Thursday, September 17, 2015

Afghan Star Season 10 - Grand Finale - Mahera / فصل دهم ستاره افغان - مرحله نهایی ماهره

Pakistani Christian asylum seekers in distress: UNHCR in Thailand urged to assist these troubled Christians

According to Pakistan Christian Post, Desmond Fernandes and Rainer Rothfuss have earnestly urged the UNHCR in Thailand to be upbeat in guaranteeing the safety of tens and thousands of Pakistiani Christians seeking asylum in Thailand. Desmond Fernandes is Pakistiani Christians genocide scholar, who authored this book.
This book, which was penned by Desmond Fernandes also contains a prologue by Rainer Rothfuss. Chairman of British Pakistani Christian Association, Wilson Chowdhry, on September 8, handed this book to Peter Trotter who is a Senior Protection Officer at the Bangkok UNHCR offices
This 364 page book pleased Peter Trotter to such an extent that he asked for an electronic version so that it could be made available for several other senior UNHCR staff. The book presents an insight into the wide-ranging human rights violations taking place in Pakistan, together with genocide being wreaked against various religious groups.
On the other hand, BPCA operative Christian Malik when asked about the exact response the Pakistani Christian refugees in Thailand are getting from the Pakistani High Commission, he said, “We are given no assistance from the Pakistan Embassy, we are viewed as traitors.”
“The treatment of Pakistani Christians fleeing persecution is an international scandal. This report highlights the vicissitudes and egregious violations of human rights which they face in their homeland. This is a timely, scholarly and hugely important wake-up call challenging our indifference to their suffering,” Lord David Alton commented while talking about the book.
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Pakistan-Iran fires mortar shells in Mashkail town

The Iranian border forces fired six mortar shells at Pakistan's bordering town of Mashkail in the early morning on Friday, according to security sources.

The sources said that there was no loss of life in the shelling. The Frontier Corps (FC) swiftly retaliated and fired mortar shells in response, bringing the firing from the Iranian side to an end. “Mortar shells fired by Iranian border personnel landed 3,000 metres inside Pakistani territory,” sources said. Panic prevailed in the area owing to loud explosions that rocked the Pakistani town. More troops were called to Mashkail and surrounding areas to effectively man the border.

The incident comes a week after Iranian border guards attacked and killed an FC soldier and injured another three in Pakistan's Mand area. Similarly, 30 Iranian border guards stormed inside Pakistani territory and took the residents of Nokundai, another Pakistani border town, hostage. Recent incidents prompted the two countries to hold a joint meeting in Tehran with Inspector General Frontier Corps Major General Ejaz Shahid and Iranian guards Chief General Qasim Razai agreeing to boost intelligence cooperation with respect to the porous border.

Why Pakistan is struggling to heal young heart patients

The paediatric cardiology ward in one Lahore's biggest public hospitals is so crowded that some women have crouched on the floor with their small sick children on their laps.
It looks and smells like it hasn't been cleaned for a while.
Mothers, aunts and grandmothers are taking turns pumping oxygen manually into tubes stuck to babies' noses because there are no ventilators in the ward.
There are at least two babies to each cot because there is nowhere else to put them. Some mothers have used waiting benches as makeshift hospital beds.
This is where critical cardiac cases come and wait for urgent treatment or surgery.
Pakistan has one of the highest rates of children with congenital heart disease in the world: each year, between 40-50,000 children are born with heart defects.
Professor Masood Sadiq, a leading heart surgeon, says it's mainly due to lack of maternal healthcare.
"Diabetes is rampant in mothers so that increases the risk," he says.

"We're still not vaccinating the mothers, so something like congenital rubella predisposes those children to congenital heart disease."

Pakistan's public health system is overwhelmed with cases and severely underfunded.
"We live in a country where only 0.9% of the budget is spent on the public health sector and 3% if you add the private sector," Prof Sadiq says. "In a country with that kind of budget spent on health, where would paediatric cardiology fall?"
He adds that it's not just the faltering infrastructure that makes it difficult to care for these children, but also the lack of investment in human resources.
"Doctors need to be paid," he says. "I work two shifts. I work in this institution and then I have a private practice that's how I look after my family.
"If, at this level, I have to do this, what would a junior doctor do?"

