Wednesday, April 18, 2018
By Anne Gulland
Sadia Shakoor, assistant professor of pathology and laboratory medicine, and her colleagues at Aga Khan University in Karachi, were the first doctors to identify the drug-resistant strain of typhoid in the current large outbreak of the disease. She said that because so many people have already been affected it is likely to spread even further.
“We've also learnt from history that once the typhoid bug acquires a resistance gene it holds on to it and just spreads within geographical regions where sanitation measures are poor,” she said.
For patients who do not need to be hospitalised doctors are using the antibiotic azithromycin but if patients are seriously ill and require admission to hospital they are given an intravenous antibiotic called meropenem.
Dr Shakoor said azithromycin was a commonly used and effective drug for typhoid.
"We can use this drug but azithromycin is the last resort. Many regions of the world have reported resistance to this drug. There is no resistance yet in Pakistan but if we lose this drug we will have no drugs left for patients to take orally," she said.
Those most affected by the drug resistant strain are children under the age of five, however there have also been cases of the bug in adolescents.
Last year, Dr Shakoor and her colleagues asked geneticists at the Wellcome Sanger Institute in the UK to genetically analyse the outbreak. The scientists performed whole genome sequencing of the typhoid samples from Pakistan and found that this outbreak was caused by an extra strand of bacterial DNA – a plasmid – which had possibly been picked up from E. coli. Elizabeth Klemm, one of the the researchers who sequenced the typhoid isolate, said antibiotic resistance in typhoid has been a mounting problem for decades. However, because this strain acquired an extra piece of DNA it was classified as "extensively drug resistant".
“This is the first time we have seen an outbreak of extensively drug-resistant typhoid,” she said.
Researchers at the Aga Khan University in collaboration with the provincial government of Sindh launched an emergency vaccination programme to contain the current outbreak of typhoid but experts have been lobbying the World Health Organization and the Pakistani government to initiate a large-scale typhoid vaccination programme across the whole country. In March WHO pre-qualified a new typhoid vaccine, Typbar-TCV, which can be used in children as young as six months old and which is more effective than other vaccines. Dr Shakoor said that the only way to eradicate infectious diseases was through vaccination.
"We have eradicated smallpox and we are on the way to eradicating polio because we have an effective vaccine," she said.
Raw sewage leaking from a faulty pipe into the drinking water supply is believed to have sparked the current outbreak and Dr Shakoor said infrastructure improvements were also needed.
"There is a huge infrastructure problem here. There is a lack of planning, people just build on top of each other and we have had large-scale urbanisation," she said.
By Saba Aziz
Sometimes, it just takes something as small as passing a law to have a huge impact on human rights violations.
The rape and murder of Zainab Ansari was the 12th such case in Kasur district in the last year, according to local media reports.
Reported cases of violence against women in 2017 were considered to be "the tip of a huge iceberg", HRCP said in its yearly review.
Malik, of JPP, believes Pakistan has "failed" to protect its women and children.
"The problem with regards to addressing these crimes is that the state narrative seems to be focused on increasing punishment, whereas what is actually needed is to increase child protection measures for the case of sexual abuse of children and for women, we need to increase more safeguards for the protection of women from sexual violence," said Malik, who is also a human rights lawyer.
"Sometimes, it just takes something as small as passing a law to have a huge impact on human rights violations.
Over the past weeks, a TV channel has reportedly been taken off by cable operators or shuffled out of the main bouquet of news channels as ‘punishment’ for being too ‘outspoken on certain sensitive issues’. Such a clampdown, in violation of the directives of Pemra, the electronic media regulator, is more effective in the cantonment areas where certain ‘blacklisted’ newspapers are not allowed to be distributed. No one can dare challenge these unlawful and arbitrary actions.
What we are witnessing is described by some analysts as the creeping expansion of the power of the ‘deep state’. It is not just about media gagging or the increasing number of cases related to enforced disappearances, it is also about the growing perception of political manipulation by ‘invisible forces’, often referred to as namaloom afraad. The recent political re-engineering in Balochistan and allegations that the Senate chairman elections were ‘managed’ have reinforced the apprehension. Punitive actions against the press will only sharpen polarisation and encourage non-professionalism.
