Tuesday, April 30, 2019
#WorldLabourDay #LabourDay #Pakistan - #PPP will continue fighting for labourers’ rights: Bilawal Bhutto Zardari
PM Imran Khan could only manage meeting the Prime Minister of Ethiopia Abiy Ahmed Ali & the President of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon, besides Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang.
It started with rumors of children fainting or vomiting after they received a vaccination against the polio virus in a village in Pakistan's northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Then clerics at local mosques in the region blared warnings through loudspeakers, ordering parents not to let health workers immunize their children against the deadly disease.
Meanwhile, anti-vaccination propaganda videos rapidly went viral on social media, with one claiming children had been "poisoned" by the drops.
Rumors originating from a suburb of the provincial capital, Peshawar, then claimed that children were dropping dead after receiving the vaccine.
As the rumors spread, thousands of panicked parents rushed their children by car, motorcycle, and foot to major hospitals in the city, forcing the stunned health facilities to declare emergencies.
Panic then turned into anger, with one mob burning down a local medical clinic in a Peshawar suburb.
The rumors turned out to be wildly exaggerated. Health officials said only several children out of the 25,000 rushed to hospitals were suffering from vomiting or stomach pain; there were no deaths.
The dramatic events of April 22 highlighted the major obstacles to eradicating polio in Pakistan, one of only three countries, along with Afghanistan and Nigeria, that suffer from the disease, a childhood virus that can cause paralysis or death.
Authorities arrested members of the mob that burned down the clinic and detained those behind the propaganda videos. The health minister went on television in a plead to parents to convince them that the vaccines were safe.
But the damage was done. The mass panic halted the April 23-25 immunization drive in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, dealing a fresh blow to ongoing efforts to finally eliminate the disease from the deeply religious and conservative South Asian nation.
Many residents of the poor, largely rural Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have long been suspicious of the vaccine, with conservative Islamic clerics and militants claiming it is a Western conspiracy to harm or sterilize children.
Meanwhile, on April 27, Pakistani health officials announced they had suspended the anti-polio drive across the entire country following the killings of a health worker and two policemen escorting vaccination teams.
Riaz Khan was at work in Peshawar when he received a call from friends living in the Mashokhel suburb of the city.
"They said some children have died there after taking the vaccine," he said. "I got so scared for my children that I couldn't even think about the authenticity of the news."
The 35-year-old hurried home to his children, who had received the vaccination that day, and rushed them to the hospital. "At the hospital, the doctors told me that there was nothing wrong with my kids," Khan said.
Muhammad Asim, an official at the Lady Reading Hospital, one of three major health facilities in the city, described what he said was "a nightmare."
"For the last 15 years, we have been through many emergencies because of bomb blasts and terrorism-related casualties, but this was a nightmare," he said.
Asim said the 500-bed hospital was overwhelmed with around 5,000 children and their families in the first 12 hours after the rumors spread."They literally choked our system," he said, adding that the three major hospitals in Peshawar were flooded with more than 25,000 children within 24 hours.
"All our doctors and nurses were trying to assure the worried parents that nothing had happened to their kids," he said. "We put announcements by well-known doctors on social media to calm the people, but it was like no one was ready to hear or believe it. I personally asked hundreds of kids and they told me that they are feeling just normal."
Dr. Shabeer Ahmad, a coordinator of the anti-polio campaign at the provincial health department, said they had decided to add Vitamin A to the polio vaccine to help malnourished children.
He said if taken on an empty stomach, Vitamin A can cause vomiting or stomach pain.
Ahmad said this happened to a few children in Mashokhel, where he said angry parents set fire to a local health clinic that was administering the vaccines. Nobody was hurt in the blaze.
Bilawal Bhutto dominates a parliament which is missing both leader of house & the one heading opposition - A long journey ahead
If it’s possible, the smile becomes wider still when his recent speeches in parliament are mentioned; it is a cause of celebration for his entire party, as they all seem to light up when Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari’s speeches or wit are mentioned.
The young politician has not just discovered his wit; he also appears to be informed on many political issues. He doesn’t hesitate.
