Saturday, February 4, 2012

LAHORE: Three more die of drug reaction

The death toll of drug reaction patients has climbed up to 132, with three more cardiac patients giving in on Saturday to fatal reaction from medicines distributed by the Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC), Lahore.

The Health Department has reported 109 casualties so far, including the two patients’ deaths due to reaction from medicines on Saturday.

According to sources in different hospitals, three cardiac patients ñ Shahida Bibi, 55, a resident of Rang Mahal and Ghulam Ali, 55, a resident of Kasur from the Services Hospital while Pervaiz, 60, a resident of Mozang admitted to Sir Ganga Ram Hospital ñ succumbed to the medicine reaction.

The Health Department has, however, confirmed death of two patients from Services Hospital due to the reaction of the medicines during the last 24 hours.

Meanwhile, the cardiac patients with complaints of drug reaction admitted to different hospitals are being given the antidote (Folnic Acid) and the doctors are hopeful that the health of the patients will improve within a few days. According to hospitals’ managements, the treatment has been started in the light of guidelines issued by the Health Department, however, the results of these guidelines have still to be matured as the casualties among cardiac patients continue unabated.

More than 400 people are under treatment in various hospitals in Lahore, while nearly 50 of them are reportedly in critical condition and kept in ICU and CCU for critical care.

Meanwhile, the Health Department further informed that a total of 280 patients are under treatment in various hospitals, including 149 in Services Hospital, 43 in Mayo Hospital, 39 in Jinnah Hospital, 24 in Sir Ganga Ram Hospital and 10 in Lahore General Hospital, four in Shaikh Zayed Hospital, Lahore, five in Ittefaq Hospital, Lahore, three in Allied Hospital, Faisalabad, two in Nishtar Hospital, Multan and one in DHQ Hospital, Rawalpindi.

The spokesman of Health Department said that 40 patients affected by reaction of medicines from PIC recovered and were discharged from various hospitals during the last 24 hours, which took the number of patients recovering from the reaction to 510.

Russia, China veto UN move on Syria as toll rises

Russia and China blocked a UN Security Council resolution condemning Syria for its crackdown on protests, hours after Syrian forces bombed Homs, killing hundreds.The heaviest reported day of death since the Syrian uprising began coupled with the second UN veto in four months triggered a wave of international outrage at the failure to reach a common stand at the United Nations.

Washington on Saturday said it was "disgusted" with the rare double veto and France denounced Friday's massacre in the city of Homs as a "crime against humanity."

President Bashar al-Assad's troops shelled Homs "randomly" during the night killing men, women and children, the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) said.

It said at least 260 civilians were killed in the onslaught. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said about 100 women and children were among the 237 dead in its toll. Both said hundreds more were wounded.

The Assad regime "committed one of the most horrific massacres since the beginning of the uprising in Syria," the SNC said. Opposition groups say more than 6,000 people have now been killed in the country since last March.

Dozens of bodies and scenes of chaos could be seen in video images shown by the Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya television channels.

Church bells rang out and Muslim prayers were recited in Homs mosques for those killed, activists said. Thousands took part in funeral processions across the city.

AFP was not able to verify the authenticity of videos or the tolls because of restrictions on reporting in Syria. But US President Barack Obama denounced the "unspeakable assault" and demanded that Assad step down.

"Assad must halt his campaign of killing and crimes against his own people now. He must step aside and allow a democratic transition to proceed immediately," Obama said in a statement.

The Syrian government denied responsibility for the deaths, blaming them on opposition rebels seeking to influence Security Council debate on Syria. But Russia and China used their diplomatic muscle for the second time in four months to block a resolution condemning the violence.

The other 13 countries in the 15-member council voted for the resolution, proposed by European and Arab nations to give strong backing to an Arab League plan to end the crackdown.

Russia and China "remain steadfast in their willingness to sell out the Syrian people and shield a craven tyrant," US ambassador Susan Rice told the council.

In a separate message on Twitter, Rice wrote: "Disgusted that Russia and China prevented the UN Security Council from fulfilling its sole purpose."

Britain is "appalled" at the veto, said its UN ambassador Mark Lyall Grant, while French President Nicolas Sarkozy "strongly deplores" the veto by Russia and China, his office said.

The Arab League meanwhile renewed its call for Syria to end the crackdown. It said "the escalation of violence has put the Syrian crisis on a dangerous new curve which will lead to an aggravation of the situation and an increase in deaths."

But Russia's UN envoy Vitaly Churkin defiantly rejected attacks from the European and Arab nations that proposed the resolution, which has been negotiated for several weeks.

Churkin justified the veto by saying the proposed resolution "sent an unbalanced signal to the Syrian parties."