Not surprisingly, the latest desertion from the ranks of the PML-N lawmakers, too, is being attributed to a perceived wider plan to restrict the power base of the ruling party in its stronghold in Punjab before the elections. However exaggerated the suspicion may sound, it is not unfounded given our shadowy political history where such manipulation has not been unprecedented. With the political crisis getting deeper, there is a growing feeling of coerciveness accompanied by the weakening of the authority of state institutions notwithstanding the growing assertiveness of the top judiciary. In fact, the current judicial overreach encroaching on the domain of the executive has also allowed the deep state to strengthen its stranglehold.
What is commonly meant by the deep state is the security establishment. But the term also includes other non-elected institutions such as the bureaucracy. By definition, the deep state means “organisations that are said to work secretly in order to protect particular interests and to rule a country without being elected”.
Subjected to long periods of direct military rule over the decades, the country has seen many fundamental freedoms curbed, including the right to expression. From direct censorship under authoritarian generals to other forms of pressure exerted by civilian governments, the media’s gains have been hard-won. Unfortunately, the weakening of democratic institutions such as parliament has provided a greater opportunity to forces outside the government to get more deeply involved in domestic politics while attempting to thwart basic rights. The removal from office of prime minister Nawaz Sharif has deepened the political crisis in the country and has brought to the surface various contradictions that seem extremely difficult to manage. While trying to fill the vacuum, these forces seek to curb any voice of dissent. The threshold has been further reduced by the growing internal and external security challenges.
Many believe that the unannounced censorship of the media may be a part of a wider plan. The media houses reportedly receive ‘advice’ on what should or should not be telecast or printed — all in the name of national security interest. In fact, the pressure can be so intense that oftentimes, even if there is no such ‘advice’, the owners and editors of certain media houses indulge in self-censorship in an attempt to remain on the right side of the powers that be.
Freedom of expression and freedom of press along with the right to vote and the right to a fair trial are critical parts of a liberal democracy. Any move by an elected government or an unelected organisation to curb fundamental rights is a violation of the Constitution. And it is certainly not the job of elements of the security establishment to decide what should or should not be covered by the media. Freedom of expression is one of the biggest achievements of the democratic movement in Pakistan and a free media has helped strengthen civil society.
Indeed, there is a need for the media to be more responsible and formulate a code of ethics to maintain a higher degree of professionalism, as freedom of expression comes with a sense of responsibility. But curbing that freedom on whatever pretext will not help instil a more ethical culture. Instead, such punitive actions will only sharpen polarisation and encourage non-professionalism such as the alleged move to create a parallel pliant media.
Such a divisive approach will be extremely harmful not only to democracy, but also the country’s integrity. It could lead to the further widening of the gap between the security establishment and civil society. The country has paid hugely for the suppression of democratic rights in the past and it cannot afford any reversal of the democratic process. Any move to crack down on the media for whatever reason on the eve of a general election that promises to lead to a historic second transition from one elected government to another raises questions about the fairness of the polls. What the elements of the security establishment fail to understand is that a free discussion and debate on critical issues increases faith in the state. Suppressing free debate leads to more discontent, a lesson we have failed to learn from our own history.
There is little probability that the democratic political process will be completely derailed. But the growing perception of the deep state increasingly getting involved in alleged political manipulation raises apprehensions that we may be heading towards a ‘managed’ or ‘guided’ political dispensation.
During Pakistan’s review in 2016, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child showed serious concern over the discriminatory hate material in school textbooks against religious minorities. In March 2018, The UN Human Rights Council adopted the outcome report of Pakistan’s third Universal Periodic Review (UPR). The Pakistani government accepted 168 out of the 289 recommendations it received from the UN member states, while 117 recommendations were ‘noted’ and four were rejected. Several recommendations that Pakistan accepted and noted, call for an end to all forms of discrimination against minorities. Recommendations 87, 148, 149, 224 and 225 in particular, call to ensure that all children enjoy a right to education without discrimination and protection of freedom of religion or belief of religious minorities.
