Bus Stop
12. Model Town Bus Stop
13. Kalma Chowk Bus Stop
14. Qaddafi Stadium Bus Stop
15. Canal Road Bus Stop
16. Ichara Bus Stop
17. Shama Road Bus Stop
18. Qartaba Chowk Bus Stop (Also known as Muzung Chungi Adda)
19. Janazgah Bus Stop
20. MAO College Bus Stop
21. Civil Secretariat Bus Stop
22. Kachery Bus Stop
23. Bhatti Chowk Bus Stop
24. Azadi Chowk Bus Stop
25. Timber Market Bus Stop
26. Niazi Chowk Bus Stop
27. Shahdara Terminal