His Chinese counterpart Li Baodong said pushing through such "a vote when parties are still seriously divided... will not help maintain the unity and authority of the Security Council, or help resolve the issue."

Western envoys said they had bent over backwards to change the text after Russia had balked at any resolution that could be used to justify foreign military intervention, called for Assad to quit or imposed an arms embargo on Syria.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she had tried to negotiate with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference in Germany.

But the resolution's backers said they decided to end negotiations and call for a vote after Russia demanded new changes early Saturday.

Russia -- for whom Syria is its last remaining major ally in the Middle East -- announced that Lavrov and intelligence chief Mikhail Fradkov would travel to Damascus on Tuesday to press Assad to discuss a political solution.

As news of the Homs killing spread, protesters stormed Syrian embassies in Athens, Berlin, Cairo, Kuwait and London. Tunisia announced it was expelling Syria's ambassador and withdrawing its recognition of the Assad government.

The Homs attack came on the 30th anniversary of a massacre by Assad's father Hafez in the city of Hama in which tens of thousands died.

Imran holds Punjab government responsible of drug deaths

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan has held the Punjab government responsible for deaths caused by spurious drugs, Geo News reported.

Talking to media here, Imran said the deaths occurred owing to incompetence of Punjab government.

Khan further said PPP and PML-N are scared of the PTI tsunami because they don't want any third power to make them accountable.

After PIC drugs, Punjab hit by textbooks theft scam

Punjab government reels amid misappropriations in health and education sectors.
Dunya News on Saturday unearthed a major embezzlement in the Punjab education sector.According to sources, the textbooks supposed to be distributed free to the government schools in Punjab, are being trashed and sold later.
Two involved suspects have been arrested and more than 25,000 books have been recovered from their possession.
Some of the employees of Punjab Textbook Board are also involved in the scam, sources told Dunya News.
The warehouse where the ‘not-for-sale’ seals on these books were being tampered with has been sealed by a CIA team.

Malika Pukhraj’s anniversary today

Renowned Pakistani singer Malika Pukhraj is being remembered on her death anniversary today (Saturday).

Malika Pukhraj was born in village Mirpur, on the banks of the River Akhnoor, 16 miles from Jammu in 1912. She was given the name "Malika" at birth, by 'Majzoob', 'Baba Roti Ram, a spiritualist in Akhnoor area , and named Pukhraj by her Aunt.

Malika Pukhraj who was coached by Ustad Ali Baksh Kasuri, father of Bade Ghulam Ali Khan. At age nine, she visited Jammu and performed at coronation ceremony of Maharaja Hari Singh, who got so impressed by her voice that she appointed a court singer in his Durbar, and stayed there for another nine years.

Over the next 8 decades, she captivated her audience with her command over the singing genres of Thumri, Ghazal, Bhajan and folk Pahari Geet, including Dogri folk songs.

She was among the greatest singers of British India in the 1940s, and after Partition of India in 1947, she migrated to Lahore, Pakistan , where she received further fame, through her radio performances with composer, Kale Khan.

In 1980, she received the Presidential Pride of Performance Award, Pakistan.

In 1977, when All India Radio, for which she sang until Partition, was celebrating its Golden Jubilee, she was invited to India, and awarded with the 'legend of Voice' award.

Malika Pukhraj also recorded her memoirs in the novel Song Sung True.

Malika Pukhraj, died in Lahore on February 4, 2004. Her funeral procession started from her residence West Canal bank, and she laid to rest at her ancestral 'Shah Jamal' graveyard in Lahore.

Romania rescues children as Europe's freeze deepens

Nine Romanian children were taken into care after a baby died in an unheated house, joining at least 189 others killed by a Siberian front which strengthened its hold over Eastern Europe on Friday and spread further west.

Temperatures plummeted to minus 37 Celsius (minus 35 Fahrenheit) in northern Slovakia and rescue workers dug through snow on mountain roads to rescue stranded bus passengers in the Balkans.

In Romania, 80 percent of the Danube river was frozen over stopping ships sailing to the Black Sea, but the biggest concern was for children in the European Union's second poorest country.

Child protection officers in the city of Iasi took three girls into care after a four-month-old baby died in an unheated house where temperatures dipped as low as minus 20C (minus 4 F).

"These children were already suffering from malnutrition. When the cold hit, their situation went from bad to worse to catastrophic," a spokesman told Reuters.

As many as 15,000 children in Iasi may be at risk from the cold and a further six children had been taken into care, the spokesman said. The cold snap has so far killed 24 people in Romania and 11 in neighbouring Bulgaria.

The European Union said the supply of Russian gas fell further to some Eastern European states as well as Italy, Greece and Austria, but said it was not yet facing an emergency. All EU states have obtained extra gas from other sources.

