Karachi Photo Blog

Thursday, September 14, 2023

The Defunct Chowk.com; what Chowk.com was all about

I was asked what Chowk.com was about when it was operational.   Chowk.com had three founders: Safwan Shan, Umair Khan, and Ginni Dhindsa.  When Chowk started, the Internet was a novelty.  Chowk.com provided an online space for Indians and Pakistanis to find out about each other and learn what the 'enemy' was thinking.  Several people started their writing careers at Chowk.com.  It was magical to see your article published at Chowk and then to see its 'views' growing in numbers, and on top of that you got to 'Inter-act' with your readers who cared to comment on your writing.  It was all very new and very refreshing, a huge departure from the days of hard-copy publications.  Why Chowk.com wrapped up its operation?  Chowk.com did not have a revenue model.  Very early, Umair Khan left.  For several years the duo of Safwan Shah and Ginni Dhindsa successfully ran Chowk.com but then Safwan Shah got busy with money-making ventures, and it was too much work for Ginni to handle the humongous flow of articles coming to Chowk.com.  When Chowk.com ceased operation, it went down with hundreds of thousands of remarkable articles, and millions of useful and educational comments from the readers.
But Chowk.com has made history.  Chowk will always be remembered as one of the first South Asian websites that let Indians and Pakistanis interact with each other, visa free.

Wednesday, August 09, 2023

Another website trying to get your personal information, alikefriends.com


When you try to reach



You get the following message

This site can’t be reached

Check if there is a typo in www.alikefriends.com.



 here is the original email that landed in my inbox


On Tuesday, August 8, 2023 at 11:23:17 PM PDT, Credit Bureau Reporting-Alert <madison@alikefriends.com> wrote:

Great Score


Get Your New August 2023 Scores Right Here


When Last Have You Checked Your Scores?


To see your August 2023 from Experian,

TransUnion and Equifax Reports in one easy to read report go Right Here


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Alike Friends

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Unsubscribe me from this mailing list 



Contact Info:
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This is an email advertisement. To unsubscribe from our sponsor: click here.

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

No, NASA has NOT invited Bisma Salangi to the USA

A fake news report making rounds in the Pakistani social media circuits will tell you that NASA has invited the "inventor" of "anti-sleep glasses for drivers", a 13-year old girl by the name of Bisma Salangi, to the USA.

See here:

Anti-Sleep Glasses For Drivers: NASA Invited pakistan’s 13-year-old girl Bisma to USA



 How can you tell it is fake news?

First, NASA web site does not mention anything about this claim.

Second, if you search the Internet, you will find that several people claim to have invented "anti-sleep glasses for drivers."

For example, see here:

Anti-sleep glasses



Saturday, April 29, 2023

Cemendtaur found Dead--a report from the local newspaper

Cemendtaur found Dead

By our news reporter



Ali Hasan Cemendtaur has been found dead in his room. Police is investigating any foul play.  Coroner’s report is due in two days.  Neighbors believe Cemendtaur died of a drug overdose.  A family member on condition of anonymity told the newspaper Cemendtaur fought with heroin addiction for a long time.  His last stay at a rehabilitation center ended just a week earlier.

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Dr. Firasat of the NED University, Karachi


Upon learning of the death of Dr. Syed Firasat Ali, I couldn't help but wonder what his legacy would be. The answer came to me quite simply: I am his legacy, as are thousands of his other students. His children and all the people he inspired through his good manners and scholarship are also a part of his legacy. Additionally, the research papers he wrote and the nonprofit work he supported are part of his legacy as well.

It's worth noting that in Pakistan, people are not typically known by their first names. Instead, we call people by their most uncommon name. For example, both Mohammad Aslam and Aslam Mohammad (or Aslam Ahmad) would be called Aslam. Dr. Syed Firasat Ali was thus known as Dr. Firasat at the NED University. I remember him as my Fluid Mechanics teacher at the NED.