'Some will die waiting'

Many trained surgeons prefer to leave for parts of the Middle East, like the oil-rich Gulf, where there's a better pay and quality of life for doctors and their families.
This leaves Pakistan short of much-needed skilled doctors.
In a country of nearly 200m people, there are only eight paediatric heart surgeons and 21 paediatric cardiologists.
In this Lahore government hospital alone, doctors say 8,000 children are waiting for surgery.
"Some of these children will die waiting," says Salman Shah, one of the senior paediatric heart surgeons.
"Of the children born with congenital heart disease, about 25,000 need surgery every year.
"Only 3-4,000 get it. That leaves a huge backlog of children added to a pool of already existing patients," he adds.
"It becomes very frustrating when you know a kid needs an operation, you know you can do it but there's no infrastructure or you're held back because they just can't pay for it," Dr Shah says.
A charity called the Pakistan Children's Heart Foundation is trying to help children from poor families by funding surgeries through donations.
They've teamed up with a number of private and public heart centres across the country to provide funds, space and adequate medical care for the children.
The charity's founder, Farhan Ahmed, started the charity for personal reasons.
"My daughter was born with congenital heart defect and we went through a terrible time," he says. "It was very difficult for us to find the right doctor.
"It took us three weeks to find out she had a congenital heart defect."
Farhan's daughter did have the surgery but she died after that of other complications.
Mr Ahmed said it was his daughter's memory that gave him the incentive to start the initiative.
One of the children the charity is helping is 16-month-old Muskan Wali.
She was born with a hole in her heart and suffers obstruction of blood flow to the lungs.
Muskan and her family are from North Waziristan and were displaced after the military operation against the Taliban started there.
"It was already a very difficult life," her father Saud Wali says. "After we were displaced, Muskan's condition worsened.
"Her nails would go blue and so would her eyelids. She would scream and then faint.
"I'm jobless now and we couldn't afford an operation anyway. Then we found out about this charity in Lahore. We came here with little hope. But they have offered to help us."
After waiting for a year, Muskan is now one of the few children who'll undergo heart surgery and get adequate health care at a private facility.
An operation in a private hospital costs between $3-4,000, which is a hefty sum for most families.
The other option is to rely on government hospitals and keep waiting.
Prof Sadiq says one of the most difficult aspects of his job is deciding which child to help on any given day, knowing that many children may never get the help they need.
"The prioritisation of patients is what hurts the most," he says.
"It's mental torture - you fight with your conscience every day."

