October 19, 2011


As part of the ongoing partnership between Newsline and Teabreak.pk, our two media companies are combining resources to bring new forms of discourse and analysis to news-hungry audiences. Today, we are ready to launch the first session in a series of live discussions titled “The Chat Room.”

Session 1 is all about the floods of 2011 that have devastated Sindh. The scale of this flood has been bigger than the 2010 floods in terms of damage in Sindh. Unfortunately, despite everything that happened a year ago, Pakistan seems to have reacted slowly and inadequately.

Join us today at 5pm as we examine the disaster that is this year’s floods, the government response to it and compare it all to what happened in 2010. Of course, we’ll take a critical look at what we have learned (and what we should have learned from last year), including suggesting plans for improved preparedness for future years.

Read on for more details.

The Ch@t Room

Session 1: The 2011 Sindh floods began during Pakistan’s monsoon season in mid-August 2011. Heavy monsoon rains relentlessly hit Sindh, eastern Balochistan and southern Punjab. The floods have caused considerable damage: an estimated 434 civilians have been killed, with 5.3 million people and 1,524,773 homes affected.

In the first session of “The Ch@t Room” we’ll discuss the severity of the natural calamity, its affect on the economy and the long-term implications of climate change in our region. We will talk to experts and activists who have been involved in the humanitarian effort this year and in 2010.

You can participate in this discussion by asking questions to our panelists and by answering polls.

The live chat is scheduled to start at 5pm, Wednesday, October 19th.

Session 1 will be moderated by Sana Saleem. The panellists are Dr Awab Alvi, Afia Salam, Usama Khilji, Dr Faraz Chaudry and Karim Jindani (bios below).

Click here to go to our event page.  

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Moderator and Panellist Bios:

Sana Saleem

Sana Saleem is a blogger at Dawn.com, Global Voices, Asian Correspondent, The Guardian and her personal blog Mystified Justice. She recently won the Best Activist Blogger award by CIO & Google at the Pakistan Blogger Awards. She can be found on Facebook and Twitter.

Aafia Salam

Afia Salam has had a diverse career. When she was studying for her Masters in Geography, Afia had no idea that her future path would have so many forks and turns. From university in 1978, she ventured off into journalism. From there she would become Pakistan’s first female cricket journalist, then move on to become an air traffic controller and then the creative head of three advertising agencies: Blazon, Argus and Blitz-DDB.

But journalism worked its way into her blood. During her career, Afia served as both the editor of the country’s only English-language monthly dedicated to cricket, The Cricketer, and the editor of an aviation and defence monthly, The Wings. She also edited Pakistan’s first energy sector magazine, Energy Update. Eventually, she joined Pakistan’s first English-language television channel, DawnNews. There she served as the senior copy editor responsible for the bulletin, headed the culture desk and was content manager for the daily flagship show, Breakfast at Dawn.

Over the years, Afia has headed the Education, Communications and Outreach unit of IUCN Pakistan (International Union for Conservation of Nature) and has worked as an independent media consultant, content developer and media trainer.

Recently, Afia has worked as a Programme Coordinator in Sindh for the Imran Khan Foundation, undertaking post-flood rehabilitation and reconstruction work. She has been actively involved in relief work in the immediate aftermath of the 2011 floods in Thatta and Badin districts.

Awab Alvi

Dr Awab Alvi is a dentist by profession practicing in Karachi at Alvi Dental Hospital, he has specialized in the field of Orthodontics (Saint Louis University) and Microscopic Root Canal Treatment (University of Pennsylvania). He is also a TED Senior Fellow

He has maintained a political blog under the pen-name Teeth Maestro, which has become a tool challenging the rampant corruption and terrorism that has plagued Pakistan. Dr Awab has emerged as a very committed civil society activist in Pakistan being the founding member of Peoples Resistance, which was at the forefront challenging the martial law of 2007. Awab has extensively used online social media tools, blogging, Twitter and Facebook to spread the message for a positive change in Pakistan.

Dr Awab has been a very active proponent of online freedom of expression in Pakistan. He raised funds for the 2005 Earthquake in Pakistan via Help-Pakistan. In 2009 he collected over Rs3 million to provide relief to the millions of displaced people from the Swat valley. During the 2010 and 2011 floods, Awab and the OffroadPakistan team raised Rs220 Million ($250,000) to personally provide emergency relief to over 200,000 flood-affected people.

