EditorialTwo more polio cases have been uncovered in Peshawar and Charsadda bringing the total number of cases this year in the country to 29. This is an improvement on the figures last year. But the steady rise of new cases indicates Pakistan still has a very long way to go in its battle against this crippling virus. What is most worrying of all is the number of problems that stand in the way of making Pakistan a polio-free country. Some of these were pointed out by the WHO’s regional chief Dr Ala Alwan during his brief visit to the country. As Dr Alwan has stated, we still have areas where teams cannot enter which is a major concern. These areas seem to be expanding beyond the tribal belts. Health experts have expressed concerns over the law and order situation in Balochistan which is holding back vaccination. There have also been more refusals in all parts of the country, linked to fears that the polio vaccination may cause harm. The recent shooting incident of a WHO doctor in Gadap Town in Karachi reveals how dangerous the job of polio workers is becoming. The incident led the anti-polio drive in that area being suspended temporarily. All these factors signal that the polio threat will not end so easily. Pakistan has still to find a way of removing itself from the list of the three countries in the world that remain polio-endemic and while it may this year record fewer cases than the 198 reported in 2011, many challenges still lie ahead of us.
Saturday, August 11, 2012
Syria's newly appointed Prime Minister Wael al-Halki was sworn in Saturday before the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the state-run SANA news agency said. Assad appointed al-Halki Thursday after sacking the former breakaway Prime Minister Riad Hijab, who defected last Sunday and sought refuge in Jordan. Halki, a 48-year-old gynecologist, acted as secretary-general of the Baath party's branch in the southern Daraa province between 2000 and 2004. He was appointed as head of the doctors' syndicate in 2010 and later served as health minister. The defection of Hijab, despite attempts by the government to downplay its significance, is considered as a humiliating blow to the recently-formed government. On June 6, Assad issued a decree entitling Hijab, former agriculture minister, to form the new government. Hijab announced the formation of his cabinet on June 23.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/President Obama on Friday voiced strong support for Huma Abedin
EDITORIALThe reports in the media that 60 Hindu families of Jacobabad, Sindh, have migrated to India because of insecurity are highly disturbing. In recent days, there have been a number of cases of Hindu girls converting to Islam because of the ostensible desire to marry Muslim boys. However, in almost all these cases, it is difficult to pin down the truth whether the conversions were freely undertaken or a combination of emotional, psychological, social and coercive factors. The increasing trend of Hindu traders and families’ complaints that their shops are looted, houses ransacked, women forcibly converted to Islam and kidnappings for ransom carried out paint a sorry picture of the plight of this peaceful and inoffensive minority community. What is even more disturbing than the actual ground realities that afflict the Hindu community in Sindh and Balochistan is the state of denial our authorities and government high officials are in. Chief Minister Sindh Qaim Ali Shah at least had the decency to respond to the reports by setting up a three-member committee led by Sindh Minister for Minority Affairs Mukesh Kumar Chawla to report back on the issue within a week.. However, the minister has already compromised the credibility of the committee even before it has started its work by stating that the reports of migration are exaggerated and Hindu girls are eloping with Muslim boys of their own free will. The SSP Jacobabad has delivered the priceless comment that security is being provided to the Hindu community. In other words all is well in the best of all possible worlds and the SSP can therefore go back to sleep. But the cake is taken by Interior Minister Rehman Malik. With his usual penchant for a strange and twisted take on most things, the interior minister sees conspiracies under every bed and behind every bush. This migration issue too, according to Rehman Malik’s wisdom, is a conspiracy involving the Indian High Commission for issuing visas for India to 250 Hindu citizens of Pakistan, ostensibly for religious pilgrimage. Interviews in the press with some of the departing Hindu families in Lahore, en route to Wagah, reveal a mixed picture. Some interviewees were quite candid that their lives had been turned into a living hell because of insecurity, and although they were travelling to India for a religious pilgrimage, might decide to stay on there if they found it convivial. Others were at pains to deny any intent to migrate. Those in the latter category may not have been speaking from the heart, or at least been cautious so as not to make matters for those staying behind even worse. Reports indicate that the 60 families who have torn themselves away from their and their forefathers’ homeland may only be the tip of the iceberg, or a possible tidal wave to follow. Ironically, while tearful relatives were bidding goodbye to the families leaving from the Lahore Railway Station, Pakistan’s ambassador to the US was reassuring an American audience that Pakistan protects the rights of religious minorities. On the very same day, President Asif Ali Zardari was speaking at a commemoration of National Minorities Day, declared on every August 11 in recognition of the message in the Quaid’s speech to the constituent assembly in 1947. The president stated that misuse of the blasphemy law would not be allowed. Both Ambassador Rehman and President Zardari’s statements are well intentioned and reflect the best of principles, but with due respect, they are divorced from our ground realities. Four decades of promotion of religious extremism in the name of jihad are now bearing their over-ripe malign fruit. Pakistani society today is riven with intolerance, religious prejudice and violence against religious minorities. In the case of the blasphemy law, it has not even spared Muslims. One only has to recall the tragedy of Governor Salmaan Taseer’s assassination to grasp the truth of this argument. So while the president and ambassador’s sentiments are praiseworthy, it must be stated without fear that the situation is far from sanguine or acceptable. Pakistan must roll back the tide of extremist darkness that increasingly threatens to drown out all rational, tolerant, inclusive views. The government and public will have to join hands if the extremists are to be held at bay and finally their inglorious and repressive ideology defeated.