Bilawal dominates a parliament that is missing the leaders of the house and opposition.
Asked why he is constantly attacking the government for a possible rollback of the 18th Amendment when the real assault has come from the courts, he is quick to acknowledge the latter’s role and can even cite the cases in detail, from the one on hospitals to the police.
He is equally unreserved with his reply when asked about Sindh’s refusal to give three per cent towards the former Fata’s integration. Saying that perhaps he has not been able to communicate his views effectively, he argues that 1pc agreed to earlier — for the burden that KP bore for the war against terrorism — is already there for the region. (In the seventh NFC award, 1pc had been set aside for the province because of the fight against militancy.) He argues that if a precedent is set by the provinces by parting with 3pc now, in the future more such deductions could be justified by declaring a national security emergency.
It seems as if he sees the demand for the 3pc as another effort to roll back the constitutional amendment.
But his answer doesn’t address the political aspects of the PPP government’s decision — that for many Sindh’s refusal to agree to the 3pc is simply acceptance that the PPP is no longer vying for non-Sindhi voters. Ziaur Rehman, a journalist who recently visited the former Fata region, had observed this during a chat with me earlier; he pointed out that the PPP, which had been the first to work on Fata reforms, now was being perceived as a party of Sindh. And this may be particularly relevant as elections are due in the conflict-hit area.Bhutto-Zardari’s tone is just as confident when the conversation turns to politics but the details are few. Punjab is obviously central to any discussion with him, as for many this is the greatest challenge the party faces. He concedes this frankly; in fact, he mentions more than once the paucity of candidates from Punjab in the past election. As to why the PPP lost the province, he once again turns to the 18th Amendment — the people in Punjab have been made to believe that the amendment served the province poorly, and this was to the party’s disadvantage.He doesn’t mention the governance record of the party or perceptions of the PPP’s corruption which are also seen to have played a large part in the virtual demise of the party for the voter in Punjab. But as someone pointed out later, no party head will ever admit to their mistakes in public.
Instead, Bhutto-Zardari speaks of the need to move forward from the progress the PPP made in the 2018 election. But the details of how he can do it are not divulged; whether he withheld them or hasn’t worked them out yet is unclear. He is just confident that he has the time as it is not something that can be done soon.
His voice becomes more confident, perhaps even more assertive when he turns to Sindh. It is his government, and his chief minister. The sense of ownership is hard to miss. He is proud of the difference his new chief minister has made, as he is of the young faces in cabinet. He claims it is the youngest cabinet in the country.
The fake accounts cases are ‘political’ for him and without any substance but they have prevented him from focusing on Sindh. If he and his party are constantly in crisis mode, how can he break from the past and forge a new path, he asks.
But does he feel the need to break with the past — including the past 10 years — in Sindh? Yes, he does. He says so assertively. While he doesn’t explain the need for this break from the immediate past, he is more forthcoming when discussing the larger challenges confronting the party. He agrees that the party needs a new message to stay relevant and adds that he is not his grandfather or his mother. But it seems as if he is still to decide on what this new message is. His speeches at rallies also point to this.
He doesn’t say so but it seems that he feels he has the time to find the message and much more. Perhaps he is right in that age is his weapon — but at the same time his challenges are not easy. For reviving a party while it enjoys power is not for the faint-hearted and neither will it depend solely on his acts and decisions.
Monday, April 29, 2019
پاکستانی میڈیا نے ہمیشہ اسٹیبلشمنٹ کے کہنے پر دہشت گردی کو فروغ دیا ہے، اس میڈیا نے حکیم اللہ محسود سمیت طالبان کمانڈروں کے انٹرویو نشر کئے، یہ امن کی بات نشر نہیں کرتا، جنگ کو فروغ دیتا ہے: منظور پشتین
پاکستانی میڈیا نے ہمیشہ اسٹیبلشمنٹ کے کہنے پر دہشت گردی کو فروغ دیا ہے، اس میڈیا نے حکیم اللہ محسود سمیت طالبان کمانڈروں کے انٹرویو نشر کئے، یہ امن کی بات نشر نہیں کرتا، جنگ کو فروغ دیتا ہے: منظور پشتین@manzoorpashteen #DGISPR #PTM pic.twitter.com/DeFccrJiHs— VOA Urdu (@URDUVOA) April 29, 2019
Sunday, April 28, 2019
By Saad Rasool
In a society as heartless as ours, the ongoing plight of Hazara community has received the minimum possible space in our media and political narrative.