Pakistan - Poverty keeps many Peshawar kids from school

Shad Wali's classroom is the streets of Peshawar.
The 9-year-old spends his days scouring garbage piles near the Saddar, the main bazaar, searching for scraps and keeping them if they can be sold.
Wali and his 5-year-old brother, Riaz, cannot afford the 50 rupees (75 cents) every day that it costs to go to school, and they make their living selling garbage. Occasionally, Wali finds a reminder of what he is missing -- a torn schoolbook. He thumbs through it, looking at the pictures before tossing it into his grimy sack to sell it at the junkyard.
"I want to go to school, but I come from a poor family that cannot afford to send us to school," said Wali, as his brother continued to forage in the garbage heap. "My mother says that my father's income is not enough to meet our needs."
Wali and his brother collect scraps all day and make just under $3 at the city junkyards.
They are among the nearly 181,000 children age 5 to 16 who do not attend school in the provincial capital, according to a 2015 annual report by Alif Ailaan, a group that supports organizations working for education reform.
Persuading parents
Poverty plays a vital role in keeping children out of school, with 41 percent of children from poor families in Peshawar unable to attend classes, while only 11 percent of children from rich households are out of school, the report found. Sixteen percent of boys and 32 percent of girls do not attend school due to poverty and a lack of support from the government, as well as parents' opposition to girls' education.
Tariq Hayat Khan, the program manager for the NGO Peace Education and Development Foundation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa agreed that conservative opposition to girls' education and government inaction were to blame for the problem. He called on the government to increase spending on schools, appoint up to 10,000 more teachers and make school mandatory for boys and girls.
"To attract poor children to schools, the government should give a stipend so parents would allow students to come to schools," Khan said.
The government has tried to combat the problem, with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Elementary and Secondary Education Director Rafiqu Khattak saying that the province launched a campaign to enroll more children across the province in April and September. So far, they have enrolled 400,000 youngsters and are confident they could reach 800,000 with a long-term goal of getting all of the province's 2.5 million children into school.
As part of the campaign, Khattak said officials have gone door to door to persuade parents to enroll their children and even offered a monthly stipend for girls who are enrolled.
However, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Elementary and Secondary Education Chief Planning Officer Idress Azam acknowledged that even with the stipend, it can be hard to persuade poor parents to send their children, especially girls, to school.
"Education departments in some districts provide a 200 rupee [about $1.90] stipend to female students and also provide free books," Azam said. "But the parents are not interested in their children getting an education."
Even when they get them into school, it can be hard for schools to hold onto these students.
Malik Khalid, provincial president of the All Primary Teachers Association, said dropout rates at government schools are increasing because of lack of interest from the government and parents. The government, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Elementary and Secondary Education Department and teachers should come up with a policy to demonstrate the value of education to parents, he said.
Still, he welcomed the scholarship initiative by the provincial government for girls in rural areas.
"A majority of parents of out-of-school children are poor and work as laborers," Khalid said. "Their children are also a source of income for poor families who don't understand that they are destroying their children's future. The government is responsible for out-of-school children."
Poor facilities
Part of the problem is school funding. Nearly the entire school budget goes to salaries, leaving little for upkeep of schools and basic necessities such as plumbing or adequate assistance to poor students.
Water is not available in 20 percent of the schools, and 9 percent of the district's schools do not have toilets. There is no electricity in 39 percent of schools. On average, there are only five classrooms in a single school for primary-level students.
Peshawar District Education Officer Sharif Gul acknowledged that schools lack facilities. He said the government was taking steps to address this.
"Hundreds of teachers have been appointed in Peshawar, and next we will be focusing on providing the basic missing facilities," Gul said.
Kids working
One of the most insurmountable barriers is cultural. Several parents said in interviews that they needed their children at home to help supplement the family's income and, when it came to girls, that they could not accept the idea of sending them to school.
"I cannot fulfill the high expenditure of my family alone, and my son supports me to run the activities of home," said Shahkir Khan said, who has eight children, including an 11-year-old son, Sohail, who serves tea all day long in a hotel.
"Our people are against girls' education, and not a single girl in my family has gotten an education, although I am thinking of enrolling two of my younger sons in school," Khan said. "Sometimes when I see other children going to schools outside our hotel, and I listen to their talk, I understand the importance of education and want my children to get an education."
For Peshawar's poorest children, the prospect of seeing the inside of a school building seems remote.
Many, like 8-year-old Javed, toil away their days working in restaurants, shops and business to help support their families. Javed works in a tea restaurant at the Khyber Super Market in Peshawar, making about $2 for a day's work.
"I come early in the morning and work till 11 p.m. daily," Javed said. "I don't like being dirty. I want to go to school all neat and tidy. I want to have a bag full of books. I want to play games in the evening like children from rich families. But I think such leisure is not our fate because mother says we are poor."
A similar story comes from 11-year-old Sohail, who works alongside Javed most days from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m. and complained he is often beaten and verbally abused by hotel staff. He was enrolled in school only to have his father remove him in order to work.
"My father told me that education is only for wealthy, not for poor people, and we will work to earn livelihood," said Sohail, who does the same job as his father, but in another Peshawar hotel.