In Ukraine 101 people have now died - a further 38 in the past 24 hours - and supermarkets are short of food as trucks struggle to make deliveries. Eight more have died in Poland since Thursday.

Clare Nullis, spokeswoman for the UN's World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), told reporters that Europe's unseasonably warm December and January meant this would not be a record-breaking winter.


However, those words were little comfort to many in the Balkans where fresh snow overnight added to the crisis.

The Serbian government has so far declared a state of emergency in 19 municipalities in the south and east, where six people have died from cold.

Six other people died in Bosnia from the cold, including four who died on the streets of the capital Sarajevo.

In the southern region of Svrljig, firefighters worked for hours to evacuate passengers from a bus stranded on a mountain road, while a second bus was trapped by an avalanche in the eastern Bosnian village of Krupac. No casualties were reported.

"The situation has worsened," said Predrag Maric, head of the Serbian Interior Ministry's Department for Emergencies.

A funeral procession near the border with Macedonia was stuck for four hours and had to transfer the coffin to a 4x4 jeep. In the northern town of Ecka, workers in a local fishery had to use pneumatic drills to break ice and get to the fish.

"I have not seen anything like this for more than two decades," said fisherman Nikola Kircic.

Local hunters were using tractors to take food to animals in the mountains of southwestern Satornja.

"Roe deer and other small game are on the verge of starvation as the grass is under heavy snow," said local hunter Momir Nikolic.

Albania registered its first casualty, a 63-year-old man believed to have died from the cold on his way home in the northern region of Bulqize.

German weather service DWD said it expected extreme cold to continue in central and eastern Europe for the next four days, but that temperatures would rise back above freezing point in most parts of France and Britain.


As the Siberian front moved west, Dutch ice breakers cleared access to Rotterdam, Europe's biggest port.

But organisers of the Elfstedentocht - a 200km (125 mile) speed skating race across the country's waterways - were praying for thicker ice in the hope they could stage the competition for the first time since 1997. Dozens of over-enthusiastic skaters fell through the ice as they tested conditions.

Other sporting fixtures across the continent have been cancelled.

Croatia's Adriatic coast and many of its islands were blanketed in snow - rare so far south - covering palm trees in the port of Split and bringing some residents out on skis. The island of Solta, just off Split, saw 30 cm (12 inches) of snow.

Snow fell on the northern tip of Africa, dusting palm trees in the Algerian capital. Locals said it was the first time they remembered snow falling in Algiers in eight years. Temperatures fell to about minus 1 degree Celsius (30 degrees Fahrenheit), unusually low for the port city on the Mediterranean Sea.

In Italy, the heaviest snowfall in the capital Rome since the 1980s closed tourists attractions including the Colosseum and the Forum.

An 82-year-old man became the first casualty in France after dying of hypothermia on Friday. The man had left his house in eastern France with just his pyjamas to protect him from minus 14C (minus 7F) temperatures.

Lorry traffic across the south of the country was suspended.

In the Baltic states, no strangers to cold weather, parts of eastern Latvia and Lithuania saw record lows of minus 30C (minus 22F), and lender Swedbank warned some cash machines would break down.

The Czech Republic's capital Prague shut a major section of the city's ring road after a burst pipe sprayed water across the highway, creating a 400-metre-long sheet of ice.

An emergency services spokesman there said one man had apparently used the cold to commit suicide. "He drank a bottle of alcohol, took his clothes off and sat in a park."

Afghan officials try to open Kabul airport

Afghan officials say they are hopeful that the country's largest airport will reopen after being closed due to heavy snowfall.

Transportation Ministry spokesman Nenglai Qalatwal said Saturday that crews were busy trying to clear the runway at Kabul airport, which has been closed for more than a day because of a half-meter of snow. He says it should open Saturday afternoon.

Heavy snows also closed the Salang Pass, a major route through the Hindu Kush mountains that connects the Afghan capital of Kabul to the north of the country.

Many roads in the capital were impassable because of the snow.

National Weather Center meteorologist Abdul Qadir Qadir says the heavy snows were beneficial for Afghanistan, which has been suffering from 12 years of drought.

Deadly freeze extends icy grip on Europe

More than 200 people have been killed across Europe as temperatures plummeted to new lows amid forecasters' predictions that the week-long cold snap could intensify.

The latest death toll of 223 - tallied according to figures compiled by the AFP news agency - included hundreds of homeless people who have frozen to death in what has become the harshest European winter in decades.

Bahrain protests grow ahead of anniversary

Almost a year since a crackdown began on demonstrations among Bahrain's Shia Muslim majority, thousands of protesters have taken part in marches to demand political reform.The government says it is listening to the demands of protesters, but the opposition says that despite promises, little has changed.Clashes between both sides have worsened in the build up to the February 14 anniversary of the start of the protests.Small-scale demonstrations happen virtually every night in neighborhoods close to the capital Manama.

