Sunday, September 18, 2016

Getting passport in Pakistan without hassle

We have all experienced the long queues and incessant chatter of agents outside passport offices. This post will help you circumvent most queues and allow you to get a passport with ease. Be sure to follow these guidelines:

1. Payment: You are required to pay a fee for getting your passport printed. You have the option of getting an urgent or normal delivery passport. (Normal passport arrives in whereas Urgent arrives in 4 days).

In addition, you can get a passport for 5 or 10 years validity and have the option of 36, 72 or 100 pages. The payment structure as follows:
 Payment in Rs.
Normal (10 days delivery)
Urgent (4 days delivery)
Pages / Validity
36 pages
72 pages
100 pages

Price correct as of September 2015
Decide on what you need and deposit this amount in National Bank. There is an NBP booth at Lahore Garden Town Passport office, but I recommend depositing this fee a day before going to the passport office.

You will need to print and fill this slip:

And here are the branches of NBP that accept this payment:

Remember, you SHOULD deposit this fee a DAY before going to the office.

2. Documents needed:

For a citizen's passport you need:
A. Your original CNIC and 2 copies of your CNIC (for children less than 18, Form B and need a guardian to accompany them)
B. Your previous passport and 1 copy of it  (if available)
C. Challan copy showing you have paid the passport fee

Get this done before going to the passport office.

3. Which office:

Here's a list of passport offices in Pakistan:

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Exam on Eid day!

After reading the title, I'm sure you would have thought I'm a whiny brat narrating some anecdote from my time abroad which I spent on my father's money. Let me disabuse you of that notion. This story took place in Lahore, Pakistan in October 2006.

My school decided that it was best to appear for our Islamiat and Pak Studies O Level exams in October of 2006 rather than in June the next year. This led to a hasty stretch to complete syllabus to both courses, neither of which was complete.

But the bigger problem was that the exams fell during the Holy Month of Ramazan. With our backs against the wall, we somehow survived the Pak Studies exam. What awaited us was unheard of. The Eid moon was not sighted, which meant there would be 30 'rozas', aligning our Islamiat Paper 1 with the Eid day! To top it off, the paper was to start at 8 am.

I remember missing Eid prayers, something I hadn't done before or since that fateful day in October. My cousins were celebrating while I went for my exam. As if this wasn't enough, the second part of the exam was the next day.

When I remember that Eid, I do not feel sad because of missing out on the fun but because there was no resistance to that schedule before or after the exam session. What hurt me most was my friends' obsequence. I know you can't change the schedule but at least shoot an email to the British Council condeming their lack of sensitivity to our religious festivities. Just imagine these exams being held on Christmas eve. Impossible!

Why I write this now is for the future candidates who wish to take these exams in the years to come. As Ramazan moves into May, the chances of Eid falling on an exam day will rise. Schools and candidates should request the British council to at least schedule no exams on the 2-3 days that Eid could fall on. It isn't too much to ask given the amount of revenues the British Council derives from O and A level exams conducted in Pakistan.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Tax return filing made easy

The Federal Board Revenue (FBR) has made your life easy by automating the process for getting an NTN number and filing income tax returns.

In order to get an NTN, follow these steps:
1) Visit FBR's new registration website (Register here)
2) Fill out your CNIC, Name and the image characters
3) This will take you to a form, where you have to fill your details
4) Submit the form

Once you have submitted your form, in a week or so you will be informed that your registration has been successful and that you can take your registration certificate from the given offices. You can either go to that office OR you can just visit FBR's new registration website again (given above). Enter the same details you entered earlier, the system will inform you that the displayed NTN number has already been assigned to you. Save this number for your record.

Once you have your NTN number, it is time to start filing returns. Follow these steps:
1) Go to FBR's website for e-enrollment. (This is the link)
2) Select your Taxpayer type (Individual, AOP, Business)
3) Enter your new NTN, CNIC and image characters
4) You will be asked to enter some information. After entering, submit the form.
5) A message will acknowledge your application and inform you that an email has been sent to your provided address
6) Wait for the email. When it arrives, click the acknowledge link, enter your activation code and print the form
7) You will shortly receive your username and password for filing
8) Also, post the printed form to the address specified in the email

Friday, November 14, 2014

Evolution of Mortein mosquito repellant machines

Mortein started with this capped hut design for their mosquito repellent machines in 2005. 