Dr Awab has attended and spoken at a number of conferences, including Free Expression in Asian Cyberspace & Asia 21 in 2006, Global Voices Summits in 2008 and 2010, TEDIndia in 2009, TED 2011, TEDGlobal 2011 and also has had the honor to speak at the 2011 UK Conservative Party Conference in Manchester. He is also an organizer of TEDxKarachi.

Dr Faraz Chaudry

Faraz Chaudry is a doctor currently working at Shaikh Zayed Medical College Hospital in Rahim Yar Khan as a demonstrator in the department of pathology. He is an active member of the Young Doctor’s Association GS, Rahim Yar Khan chapter, elected through an election in 2010. The Young Doctor’s Association runs a full-fledged campaign for the betterment of the healthcare system and campaigns against financial injustice within the medical system. The group also examines the government’s formal positions regarding the availability and quality of medicine it provides in hospitals in an effort to hold them accountable to both doctors and patients. The group recently led a campaign that lasted 43 days in Punjab and found support across Pakistan.

Currently, Dr Chaudry is working with colleagues to improve health services in the country, including rural areas; part of this involves participating in public awareness campaigns about hepatitis and dengue fever.

Inspired by senior doctors around him who had set up medical camps after the earthquake of 2005, Dr Chaudry has been heavily involved in flood relief efforts in 2010 and 2011. Last year, Dr Chaudry and colleagues formed a team of volunteers and started working to assist those affected by the floods. They treated more than 69,000 patients in seven camps in Bhong region and also donated medicine, rations and mosquito nets.

This year, his team of medical volunteers worked in Sindh, mostly in Mirpur Khas, but also in Sanghar and Tando Adam, treating 25,000 people and providing rations, cash and mosquito nets. Current relief efforts are still on, even though he says, “We are falling short of resources.”

Karim Jindani

Karim Jindani is a IT consultant working in the Payment Systems domain. He has a BS and MS degree in Computer Science from FAST. Karim has had a long association with TPS (www.tpsonline.com) and pioneered many innovations in the e-banking industry in Pakistan and abroad for many banks and telecoms. His areas of interest include utilising different technlogies, especially mobile technology, to provide banking services to under-served populations.

Other than his professional commitments, he is a founding member of YAKJA group. YAKJA (http://yakja.wordpress.com) is a group of individuals (mostly from IT industry) who got together in August 2010 to do their part in relief and rehabilitation work for people affected by the floods. After carrying out initial relief efforts, YAKJA undertook a rehabilitation project (pre-fabricated housing). The team collected Rs1.8 million rupees to carry out on-the-ground relief and rehabilitation work. The YAKJA team is again active this year and has so far collected Rs600,000 and performed relief work (ration distribution and medical camps). The spirit of YAKJA is to involve people from different backgrounds to work as a team and do ground work on their own.

Karim is also working closely with TCF (The Citizens’ Foundation) and has been part of the TCF Rahbar programme. He believes strongly that sustainable efforts in the field of education is the only way Pakistan can address the problems facing the country today.

Usama Khilji

Usama Khilji is an activist and writer based in Islamabad.

He has been involved in a cultural exchange as part of the YES Programme under which he represented Pakistan for a year in the US in 2005-06. He was also part of a regional peace initiative Pul-e-Jawan that involved citizen journalists from Pakistan, Afghanistan and India in Kabul in September 2011. He is the youth focus group leader of the Pak-US Alumni Network (PUAN), Islamabad chapter.

Khilji is the Membership and Mentoring Leader of Future Leaders of Pakistan (FLP), a youth organisation that works on leadership development and encourages community service by Pakistani youth. He has been leading the FLP flood relief effort since June 2010 that uses social media to garner donations. He is also the assistant director of the documentary Picking Up the Pieces that focuses on the impact of the floods on education in Charsadda, Khyber Pukhtunkhwa.

With an interest in research, Khilji has worked on research assignments at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI), Strategic Technology Resources (STR), Waqt News, and Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI). He has also worked as sub-editor at the The Nation’s “World Focus” section in 2010.

He is currently working as part of the Rule of Law Programme in Pakistan team at the Community Appraisal and Motivation Programme (CAMP). Khilji writes for various newspapers, magazines and blogs, all of which is archived at his blog (www.usamakhilji.wordpress.com), shared on Twitter at @UsamaKhilji, and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/UsamaKhiljiPK.

On the side, he is pursuing a degree in politics and international relations through the University of London’s international programme.