China not out to purchase Europe: Wen

Premier Wen Jiabao said on Friday that China has neither the intention nor the ability to buy up Europe, answering concerns over the country's increasing investment in debt-stricken eurozone economies.

China is "willing to cooperate with Europe to fight the current crisis. Some people say this means China wants to buy Europe", the premier told a business forum in the southern city of Guangzhou.

Such a worry is unnecessary, although the nation encourages its companies to invest in the region, he said.

"This isn't a concern and doesn't fit reality. China doesn't have this intention and doesn't have this ability."

Wen stressed that China's investments in European nations are only at the fledgling stage, and China's investment creates benefits for both sides.

"If we join hands to combat the financial crisis and the debt woes, all the problems will be addressed," he said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in China for a three-day visit to boost her host's confidence in Europe, also attended the forum along with executives from the energy, chemicals, engineering, banking and electronics sectors.There are growing concerns in Europe that a recent wave of investment by Chinese companies and government-backed funds will give Beijing too much influence over struggling European economies.

In 2011, China's outbound direct investment gained a slight 1.8 percent to $60 billion, while China's investment in Europe gained by 94.1 percent to $4.28 billion, figures from the Ministry of Commerce showed.

Chinese construction equipment maker Sany Heavy Industry announced recently it would pay 324 million euros ($426 million) to buy 90 percent of Putzmeister, Germany's largest concrete pump maker.

In another recent deal, China State Grid has agreed to pay 387 million euros for a 25 percent stake in the national electricity grid of debt-stricken Portugal, Treasury Secretary Maria Albuquerque said on Thursday.

European leaders have called on China, which has the world's largest foreign exchange reserves, to invest in a bailout fund to rescue debt-stricken countries.

On Thursday, Merkel started her fifth official visit to China in six years as chancellor. On the first day of her three-day visit, China promised to consider how to get "more deeply involved" in resolving Europe's debt crisis.

On Friday she met President Hu Jintao before she flew to Guangzhou, home to more than 400 German companies.

Hu said China was ready to push forward the long-term, healthy and in-depth development of its strategic partnership with Germany over the decades to come.

During a forum in Guangzhou, Wen said nobody needs to worry about China's increasing investment in Europe and China also welcomes investment from Germany.

"We expect Chinese companies can make more investments and enhance cooperation with Germany. China encourages domestic companies of all types, including State-owned and private enterprises, to invest in Germany," he said.

"Germany is a country that is open to all. We warmly welcome the investment from China," said Merkel. "There are already many good examples."

Changing the Syrian regime by force to be "disastrous"

As the UN Security Council still seems divided over finding an appropriate approach to end the simmering tension in Syria, opponents and proponents in the unrest- torn country appear to be united over rejecting any form of changing the regime of President Bashar al-Assad by force, considering that it would be "disastrous."

Assad has recently warned that any foreign intervention in his country would lead to a "temblor in the region."

George Gabbour, a political analyst, believed that the Syrians reject the use of force to topple the regime in their country, because "the use of military power would be disastrous and it doesn't commensurate with the interests of a large segment of the Syrian people, especially that there are other segments, which support the president's reforms and don't want him overthrown."

Toppling the regime by force is "a violation to the United Nations' charter and the principles of international law," he told Xinhua by phone.

On the opposition side, Hasan Abdul-Azim, head of the opposing National Coordination Body, voiced rejection to the concept of using force to change the Assad regime, pointing that "such intervention would pose dangerous repercussions on the Syrian and regional arena as well."

During a phone call with Xinhua, Azim criticized the regime's approach in handling the crisis, saying "no regime can resist the ambitions and aspirations of its people, especially as the region is witnessing major changes ... and the Syrian regime can't be an exception in this context."

He expressed optimism that change "will occur in Syria, not by military force but through peaceful demonstrations, sit-ins and civil disobedience."

Political activist Izz al-Din Abboud told Xinhua that "the change in Syria is inevitable but not through military force as in Libya because that would only complicate the situation even more."

Abboud, who is from the Druze minority, expressed astonishment over the Syrian minorities' fears of regime change, accusing the regime of "implanting such fears among the minorities" to preserve their support.Faroq Hajji, another political activist, said that any use of military force to topple Assad's regime would lead to " deterioration of the situation in Syria and more shed of the Syrian blood."

In a phone call with Xinhua, Hajji criticized protests that turned into unrest, stressing that "they should remain peaceful as it started."

"The geopolitical site of Syria is exceptional as it's close to Israel, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey, as well as its allies with Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah," Hajji said, adding that "any use of force amid this complicated political landscape would rebound negatively on the regional situation."