On Friday, last week, an IED ripped through a grocery market in Quetta, specifically targeting and killing members of the (Shia) Hazara community. The attack killed over 20 people, injuring almost 50 others (some in critical condition).
In the aftermath of this dastardly attack, members of the Hazara community in Quetta have staged a sit-in, demanding that concrete security steps be devised by the government as well as relevant law enforcement agencies, and that perpetrators of this sectarian violence (which has targeted Shia community alone) be caught and prosecuted to the fullest extent of our laws.Callously, neither the Prime Minister nor the Army Chief has made a visit to Quetta, till date, in order to express solidarity with the bereaved families or to assure them of the State’s intent to punish the perpetrators of this violence.The attack on Shia Hazaras was followed, a few days later, with the tragic killing of 14 passengers in a bus on Makran Coastal Highway in Ormara, Balochistan. And just like that, within the span of one week, Balochistan has been engulfed in a wave of terrorism that is reminiscent of the dark yesteryears (2010 – 2013).In a society as heartless as ours, the ongoing plight of Hazara community has received the minimum possible space in our media and political narrative. In fact, the killings in Christchurch occupied a far greater fraction of our national narrative, compared to the recent violence against the Hazara community in Quetta. And while we were quick to bestow lofty accolades on the empathy and fortitude of New Zealanders after the Christchurch attack, we have emulated no such compassion or resolve for the Hazara community in Balochistan.
The recent wave of violence, in Balochistan, is being viewed in terms of the regional security narrative and upcoming CPEC projects. It has been argued that inimical forces, from across the border, are perpetrating this violence to thwart Pakistan’s cooperation with China and the (imagined) benefits of the CPEC initiatives. That may be true, to some extent. However, such a narrative must not be used to diminish the specific and targeted plight of the Hazara community, which stems from a singular article of faith – Hub-e-Ali (A.S.). The Shia Hazara community was being targeted much before the CPEC projects were ever conceived, and their plight is likely to continue regardless of how the State of Pakistan chooses to participate in the regional Great Game that is now upon us.
Violence against Shia citizens of our country – from Parachinar to Sehwan Sharif, Noorani Shah and Shikarpur – reflect purposeful killing of Shias across Pakistan, by organizations and individuals who continue to slip through the (purposefully) porous grasp of our law enforcement agencies. In fact, according to official statistics, since 2001, more than 6,000 Shias have been targeted and killed in Pakistan.
The systematic genocide of Shias in Pakistan, and in particular members of the Hazara community, commands no more than a momentary space in our news cycle. The majority of our nation, and its political elite, feign soporific concern over such killings, only up until the next press conference by some two-bit politician (defending Panama Leaks or Fake Accounts) captures our fancy. And with it, the coffins stretched on Alamdar Road in Quetta, and the plight of Pakistan’s Shia community, fade into the criminal recesses of an impotent society.
Why is the killing of peaceful Shia citizens no longer a soul-wrenching episode in Pakistan? More pertinently, why is the killing of Shia (and other religious minorities) a mere inconvenience for our polity, deserving no more than a token statement of meaningless condemnation? Why is our political, military, and judicial leadership mute on the systematic elimination (genocide?) of anyone who beats his chest to the call of ‘Ya Hussain (A.S.)!’?
Why is it that (despite the killing of Malik Ishaq) our counter-terrorism efforts have never expanded to specifically focus on organizations such as SSP, LeJ, and ASWJ? Why is it that Maulana Ludhianivi, the leader of these banned outfits, continues to find space within our corridors of power? Why are militant leaders, who openly propagate the killings of Shias, allowed to actively participate in the public and national discourse? Why does ‘Kafir Kafir Shia Kafir!’continue to be graffitied across our urban and rural centers? Why have the madrassas and organizations that actively incite hatred against Shias, been bestowed with State land in Karachi? Why are leaders of such organizations given political protection in Punjab? Why is their evil dominion tolerated in the Lal Masjid of Islamabad?