Dr. Firasat Ali was forced to permanently move to the United States in 1988 due to the violence in Karachi, particularly following the Bushra Zaidi incident. He initially taught at a few community colleges in the New Jersey area before finding a permanent position at Tuskegee University in Alabama. After retiring from Tuskegee in May 2022, he and his wife lived with their youngest son in Auburn, Alabama. In November 2022, he had a cardiovascular issue but after a medical procedure involving the placement of stents and a pacemaker, he was in good health and returned to his regular routine.

Dr. Firasat Ali died on Friday, January 13 in Auburn, Alabama. He passed away the way he wanted to: quickly and without too much pain. He had seen the many faces of death through the passing of his three brothers, one sister, and several cousins. He did not want to die after losing his mind, like those suffering from Alzheimer's disease do.  What fun is dying if one is not even aware that they are alive?

On Wednesday, January 11, Dr. Firasat complained of a stomachache. Early the next morning, he had difficulty breathing and was taken to the ER around 6 AM. His blood oxygen level was 90%, but he was in pain. He was sedated around 12 PM, but his oxygen level kept decreasing; by night it was 80%. The doctors at the hospital couldn't figure out what was happening. On Friday, his oxygen level dropped to 70% and he passed away at around 1:30 PM the same day. He was buried in a local cemetery in Auburn on Saturday, January 14, with around 80 people in attendance.

Dr. Firasat Ali's life was not atypical of a Mohajir life: born in a minority province, middle life spent in Pakistan, moved to North America and buried there. His life was shaped by the strong political forces of his times: the South Asian Muslim identity crisis, particularly after the fall of the Mughal Empire, the hasty exit of the British from South Asia, leaving behind fragile political entities, the Cold War, and the American experience after slavery and the civil rights movement, which paved the way for immigration from post-colonial states.

Dr. Syed Firasat Ali's son wrote about his father here:


Dr. Sohail interviewed Dr. Firasat Ali:

 Dr. Firasat Ali's speech at a convention:



An older email exchange

On Thursday, August 23, 2007 at 09:12:02 AM PDT, Cemendtaur wrote:

Thanks for writing back, Dr. Firasat Ali.
I did jump through a few email addresses in the last
couple of years--must have missed your posts in those
transitions.  But I do remain a great fan of yours and
really appreciate the way you taught me (and us) at
I am sorry to learn that you won't be able to attend
the upcoming convention.  The convention would have
been an excellent opportunity for us to meet you and
for you to meet your former students and maybe a few
classmates.  Kindly do look into possibilities to
attend the event.  It is on a Saturday, and it would
be a large gathering of NEDians.  Your attendance
would really add a lot of value to it.

Very warm regards,
Ali Hasan C.

--- Syed Firasat Ali <firasat_ali@> wrote:

> Dear Ali Hasan:
> It is indeed a pleasure to get see your email
> message after a gap of few years. During this gap, I
> sent few email messages to you at couple of email
> addresses but did not understand what happened.
> Thanks for your invitation. I regret that I would
> not be able to make it.
> Please keep in touch.
> Regards,
> Syed Firasat AliAssociate Professor Aerospace
> Engineering DepartmentTuskegee University, Tuskegee,
> AL 36088Phone(334)727 8853(Office/Phone mail);Fax
> (334) 727 8090 (write attention Dr. Ali)> Date: Tue,
> 21 Aug 2007 23:46:19 -0700>

> cemendtaur> Subject: Dr. Firasat Ali.

> is your student from your NED days.> To:
> fali> CC: firasat_ali> >
> Dear Dr. Firasat Ali,> >

Salam> > Hope you and your
> family members are doing great.> I hope you remember
> me. I was in touch with you a few> years back but
> then lost contact.> > NEDians of North America are
> arranging this year's> convention in San Jose,
> California. It would be> absolutely great if you
> would attend. Details are> here:>
> http://convention2007.nedians.org/> > Kindly do
> write back and let me know.> >
Warm regards,> Ali
> Hasan C.> > > > >

Photo, courtesy of Asim Ali (son of Dr. Syed Firasat Ali)