Besides this, during Pakistan’s review in 2016, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child showed serious concern over the discriminatory hate material in school textbooks against religious minorities. The said committee in its recommendation number 31 strongly urged Pakistan to protect freedom of religion of all children, including children from minority groups. The committee also recommended the removal of all derogatory statements about religious minorities from school textbooks and the promotion of tolerance, non-discrimination and human rights. Pakistan has a binary obligation to adhere with the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the recommendations by its committee, first as a state party to the convention and second as a beneficiary of the European Union’s Generalized Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) status.
Conversely, the 2009 education policy which is currently in use, contravenes the international treaties to which Pakistan is a state party. For instance, Article 14 and 29 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, guaranteeing freedom of religion to every child in member states and the development of child’s personality in the spirit of understanding, peace, tolerance and equality among all peoples. The said policy also infringes Article 13 (1 and 3) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and Article 18 (4) of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights guaranteeing religious freedom and religious education to children in conformity with their parents’ convictions. Besides this, the 2009 education policy violates Articles 20, 22, 25 and 36 of the Constitution of Pakistan, which guarantee freedom of religion, safeguards at educational institutions in respect of religion, equality among citizens and protection of minorities, respectively. The proposed education policy 2017 also overlooks the constitutional guarantees under Articles 22, 26 and 36 about safeguards against discrimination in educational institutions with respect to religion and rights of religious minorities.
Our textbooks carry material biased against minority religions, which create negative feelings about them among Muslim students, resulting in incidents of violence
Prohibition of religious discrimination is enshrined in the constitution of Pakistan as well as international human rights law. However, the education policy and textbooks in Pakistan are discriminatory on the basis of religion, particularly on four counts.
First, textbooks carry material biased against minority religions, which create negative feelings about them among Muslim students, resulting in several incidents of violence. One example is the killing of Sharoon Masih in Vehari in 2017 by his fellow students. This hateful propaganda in the syllabus is among the major causes of growing religious intolerance in society, and diminishes the probability of peaceful coexistence. Hence, it is imperative that besides removing hate material from syllabi, appropriate material should be included in the curriculum to promote a culture of religious and social tolerance. For instance, the role of religious minorities in the creation and progress of Pakistan and Quaid-e-Azam’s speech to the constituent assembly on August 11, 1947. In addition, teachers’ training, the school environment and co-curricular activities should be designed to maintain respect for all religious traditions, values and acceptance for religious diversity in Pakistan. In order to promote peace and a culture of religious and social tolerance in Pakistan, a swift and comprehensive implementation of the Supreme Court’s judgment of June 19, 2014 would be a step in the right direction.
Second, the option for minority students to study ethics in lieu of Islamic studies is impractical. Islamic studies is a compulsory subject for Muslim students at school and college levels, and most of the minority students are forced to study Islamiat, due to fear of enhanced discrimination against them during examination marking. This discrimination can be addressed through an arrangement to ensure that minority students can study their own religions as a substitute for Islamiat and Nazrah.
Thirdly, besides Islamiat, the curriculum of subjects such as history and social studies also contain a significant amount of Islam related topics. Students belonging to religious minorities have to study these topics to pass as well. To end this discrimination, religion related topics should be limited to religious studies only, and should not extend to other subjects.
Fourthly, a Hafiz-e-Quran (one who has learnt Quran by heart) is eligible for 10-20 extra marks for admissions in professional colleges and jobs at the Public Service Commission since 1992. However, no such provision is established for the minority students for learning their own religion. It is best to do away with this provision completely to ensure equality of opportunity.
In order to increase access to education at all levels, under the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number four of ‘Quality Education’, the Federal and Provincial governments should keep in view the socio-economic marginality of the religious minorities, and introduce a five percent education quota for admissions for the minority students, especially in public colleges, universities and technical training institutes. This initiative would also be helpful for the successful implementation of the five percent job quota policy for religious minorities.
Exclusion of religious discrimination from the education policy and curriculum is a prerequisite to ensuring quality education in Pakistan, which can be achieved through adherence to the constitutional guarantees under Articles 20, 22, 25 and 36, and the international human rights law.
MEMBERS OF THE MINORITY IN PAKISTAN CONTINUE TO BE TARGETED—WHETHER THROUGH THE BLASPHEMY LAW OR BY MILITANTS.