There can be no denial of the fact that the State of Pakistan does not care about the lives or security of Shias. In fact, it would not be a stretch to say that our State and its institutions, are complicit in the killing of Shias. Despite thousands of innocent deaths, there has never been any action, suo moto or otherwise, by the Supreme Court of Pakistan against the killing of Shias. As coffins lay on the streets of Quetta and Parachinar, no judicial or political conscience was jolted into action. No sustainable military action was specifically initiated against Sunni militant outfits. And the few (powerless) individuals, who have had the moral integrity to voice support for the Shia community, are quickly silenced under threat of violence and retribution.A careful look at our national paradigm would reveal that Shias are not welcomed in the stratosphere of our State’s decision making process. Despite almost 20% of Pakistan’s population being Shia, a far smaller fraction finds itself in the national and provincial legislatures. Even lesser are inducted in the Cabinet. Fewer still are part of the bureaucratic and Khaki top-brass. And hardly any one is elevated to the honorable Supreme Court of Pakistan.There is an unspoken bias against Shias being inducted within our corridors of power. And the few Shias who, from time to time, have made their personal mark in the fields of medicine, academia, or law, have (for the most part) been targeted through a systematic effort to eliminate their influence in our society.
If we were to pause for a moment, and ask ourselves as to why the Shias are being massacred in our land, there would be no answer forthcoming. We would realize that there is no event in our national or Islamic history that justifies hatred towards those who believe in the infallibility of the Prophet (S.A.W.W.) and his progeny (A.S.). In fact, even a cursory reading of history or religion would make it painfully clear that, over the past thirteen hundred years, hub-e-Ali (A.S.), even when it was silently professed, was met with violence and militancy. And, in the present day and age, this militancy is at its fiercest in Pakistan.
Here is the truth: even if all the Shias, across the world, were to be shot, at a pointblank range, Hussain Ibn-e-Ali (A.S.) would be the Haq and Yazid would be the Baatil. Even if hub-e-Ali (A.S.) were to be declared a crime (nay, a sin!), in every jurisdiction across the world, the love of Ahl-e-Bayt (A.S.) will remain (according to Quran and Hadith) the eternal key for hereafter. Even if all the Shias were to drop dead, this very moment, Imam Mahdi (A.S.), the last surviving son of Ali Ibn-e-Abu Talib (A.S.), will usher in the final reckoning.
When that happens, as it must, those who killed Shias, those who supported this barbarity, those who remained silent, and those who looked the other way, will be made to answer. And there, before the Seat of Eternal Power, our worldly excuses will find no favor.
SAAD HASANRegressive policies, too much debt and a failure to collect tax have hampered Pakistan’s growth prospects and the situation isn't getting better. There are several ways to diagnose what ails Pakistan’s economy. But one place to start is at the Office of the Protectorate of Emigrants for the answer. That’s where people get their passports stamped before travelling abroad for work. Very often expats are turned away from the airport right before their flights because they don’t have the protectorate’s ‘seal’. Many of them don’t even know such a requirement exists. Set up in the 1970s, the protectorate’s job was primarily to regulate recruiting companies, which were not trusted with looking after the welfare of unskilled construction workers moving to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. A lot has changed since then as most applicants find jobs directly, however, the rules are unchanged. The protectorate office in Karachi is tucked behind commercial high-rises off its busy Shahrah-e-Faisal road. Usually, it takes some asking around to find the premises, as I found out on a visit last year. It’s a place emblematic of how excess regulations frustrate people sending home crucial remittances while at the same time giving others an opportunity to exploit the bureaucratic red tape to earn some cash. Last year, overseas Pakistanis wired home more than $19 billion, a lifeline of foreign exchange in a country crippled by international debt. But successive governments have failed to address the broken system. At the protectorate, the real problem is going through the hassle of arranging a dozen documents including a medical certificate from a designated doctor, filling out complicated forms and paying registration fees at two different bank branches. That’s also where some people use jugaad, an improvised solution or ‘hack’, to monetise the bureaucratic labyrinth