Saturday, October 22, 2022

Imam Bokhari mausoleum in Uzbekistan

Imam Bukhari mausoleum in Uzbekistan

Hartang, Uzbekistan

 Samarqand, somarkand


An article written for the Wildlife & Environment Magazine
Editor: Syed Khurshid Ali

An Uzbekistan visit: Historical notes and environmental issues

There were several reasons why I was in Uzbekistan. One, I wanted to travel through each and every country of Central Asia and Uzbekistan was one of them.  Two, the historical cities of Samarqand and Bokhara, important Silk Route stopovers and trading posts, make Uzbekistan a must see destination for a history student. Three, I wanted to visit the mausoleum of Imam Bokhari. This last tourist attraction has a remarkably interesting story associated with it, but first the environmental issues faced by Uzbekistan.  

Uzbekistan, the land of the Uzbeks, was a part of the Russian Empire when the Union turned socialist in nature in 1917; the republic remained a part of the Union till 1991. During the Soviet rule, grand projects were initiated to bring barren land to produce food crops. One such project was the use of Amu Darya water to irrigate land. The Amu Darya originates from the mountains separating Central Asia from China, goes through Tajikistan, becomes the natural border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan, goes through Turkmenistan, and then enters Uzbekistan to finally drain in the Aral Sea. The termination part should be mentioned in the past tense. During the Soviet rule, several irrigation canals were taken out of the Amu Darya. The diversion of Amu River water stopped all inflow from that river into the Aral Sea and the sea started shrinking. First the sea divided into two parts: North Aral and South Aral Sea with a land bridge between them, and then gradually South Aral Sea completely disappeared; with it was gone its precious marine life and the livelihood of fishermen of the region. The UN called the shrinkage of the Aral Sea, “one of the largest ecological catastrophes of our time.”

Over two centuries after the inception of the Industrial revolution—the historical moment when we started to use natural resources and our tools and machines to play with the nature on a grand scale--we human beings must learn our place in the grand scheme of things. We are a part of the environment we live in; other parts of nature are of equal value. We must learn from the animals how to take from the nature what we absolutely need. We can benefit from the nature without tweaking the natural setup too much, and whenever we play with nature we must think far ahead because the negative consequences of hurting the natural balance may come to haunt us in the future.

Back to the enthralling story that revived the importance of Iman Bokhari. Most Muslims understand how instrumental Imam Bokhari was in resurrecting Prophet Muhammad’s sayings, but few know how Indonesia’s Sukarno ‘resurrected’ Imam Bokhari.

Imagine you are living in the 1950s. It is the height of the Cold War. The world is divided between the Soviet and the American camps, but there are several countries in the third world that do not want to be aligned with either of the two superpowers. Both the USA and the Soviet Union want to woo the nonaligned countries to their respective camps. With such a desire Nikita Khrushchev invites Indonesian president Sukarno to visit the Soviet Union. The meeting goes very well. After Moscow, Soekarno lands in Toshkent where Soekarno has a strange request. He wants to visit the grave of Imam Bokhari. The Soviet officials look at each other with disbelief. Imam Who? The non-Uzbek officials are surprised someone so renowned in the Islamic history is resting in peace somewhere in the Soviet Union. The officials soon find out the ninth century Islamic scholar is buried in the town of Hartang, near Samarqand. They discover that the neglected scholar’s grave is in bad condition. In fact, there is no headstone and Imam Bokhari’s sepulcher is identified through oral history. Overnight, restoration work is carried out to make the grave worth visiting, and next day, Sukarno goes to Imam Bokhari’s burial and offers Fatiha.  

After Sukarno’s visit, many leaders from the Muslim world, visiting the Soviet Union, made the ritual of visiting the grave of Imam Bokhari. After gaining independence, Uzbekistan paid special attention to its historical monuments. A modern mausoleum was built over Imam Bokhari’s grave. Today, Imam Bokhari’s final resting place is a big campus with a mosque and a madrassa besides the tomb.