On April 15, militants belonging to the Islamic State group killed in a drive-by shooting two Christians coming out of church after Sunday services in a Christian-majority neighborhood of Quetta. Every time members of the minority go to church, they know they risk being killed. Earlier in the month, four Christians of a family were killed in the same manner. In December 2017, nine were killed and 30 injured in a suicide attack on the Bethel Memorial Methodist Church in Quetta’s Zarghun Road. In 2013, the diocese of the All Saints Church in Peshawar suffered a Christian massacre that resulted in 54 children orphaned, 16 widows, and seven widowers.
Even beyond these militant assaults, Pakistan’s state also targets them through its infamous blasphemy law, forcing the community to try and flee the country for safety. Those left behind are ghettoized for the sake of security, which makes it easier to identify and kill them. When it comes to blasphemy the state participates in this bloodbath; but in other cases domestic and foreign terrorist organizations that Pakistan can’t control proudly announce their Islamic duty of exterminating a community that doesn’t pay “jizya” (protection tax).
Under Article 20 of the Constitution of Pakistan, there is freedom to profess religion and to manage religious institutions; under Article 22, there are safeguards for education with respect to religious freedom; under Article 25, there is equality of citizenship; and under Article 36, there is protection for all minorities. But these rights and values, enshrined in the Constitution, have been undermined by a series of legislations related to the affirmation of the state’s ideological credentials. In 2013, Dr. Ruth Pfau, a symbol of Christian selflessness and devotion to Pakistan’s leprosy patients, died at the age of 87 at a Karachi hospital. She had been the recipient of Pakistan’s top civilian honors, the Hilal-e-Imtiaz and the Hilal-e-Pakistan, but her service to the country was not enough to stop the massacre of Christians.
Pakistan Peoples Party central secretary information Dr Nafisa Shah on Wednesday said that party chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari would be the candidate for prime minister after upcoming general elections.
Pakistan Peoples Party central secretary information Dr Nafisa Shah on Wednesday said that party chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari would be the candidate for prime minister after upcoming general elections.
She said this while addressing the media in a meet the press organized by the Lahore Press Club (LPC). She said the PPP had a deep relationship with the press club and Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto several times visited the LPC.
She said it was the PPP which implemented Wage Board Award for the journalists. Nafisa said that Lahore was the base camp for the PPP and the party could never forget the sacrifices of the LPC for democracy especially during the dictatorship of General Zia-ul-Haq.
"It is fort of democracy and its members know the sanctity of the vote," she added. She said that it was the PPP which introduced constitution of 1973 and several memories related to that period could be recalled today.
She was of the view that the party was once again in the process of its rebirth. The PPP always struggled for democracy and its narrative was for the people, she added. To a question, she said that PTI chairman had failed in implementation of its manifesto of accountability in the province where his party was in power.
PPP leader Ch Manzoor Ahmad supported Nafisa Shah in answering the questions of the journalists while PPP leaders Faiza Malik, Barrister Amir and LPC president Azam Chaudhry were also present. Later the LPC president thanked the guests for visiting the club.
AHMEDPUR EAST-Sahibzada Shahzain Abbasi, a councillor of the Ahmedpur East Municipal Committee and son of former Deputy Speaker Punjab Assembly Sahibzada Muhammad Usman Khan Abbasi has joined Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). According to press communiqué issued to local mediamen here, he made the announcement during a meeting with PPP Co-Chairperson Asif Ali Zardari at Bilawal House in Islamabad. He was accompanied his relatives of Jamoat family of Sindh province. Sahibzada Shahzain Abbasi has expressed his full confidence n the leadership of PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. It is to be noted that Sahibzada Shahzain Abbasi aspiring for contesting election for Punjab Assembly seat from Dhorkot-Mubarakpur against PTI expected candidate former MPA Malik Jehanzeb Warran and PML-N MPA Malik Khalid Warran. Meanwhile his close circles revealed that the PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will visit Dera Nawab Sahib in May on his invitation. https://nation.com.pk/18-Apr-2018/mc-councillor-joins-ppp