This was later replaced by this red and white ball design which was aesthetically pleasing to the eyes.
 The third and latest design is this red and grey ball design with the addition of of a vaporizer control which allows users to reduce the emission of repellent liquid according to their requirements.
Update 8 July '16
Mortein has also changed the liquid bottle that comes with the vaporizer (shown below).

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Did we learn anything from 8 October, 2005?

We all remember October 8, 2005. Nine years ago, a massive earthquake measuring .... On the richter scale razed buildings in north Pakistan, causing .... Casualties. A natural disaster of this magnitude could not be predicted. But could the number of casulaties be lowered if God forbid such a calamity was to hit Pakistan again?
After the earthquake there was talk during circuitous transmissions on TV of preventive measures. Have we done enough during the last nine years?
I distinctly remember drills being conducted in my school (among other places) in the aftermath of the earthquake. But as time passed such exercises were not repeated.
There was also talk of building design inspection and approval of buildings, but even at that time I was skeptical of this practice bring adopted, let alone it bring implemented in letter and spirit in the long run.
So nine years after disaster struck, we are as unprepared as we were in 2005.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Rainwater Harvesting

Last year, while working on a World Bank project on reforming Water and Sanitation Agencies (WASAs) of Punjab, I came across this astonishing fact: Groundwater in Lahore is being depleted 3 metres each year due to pumping for household and commercial use. This was a shocking revelation since Lahore received ample rainwater in the past few years. Further research highlighted that the water level had fallen 60feet from 1993 to 2012. Not only does the fall in water level make it harder to pump water out, it also exposes the citizens to arsenic waste that is found deep underground.
While working on the same project I met Dr. Nasir Javed, the geriatric but focused CEO of the Urban Unit. Mr. Javed is a big critic of the WASAs and their service delivery. He blamed the attitude of WASA higher ups for the fall in the ground water level. The overpumping of groundwater with tubewells seemed to be the problem. Moreover, WASAs had to buy extra equipment to remove water from flooded roads in monsoon season, which flushed water into sewers without recharging the ground warer. Mr. Javed was also working on a project known as "Rainwater harvesting". This entailed using the water from rains in Lahore - which is quite abundant in the summers - and using it for non-potable measures such as toilets and washing. Moreover, this harvesting also recharges the underground water aquifer. This project would also prevent flooding of roads since the water would seep underground in the artificial ponds.
More research helped me look at other places this practice had taken place. In Chennai, India, a law was passed to install rainwater harvesting equipment in all homes and offices in a period of one year. This practice helped raise the water level from 50feet to just five feet. Moreover, the water qualify improved. 
Dr. Javed's appeals to the government finally bore fruit in 2014 when an amendment was proposed to the LDA zoning and building regulations requiring "all buildings to be constructed in future in Lahore should have provision for rooftop rainwater harvesting. Collected rainwater may be utilised for all purposes other than drinking." A similar law was passed in Chennai which helped the municipal government raise water level.
As of 10th June 2014, LDA plans 39 water catchment points to be used for Rainwater harvesting. Two of these are underconstruction at Qaddafi Stadium and Lakshmi Chowk.  

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Lumia issues

I have always been a NOKIA mobile phone user (except my Sony Ericsson K510) even in this age of Android dominance. The Windows Phones offer me a value proposition which Android phones just can't. But I cant say that I'm not unhappy with NOKIA. 
I bought Lumia 610 in 2012 only to learn that Microsoft was about to introduce Windows Phone 8 which would not be available for my set. I hadn't recovered from the shock when I learnt my Windows Phone 7 software didnt even support USSD which was available since the time the first GSM phones were introduced. Nokia took no step to correct this anomaly even when they introduced WP7.8.
Then, I upgraded to WP8 Lumia 525 as I use USSD heavily. The experience was appreciable until I started having problems of my phone shutting down erratically. After browsing the internet, I saw people using LUMIA 520 complaining about the same problem. People had offered the solution of inserting a small card under the battery in order to improve the battery's connection to the phone.
Now, what I don't understand is, why is Nokia taking such a nonchalant approach to these complaints? If Lumia 520 had this problem, wasn't it Nokia's responsibility to fix it in L525? Nokia should look at their weaknesses if they want to expand in the territory of Android and iPhones.

Update: Aug 6, 2016

It's deja vu as Microsoft is hell bent on losing the miniscule market share it has left. Just like it didnt update Win Phone 7 mobiles to Windows Phone 8, it has now left many Windows 8.1 phones in the dark when it comes to updating to Windows 10 mobile (including my L525). Although the Redmond firm had states earlier that all W8.1 phones will receive the update, many have been left out.