Oct 122017

MOSCOW: Russia on Thursday presented a new bank note that shows images of Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula annexed by Moscow in 2014. The note worth 200 rubles ($3.50) shows a naval memorial in the city of Sevastopol, where Russia’s Black Sea fleet is based, and UNESCO-protected Greek and Roman ruins at nearby Chersonesus. The design also includes a map of the peninsula. The images on the bank note were chosen after a national competition last year to pick symbols of Russia. “The Russian people chose these symbols,” the head of Russia’s central bank, Elvira Nabiullina, told journalists in Moscow. “This reflects the desire of the people of Russia to see these symbols on notes.” She insisted that the new images “will not harm the position of the ruble in any way.” By putting images of Crimea in the nation’s wallets, Russia is capitalising on the wave of patriotism prompted by the peninsula’s annexation in March 2014. It also comes as a defiant response to Kiev and to the sanctions imposed by European Union and the United States that have hit the ruble hard. Putin takes victory lap to annexed Crimea The green-tinged note has now become legal tender, along with a new 2,000-ruble bill that shows Russia’s new cosmodrome in Vostochny in the far east. They are Russia’s first new bank notes since 2006 and the new denominations of 200 and 2,000 rubles aim to speed up cash transactions. The notes will first go into circulation in Moscow, the far east [Read More…]

Jun 302017
Greed wins

Those who blame PM Nawaz Sharif and his government for the failure of PIA need to realise that the decline of the airlines started in 2002, when, in spite of escalating oil prices, PIA’s balance sheet indicated minimal losses. The corruption infected vultures, who, through their networking and political contacts, had, by 2008, cunningly managed to be nominated as the MD of PIA and the DG of CAA Pakistan, were the main reason for this decline. This government can only be blamed for not having political will to appoint qualified and experienced executives, but not for the over Rs230 billion accumulated losses it inherited and the corrupt mediocrity that dominated its executive corridors. By the time the PML-N-led government took charge of PIA, all prime time slots in the Gulf had been surrendered to the advantage of the airlines owned by Gulf states. Almost half of the PIA fleet was grounded because of gross irregularities in the procurement of essential technical spares, while its human resource, which was once its asset, was eroded by burdening the already surplus employees of this loss making white elephant with over 300 employees with fake degrees. PIA’s GSAs and GHAs all over its network were changed and replaced by parties with dubious background. Having purchased long range aircraft like B777, it was shocking when, in the garb of code sharing, the airline was to be reduced to become a spoke carrier of Turkish Airline which took over all its routes to Europe, America and [Read More…]

Apr 182013
Forgotten treasures of Balochistan


Mohammad Ibrahim Langou deals in gemstones while Haji Abdul Hanan Khilji collects antique coins. The vendor and antique collector from Quetta, respectively, recently came to Karachi and exhibited their collections at the International Gems and Jewellery Show Pakistan, which was held at the Pearl Continental hotel on Saturday. They shared their stories with The Express Tribune.

“Mining of gemstones has been happening for the past 100 to 150 years in this part of the world [Balochistan],” says Langou, who owns a shop called Balochistan Gems, Jewellery and Handicraft in Quetta. “However, things have changed drastically over the years; tribal houses govern the mines now and this field has become a difficult place for others to enter.”

This vendor has been in the business as a middleman for almost four years now. But he admits working conditions in Quetta are not hassle-free due to the current scenario and political instability. “Politics have gravely affected the business of mining and gemstones,” he says, with regret in his eyes. He says the industry has faced a blip, and that there are no profits or buyers.

Although Langou visits the Chaghai and Kharan belts — areas which are rich in gemstones such as Lapis Lazuli and Peridot — he feels the industry in Quetta, which was once frequented by tourists from the west as well as from the Far East, is dying,

Antique collector Khilji, who has passionately been collecting coins since he was a little boy, was also present at the exhibition. “Travelers from other parts of the world sell these off to me,” he says, talking about how he owns centuries old remnants. And yet while these coins depict heritage, there are no buyers. “There aren’t any buyers in such a political set-up but things are looking good in the near future. With elections, things might just change for the better,” he exclaims.

While speaking to The Express Tribune, Khilji — owner of a shop in Quetta called Saif Jewellers Ambers & Handicrafts — pointed out one of his most precious collectibles: a coin with British Queen Victoria. His collection also included relics which would take a person to another era altogether such as that of the Abbasids or that of Mehmood Ghaznavi.

He only gathers and displays select coins; he admits that he dreads traveling to the no-go areas of the Baloch region, calling the Bilour belt and Faryab region troublesome places to be seen in.

With almost 24 years to his journey, and about 200 pieces in his extensive collection, Khilji reveals that he will leave his inherited pieces to his children and would love to have them follow in his footsteps.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 19th, 2013.                    

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