Best Paratha Kabaab in Islamabad

If you truly want to enjoy your paratha, kabaabs and tikkas then you will have to earn it. And what best way to earn then to hike up the Margalla Hills via Trail #3. And we suggest hiking up with a near empty stomach to build up that appetite.

This weekend, Qasim and I did just that. With almost starving stomaches, and only mineral water to sustain us through our journey, we began our ascent of the Margalla Hills. The hills, as any Islamabadi will tell you, are the most beautiful feature of the capital city of Pakistan. They dot the North Western side and run through the length of the city. To one side, they extend and grow all the way to Murree, the picturesque and tourist town up into the Himalayan Mountain range, and on the other side protrude into the fertile Potohar valley.

Trail#3 begins at around 600 meters above sea level in Sector F-6 adjacent to Shalimar Cricket ground and reaches the height of 1100meters near the village of Pir Sohawa up on the hills. The trail is 5.5 Km long and criss crosses through some of the most beautiful, natural and serene surroundings.

Qasim on Trail 3

Qasim on Trail 3

This Sunday, the weather cooperated. After many days of rains and clouds, there was a welcome break as sun shone through making the day extremely good for hiking. We got there a little after midday and after light stretching exercises began our ascend. As we went up, the sounds of the city muffled away to make room for chirping birds, and whispering leaves in the mild wind. Occasionally, one may run across a monkey on the trail, but otherwise, it is just nature and you moving along nice broad path up the hill.

This Sunday there was an unusually large crowd out for a hike. But not many folks prefer to climb all the way. Most of the hikers usually turn back half way up the path. But this Sunday, we were determined to go all the way to enjoy our meal.

It took us a pleasant two hours to reach the village of Pir Sohawa at the top of the mountain. Once there, we immediately made our way to the Capital Viewpoint restaurant to fill our starving stomaches. After quickly occupying a bunch of seats we ordered our favorite Parathas, kabaabs and chicken tikka treat. Capital Viewpoint has been serving some of the most delicious meals since its inception in early 1990s. And after hiking for so long, it was worth the wait. We literally gobbled down a couple of tikkas and dozen seikh kabaabs in a matter of minutes. The hunger inside us was too much and we wanted second helpings but only resisted as we had another hour of descend planned.

So if you really want to enjoy your tikkas at Pir Sohawa, we suggest take Trail #3. You will not regret it.

>Ignore the Nay Sayers

>If someone calls your idea “crazy” then you are onto something. If they declare you “insane” then you are moving in the right direction. And if they “write you off” then you are half way there to achieving your goals and successes.

Whether you agree or not, but history shows that almost all great men (and women) were declared “crazy”, “insane” and were “written off” while they were in the midst of their greatest adventure.

Einstein’s theory of relativity was not only controversial but was deemed “crazy” at the time of its publishing. Thomas Edison first phonograph was considered an “insane” idea. New York times wrote off Goddard, the father of rocket science, as someone who had an insane idea of going to the moon using some crazy rockets.

The list goes on and on. Steve Jobs defied the naysayers with his “insanely great” products for the past thirty years. Google was advised to let Yahoo acquire them as the search market was already saturated and their product would never take off. Ebay was considered a wacky and unprofitable idea when it was originally launched in 1995.

In my personal life, I have been advised dozens of times that my ideas are unsound and I cannot make money and am crazy to attempt them. But each time, I have ignored the naysayers and then gone ahead and done something that I always wanted. And, by Grace of God, succeeded each time.

In 2001, I was told that it was crazy to expect Pakistanis to use the internet to do recruitment and job search. But we believed that such a market not only existed but will be the only way recruitment will be done in Pakistan. We launched, BrightSpyre, Pakistan’s first online Job Search portal. Within two years, we were the first Pakistani company to be profitable from online business and were also the first to register 100,000 unique users online. Today, BrightSpyre has over half a million unique users and receives millions of job applications annually. Our model is copied and replicated by numerous copycat job sites in Pakistan and who owe their existence to BrightSpyre as we created the original market.

In 2004, when we decided to build a rural Tele-health network in Pakistan, we were told once again by all our peers and friends that it will not work and such an idea is outright crazy. Today, under UM Healthcare Trust, we run probably the only sustainable tele-health project in the country. Our services are available at near zero cost to the poor and needy in rural Mardan. Once again, we defied the odds to achieve our goals. I was also recently advised that my healthcare facility will not be successful and no one will ever use it. Today, we treat over 3,000 patients/month in rural Mardan and yes, we are probably the most successful rural clinic in the whole district of Mardan with a population exceeding 1.6 million people. Now, we are planning to take this project national and expand to other districts of the country.