As for the West's interests in the region, Hajji said " globalization has dedicated a new logic in international relations, and therefore, the Western countries are looking to make the Middle East an area of their influence."

The UN Security council convened Tuesday in presence of foreign ministers of the United States, Russia, China and the Arab League (AL) chief Nabil al-Arabi, to discuss the AL's recent plan calling on Syrian President Assad to step down, as well as to pass a resolution condemning violence in Syria.

The council members failed to reach an agreement on the issue and met again behind closed doors on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the draft resolution on Syria.

On Friday, UN Security Council failed to reach an agreement over the resolution on Syria because of Russia's opposition to the clause hinting on the possible regime change in Damascus.

Russia's Foreign Ministry said Friday that Russia would not support the updated version of the West-Arab draft resolution on Syria as it still fails to take into account Moscow's principal considerations.

"We have received the text (of the revised draft). Although some of our concerns have been considered, nevertheless, this is not enough for us to support it," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennadi Gatilov was quoted by Interfax news agency as saying.

The draft was officially published in a final version but no proposals about its voting have been made, the diplomat added. He said no ballot in the United Nations was expected in the next few days and the consultations could be continued.

The Syrian leadership has accused the broad-based opposition of acting out a Western plot by calling for foreign intervention and smuggling in weapons and ammunition to militia groups inside the country. Those militia groups call themselves the "Free Syrian Army," who launch attacks on government and military bases, citing the government's crackdown on opposition protesters in the 10- month-old unrest.

The Syrian government said more than 2,000 army and security personnel have been killed during the months-long unrest, while the United Nations put the death toll in the country at more than 5,400.

Gilani to visit Qatar next week to discuss Afghan peace

Pakistan s prime minister will explain his country s stance on the issue of peace talks with the Afghan Taliban when he travels next week to Qatar to meet the Gulf state s leaders, a government spokesman said Saturday.Last month, the Afghan Taliban announced they would set up a political office in Qatar, a major development in a peace process that has already been marked by setbacks and mistrust among the central players.
The trip by Prime Minister Yousuf Reza Gilani on Monday comes amid unease in Kabul and Islamabad over the decision by the Taliban to open the Qatar office. Officials in both countries have said they fear they are being left out of the peace process.
"Our prime minister will have discussions in this connection with the Qatar leadership," foreign office spokesman Abdul Basit told a local television station. "He will also inform them that what is the Pakistani perspective in this situation."
Pakistan is an important player in moves to end the 10-year-old war in Afghanistan because many of the leaders of the insurgency are said to be sheltering on its territory. The country s security forces are alleged to have links with the militants that could be useful in bringing them to the negotiating table.

‘Contempt’ on the horizon


Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has again been summoned to the Supreme Court (SC) to face contempt of court charges. The seven-member bench hearing the case said: “After the preliminary hearing, we are satisfied that prima facie there is enough case for further proceeding. The case is adjourned until February 13 for framing charges and the prime minister is required to be present on the next date.” When the premier’s counsel, Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan, tried to present his case, on the face of it the bench lost patience and did not even accord Mr Ahsan an opportunity to argue his point of view adequately. This goes against the spirit of justice and by the looks of it, the standoff between the executive and the judiciary is going to get even more serious. The prime minister earlier appeared before the court on January 19 and was even lauded by the superior judiciary for respecting the rule of law. Prime Minister Gilani said he is ready to appear before the apex court once again. While it is good to see Mr Gilani’s consistency in respecting the court’s wishes, summoning the prime minister has many implications, both judicial and political.

Legally, there are three options before the prime minister. One, he can offer an unconditional apology and then write a letter to the Swiss authorities against President Zardari as per the SC’s instructions. Two, he can contest the charges, as is being hinted, but the implications of such a course can be serious. The court has the power to sentence him right there and then. The sentence could be symbolic, in which case he will be under arrest within the court’s premises until the rising of the court, or real, in which case he could be jailed for upto six months. Three, there could be an intra-court appeal against the decision of the seven-member bench. The chief justice will have to constitute a new bench to hear the appeal. Even though the prime minister says he had no intention of committing contempt, writing a letter against his party’s co-chairman and the country’s president does not seem likely if the government’s statements can be relied upon. The implications of the prime minister being sentenced are grave. Some experts believe that the moment he is convicted for contempt, he stands disqualified to be a member of the National Assembly and therefore prime minister. The other view is that even if Mr Gilani is indeed convicted, the Speaker of the National Assembly has to write to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). The ECP will then decide whether to disqualify him or not. Even if he is disqualified, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) can nominate someone else as the new premier. Those wishing for a delay in the upcoming Senate elections will certainly be disappointed. It would also give the PPP a chance to play the victim card in the next general elections.

Right now what is needed is cool heads and not rising temperatures. If Prime Minister Gilani is convicted of contempt, it will not be a good precedent. The requirement of the time is political stability in the country to the extent humanly possible. Rather than destabilising the democratic system, it needs to be consolidated and strengthened.

Lahore:Two more die of medicines reaction ,135 Deaths

Two more persons including a woman died of medicines reaction on Saturday raising the over all death toll to 135. According to details, Ghulam Ali 55, hailing from Kasur and Shahida 60, of Rung Mahal area of Lahore were under treatment in Services Hospital after being affected of cardiac medicines acquired from Punjab Institute of Cardiology where they breathed their last on Saturday morning.It should be mentioned that with latest deaths, the toll due to medicines reaction has climbed to 135.
The doctors treating the affected patients were of the view that use of folic acid can help the medicines reaction patient to return to normal health.
On the other hand investigation teams involved in probing the medicines reaction scam have not succeeded to disclose that who delivered the Batch-93 of the contaminated drugs.
The probing teams were still busy in investigation to know whether someone intentionally supplied the infected drugs to PIC and why these were not properly checked before giving to patients.

Peshawar Girls suffer as 50 schools closed in rural

Angered by closure of primary girls schools in Peshawar’s rural areas due to unavailability of teachers, the provincial assembly’s standing committee on law reforms on Friday directed the elementary and secondary education department to post teaching staff to these educational institutions within a week.

It warned that if the sought-after appointments weren’t made within the stipulated period, punitive action would be taken against the culpable officials under the Privileges Act.

According to a source in the E&SE department, around 50 government girls’ primary schools have been shut down in Peshawar, mostly in Matani, Badhber, Urmar, Garhi Atta Mohmmad and Adezai areas, due to unavailability of teachers, while many boys and girls primary schools faced shortage of teaching staff.

Speaker of the assembly Kiramatullah Chagharmatti chaired the standing committee meeting, while deputy speaker Khushdil Khan, MPAs Abdul Akbar Khan, Saqibullah Chamkani, Israrullah Gandapur, Munawar Khan and Hafiz Akhtar Ali, E&SE special secretary Farid Qureshi and other relevant officials were in attendance.

Lawmakers asked E&SE officials about reasons for closure of the girls primary schools in Peshawar’s rural areas.

The assembly speaker asked if there were no educated people for appointment as teachers to these educational institutions.

An official said schools in Peshawar’s urban areas had teachers surplus to requirements, while schools in rural areas faced shortage of teaching staff.

A news release issued here said: “the speaker directed the E&SE department to immediately transfer surplus teachers and depute them in the closed schools. He said E&SE department and district coordination officer (DCO) Peshawar should jointly implement the rationalisation policy setting aside political pressure.”

The committee also issued directions to the relevant authorities for making the education department in Peshawar a model department for other districts.

The education department was told to repatriate teachers serving in Peshawar’s schools ‘in detail’ to original places of their postings, while directions were issued to such teachers to report back within a week to prevent action under the Privilege Act.

The source the education department introduced the rationalisation policy in the province more than a year ago to reopen all closed schools by streamlining teachers’ posting and transfer. However, he added, it couldn’t deliver the goods due to the department’s inefficiency.

In May 2011, the provincial assembly made a law ‘The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (Appointment, Deputation, Posting and Transfer of Teachers, Lecturers, Instructors and Doctors) Regulatory Bill-2011′ which couldn’t be implemented in primary schools.

The rationalisation policy set teacher-student ratio at 1:40, according to an educationist, who have served on key positions in education department.

He said teachers went all-out for their transfer to urban area schools either for 15 per cent more house rent than what is being offered to those serving in rural areas or for security reasons.

The educationist said schools in Peshawar’s rural areas needed appointment of 600 male and 400 female teachers.

The standing committee also directed the law department to produce a detailed report in its next meeting on matters related to the departments devolved to provinces under the 18th constitutional amendment as well as pending legislation.

Afghan civilian deaths rise for 5th straight year to a record high

Los Angeles Times

Afghan civilian casualties have reached a grim new milestone, with a record 3,021 noncombatants killed in wartime violence last year, the United Nations said in a report released Saturday.

The toll for 2011 represented an 8% increase from the previous year, and marked the fifth year in a row that the number of noncombatant deaths and injuries has risen. Insurgents were blamed for nearly four-fifths of the deaths.

“For much too long, Afghan civilians have paid the highest price of war,” said Jan Kubis, head of the U.N. mission in Afghanistan. He called on all parties to the conflict to take urgent steps to protect civilians.

The rising civilian toll calls into question Western military assertions that overall violence is declining across Afghanistan. Last year saw a drop in the number of NATO troop fatalities, after military deaths hit a wartime high in 2010.

Improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, were the biggest killer of civilians, the report said. For ordinary Afghans, the crude bombs are a deadly scourge, making travel on rural roads particularly perilous.

Roadside bombs also claim more military lives than any other single cause. But insurgents plant the devices indiscriminately, often killing and maiming noncombatants instead of the troops they seek to target.

Changing tactics on the part of the Taliban and other groups helped fuel the increase in civilian casualties, the report said. For example, the number of suicide bombings leveled off last year, but the number of civilian deaths caused by them jumped 80% because the attacks tended to be larger and more complex, deliberately calculated to kill as many people as possible.

Another driving force behind the increasing death toll was a campaign of assassinations by the Taliban and other groups, who seek to intimidate local officials, community leaders and tribal elders who are seen as cooperating with the government. Nearly 500 such killings were documented in 2011.

The U.S.-led coalition was blamed for about 14% of the civilian deaths, a year-on-year decline of 4%, the report said. But noncombatant deaths blamed on aerial bombardment increased in 2011, even though fewer such strikes occurred. The U.N. mission called on NATO’s International Security Assistance Force to review its procedures for calling in airstrikes.

The NATO force has made battlefield changes in recent years meant to reduce the risks of civilians getting caught up in combat between Western troops and the Taliban, but field commanders sometimes complain that their hands are tied by the restrictions.

The war’s geography also changed, the report suggests. The rate of deaths and injuries increased in the country’s east and southeast -- areas close to Pakistan’s tribal ares -- and in the traditionally more peaceful north, where the insurgents have been working to establish a foothold.

Perhaps most worryingly for the NATO force and the Afghan government, the report painted a picture of ordinary lives increasingly shadowed by conflict, at a time when the Afghan police and army are taking more responsibility for protecting the population.

“As 2011 unfolded, ordinary Afghan people experienced growing intrusion into, and disruption of, their day-to-day lives by the armed conflict,” the report said.

The fighting also yielded a 45% spike in the numbers of people driven from their homes, according to the U.N. figures.

Heart Disease: 'No. 1 killer of women is preventable'

While many women think cancer is main cause of death, experts say more women die of heart disease than all forms of cancer.

If you ask women to name the number one cause of death, most will say cancer. But University of Alabama at Birmingham experts say more women die from heart disease than all forms of cancer combined, and many of these deaths are preventable.

“One of every three women will die of heart disease,” says Donna Arnett, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Epidemiology in the UAB School of Public Health. Arnett, who is president-elect of the American Heart Association, says one in eight women get breast cancer and as many as 94 percent survive, yet women are more afraid of cancer than heart disease.

“I think with all the media coverage of breast cancer, women are unaware that heart disease actually kills more women, young and old,” Arnett says.

“For some reason women still don’t perceive themselves to be at risk for heart disease,” says Vera Bittner, M.D., professor of medicine in UAB’s Division of Cardiovascular Disease and section head of Preventive Cardiology.

“Women see it as a men’s disease, and they are more likely to interpret chest discomfort as coming from indigestion instead of a heart attack,” says Bittner.

Symptoms of a heart attack in woman also may differ from those in men. “Many women may not have the classic chest pain or jaw discomfort. Women may often have more nausea and vomiting or back pain than men,” Arnett says.

To combat the onset of the disease, Arnett points to the Life’s Simple 7 plan, which focuses on managing blood pressure, reducing blood sugar, quitting smoking, losing weight, getting active, controlling cholesterol and eating better.

“Women need to take as much care of themselves as they do for their families. You cannot put yourself last, but women tend to do that,” Arnett says.

But during American Heart Month, Arnett and Bittner want to draw attention to the good news about this disease — it’s preventable.

“A lot of people think if they are genetically predisposed, that is a fate they cannot alter, and that is not true,” Bittner says. “The patient has a lot of control.”

The heart-healthy focus needs to start as young as childhood, Bittner says. Any risk factors you have as a kid can become exaggerated as an adult, she says.

“We like to do primordial prevention, which is prevention of risk factors themselves. In the younger age groups the focus needs to be on lifestyle — getting regular exercise, having a heart healthy diet, maintaining normal weight and staying away from smoking,” Bittner says.

“If you make it to age 50 with normal cholesterol levels, are non-diabetic, not hypertensive or overweight, have a healthy diet, get physical activity and have never smoked, then your chances of developing heart disease are close to zero,” Arnett says.

But if you don’t get to that magic number without some bumps in the road, both doctors advise you not to despair — it’s almost never too late to start focusing on heart health.

Russia warns of 'scandal' in UN Syria vote

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned of a "scandal" if a Western-Arab drafted resolution comes to a vote on Saturday in the UN Security Council, the Itar-Tass news agency reported.

The remarks, which Itar-Tass said Lavrov made in an interview to be aired later on state-run Rossiya-1 television, suggest Russia would likely veto the resolution if its latest proposed amendments were not taken into account.