In 2006, when we launched our international office in United States, we were told, no Pakistani company has ever been successful abroad without seeking investment and partners. We defied the odds and today, as a Pakistani startup we have customers in four continents with thousands of recruiters worldwide using our system to find the best talent.

All this time, I am told that there are no successful startups which do not have some source of financing. I remind them that none of my enterprises ever raised funds. We generated our revenues from our own products and services. We are profitable without the need to raise funds.

So my advice to all entrepreneurs out there. Never say Never. Do not listen to nay sayers. Believe in yourself and in your idea and just do it. The rest will be history.

Rising Petrol Prices in Pakistan

So I got this message today.

Rising Petrol Prices

Rising Petrol Prices

The price of petrol in the international market is hovering around US$36 a barrel. Now one barrel contains 210 liters of petrol. Which means a price of US$0.17 per liter in a barrel. Now as Pakistani Rupee today is around 80 rupees to a dollar, that translates into PKR 13.60 per litre in a barrel.

Now adding the price for refining and taxation, it comes to around PKR 25. However, the price set by Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA) is PKR 57/liter in the country. Is that not excessive profit taking by oil companies in Pakistan? Is that not another sign that the PPP government led by Asif Zardari is failing its citizens by not curbing and controlling the oil companies? The uncontrolled rise in oil prices in the country has caused an inflationary trend with commodities like milk, salad, meat and other such basic items costing two to three times more than a year ago.

Would be interesting to read comments on what others think on this pricing model.

10,000 Pageviews and Counting

On January 5, this blog crossed 10,000 pageviews. It is amazing that only three months back I was at 2,000 pageviews. So in a span of 90 days the blog has grown four times.

In 2008, I blogged close to 100 blogs on various blogsites and citizen journalism websites, the list of which can be found on atifmumtaz.com.

I thank all my readers for their support and viewership. And this year, with the launch of xenstreet.com, my latest tech blog initiative, I expect to contribute even more.

>Islamabad Bloggers Meetup

>Now here is another refreshing meetup I attended in Islamabad. It was even more amazing that over 100 people came together at Bahria campus on December 29th who had received invitations either via email or through Facebook just a few days earlier.

It was an encouraging sign to see so many Pakistanis in Islamabad either reading or blogging on a regular basis. There were people who blogged about popular topics like technology, about their personal life, politics, their country to such obscure topics like Mayan Calendar predicting end of the world in 2012. There were freshmen students, political activists, techno-geeks, and young entrepreneurs sharing their successes with the audience. And not just in English but also in Urdu language as well.

And yes, the event was being live blogged and twittered on the internet. It was also broadcast live for a small but dedicated audience of viewers online.

It was a great opportunity to finally meet face to face with many bloggers whom I have been following for the past many years. Bytesforall, PakSpectator, Metblogs, Sizlopedia.com are just some of the early success stories of bloggers from Islamabad.

The event also featured some stunning success on the internet in Pakistan including BrightSpyre, Pakistan’s premier job hunt website that I co-founded in 2001. Naqsha.net, Pakistan’s first application providing street maps and GPS navigation among others.

It is amazing that this medium is able to attract such a huge following in Pakistan. The traditional media as is the case worldwide still not being able to grasp the power of blogging and citizen journalism to the level that is required. This void is now being filled by twenty something youth who are now building Pakistan’s next generation of citizen journalists and reporters.

Badar Khushnood
from Google in collaboration with IEEE Bahria University Chapter organized this meetup. I do hope such events take place more regularly in Islamabad as it will only inspire more youth to use this medium to their benefit. The organizers did a good job of keeping the event running on a schedule and a agreed upon format thus making it more productive and interesting for the audience.

XenStreet.com – Linux and Open Source blog Launches

XenStreetSince the the cold and breezy Michigan Fall of 1991, when I sat in front of a Sun powered Unix workstation running some version of SunOS, I have been awed and hooked onto the Unix/Linux movement. When PCs were still dark, textual with a green display; while Macs were still black and white, I was using this awesome machine with a humongous 20 inch monitor and a full color display. And yes, it ran something called OpenWindows which was way ahead of what others had to offer at that time. Since that time I have used almost all versions of Unix (NeXTStep, Solaris, IRIX, AIX etc) and later Linux (Red Hat, Fedora, CentOS, Ubuntu, gOS etc). I have written on this subject on numerous times and also formed a few startups that focused on using and promoting this technology from the get go. So today, I announce the launch of a dedicated blog on this subject called, XenStreet.com.

XenStreet will focus on not only Unix and Linux but also the OpenSource movement as well. We shall review the best of what is out there, the impact it is having in the world in general and developing economies like Pakistan in particular.

So stay tuned to read and review the articles on XenStreet. And if you would like to contribute, get in touch with us we shall be happy to add you as a contributer on our roster.

Check out our first article on XenStreet.com on gOS distribution of Linux.