"If they want another scandal for themselves in the Security Council, then we probably cannot stop them," Lavrov said, according to Itar-Tass. Rossiya-1 said the interview was recorded early on Saturday.

Lavrov said he hoped the draft would not come to a vote without changes "because our amendments to this draft are well-known."

US closely monitoring contempt case against PM

The United States administration is keeping a close eye on the contempt of court proceedings against the Pakistani Prime Minister, Yousaf Raza Gillani, in which he faces the threat of conviction on the next hearing before the Supreme Court on February 13.
The US State Department s deputy spokesperson, Mark Toner Friday said "although this is clearly Pakistan s internal political matter, but we are following as the situation unfolds." He, however, did not answer whether the US was concerned at the internal situation of Pakistan.
"This case (NRO case) in the Supreme Court is not new and we expect the situation in Pakistan to be resolved as per the Pakistani law and constitution, in a democratic manner."
He did not reply to another question whether the US government agreed with the assessment that the existing Pakistani government was on its way out in this case.
When asked to comment if the current impasse in Pakistan was limiting the ability of US administration to engage with the Pakistani leadership at a crucial juncture, he disagreed and said "we are in constant touch with Pakistan and Ambassador Munter in Islamabad is engaged with Pakistani leadership regularly on a variety of levels."
"On a broader bilateral relationship level, we understand that Pakistan is still working on a parliamentary review," Toner said while assuring of the US administration s intent "to sit down and talk to Pakistan about all the issues as and when they are ready."
"We have said many times after the tragic attacks of November 26 that we are ready to discuss all issues," he stressed. A NATO airstrike on Salala check-post in Pakistani tribal area of Mohmand had killed 24 Pakistani soldiers on November 26, sparking an escalation of bilateral tension.
When the spokesman s attention was drawn to President Obama s first on-the-record admission of drone strikes in Pakistan and foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar s statement during Afghan visit about trying to bring Haqqani network to peace, he said "both countries are trying to bring greater focus on threats that we both face.""Terrorists operating in those areas are an existential threat for Pakistan, Afghanistan and the whole region", he warned and stated that cooperation in terrorism-related issues was in national security interest of both Pakistan and the United States.
"As long as we can come together to discuss these issues, that s a good thing." he pointed out while expressing the hope that discussion on parliamentary review recommendations will provide a way forward for both countries, who have been more like estranged allies of late.

US embassy warns against use of Efroze Pharma drugs

The United States embassy in Islamabad has issued an advisory for its citizens and diplomatic staff. The embassy in its advisory has asked the US citizens not to use 127 medicines manufactured by Efroze Pharma.
The embassy further advised its nationals not to use these medicines until clearance from WHO. According to embassy advisory the drug called Isotab is extremely hazardous for health. Those US citizens who have used the Efroze Pharma have been advised to immediately contact their doctors.

Powerless to stop rallies by banned groups

The Express Tribune

Interior Minister Rehman Malik on Friday said that he was helpless against banned religious outfits rallying across the country under the banner of the Pakistan Defence Council due to the absence of stringent laws.

“The only solution is revamping laws. However, a bill for an amendment in the Anti-Terrorism Act is pending before the Senate standing committee for two years,” Malik said in a response to criticism by cabinet member, Sheikh Waqas Akram from Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q). The minister said that these organisations were holding rallies after changing their names and prevailing laws did not provide him with the powers to stop them.

The Anti-Terrorism Bill, 2010 seeking amendment to the existing Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 was placed before the Senate in July 2010, and is still awaiting approval by the standing committee on interior. The National Anti-Terrorism Authority Bill, meant to set up an independent body to fight increasing incidents of terrorism, is also awaiting parliamentary approval.

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani had directed the interior and law ministries last October to propose comprehensive amendments to the Anti-Terrorism Bill, 2010, with an aim of imposing deterrent punishments to those involved.

Earlier, Waqas Akram had grilled the interior minister saying “the minister had lied while holding the provincial government responsible for rallies of banned outfits.” He informed the house about having raised the issue during the cabinet meeting, but the interior minister had raised a finger at the Punjab government instead.

“It should be a source of shame for the Interior Minister that the Pakistan Defence Council (PDC) is going to hold a rally here in Islamabad (at the commercial centre of Sector G-9 which is known as Karachi Company).” Akram added that even hoisting of flags by these outfits was a crime under the Anti-Terrorism Act.

Perturbed by the news of the PDC rally in Islamabad, Akram said “how can you fight the war against terror if you cannot stop their rally in the capital.”

Sahibzada Fazal Karim from the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) endorsed the views of Waqas Akram saying these outfits are making a mockery of the government through their rallies and processions.