and fuel what’s known as the informal economy, where money changes hands away from the official tax net. It’s not only a part of the informal economy, estimated to make up at least one-third of the country’s GDP of more than $300 billion, but also a place the taxman can’t reach. Take for example one Gul Khan who drives a three-wheeled rickshaw and offers his services to people coming to the protectorate office in Karachi, Pakistan’s biggest city and its commercial capital. For a few hundred rupees, Khan will fill in the forms for you, deposit the fee at the bank and get all the photocopies.While some may benefit from the hack, too much regulation is discouraging private businesses from investing. “It’s really all about the ease of doing business. A lot of our time is wasted in dealing with bureaucratic issues,” says Ikram Elahi, CEO of a Lahore-based food company. It’s also about incompetence. “For instance, food department officials will take samples from raw milk and complain about the bacterial count. We tell them the sample is bound to have bacteria because it’s not even pasteurised,” says Elahi. Pakistan can least afford such legal and tax loopholes at a time when its economic growth has slowed down to its lowest rate in seven years, inflation is running high and the government is short of funds to pay its debt and the salaries of employees. The resignation of Finance Minister Asad Umar on April 18, just months after taking office, has complicated the situation. https://www.trtworld.com/asia/what-s-wrong-with-pakistan-s-economy-26193
By Saad Rasool
On Monday, this week, Nashwa Ali – a nine month old infant in Karachi, who had fallen prey to medical negligence and malpractice at Dar-ul-Sehat Hospital – breathed her last. Her state of solitary agony, which she was too young and too paralyzed to express, will forever remain as an indelible blotch on the rotting fabric of our national conscience.
Undoubtedly, she has joined the ranks of ‘the girl who was buried alive’ (Quran 81:8). And most certainly, we as a nation, will have to answer as to ‘for what sin she was killed’ (Quran 81:9).
Nashwa is not the first child who has fallen prey to the atrocities of our failing healthcare system. The culprits of her death are not the first to benefit from a decadent criminal justice system. And her parents are not the first to lament, facing the heavens, for some divine intervention against a system that nether recognizes nor cares for their unquenched suffering.
It is futile to recount the customary facts of Nashwa’s case. It is pointless to narrate the token statements of the few political leaders who bothered to express solidarity with her family’s plight. It is meaningless to ask why the owners of the hospital have still not been arrested. It is worthless to contemplate that justice, in its true letter and spirit, will be served against those who are responsible for Nashwa’s death. And it is purposeless to even entertain the possibility of long-term structural reforms that ensure the safety of countless other Nashwas’ seeking treatment from our broken healthcare system.
According to a recent report published by the World Health Organization, Pakistan ranks 122 (globally) in terms of the quality and reach of its healthcare systems; much behind even some of the far less developed countries such as Lithuania (73), Libya (87), Fiji (96), Iraq (103), and Tongo (116). There are hundreds of ghost-hospitals all across our land. The best and the brightest of our doctors continue to seek more lucrative career opportunities abroad. Thousands of patients wait in the hallways of public healthcare facilities, dying a little with each breath. And recurring menace of drug/medication shortage continues to add to the plight of our people.
As it turns out, according to figures provided by the World Health Organization, the Government of Pakistan spends only 1.5% of its GDP on ‘Public Health’ (as opposed to almost 6% spent by most other developing countries). In fact, the private sector, which is considerably more expensive (and thus beyond the financial reach of majority of Pakistan’s population), spends at least three times as much on providing health-related services within the country. A recent report published by the College of Physicians and Surgeons, Pakistan, details how Pakistan spends 80% of its health budget on tertiary care services, utilized by only 15% of the population, and 15% on primary healthcare services, used by 80% of the population. Furthermore, 98% of all healthcare related expenditure, in Pakistan, are done out-of-pocket, and over 75% of patients visit and use private-sector healthcare facilities. The total public health budget of Pakistan dwarves in comparison to the budget allocated for the top three infrastructure projects, and the government healthcare facilities receive a smaller fraction of the overall budget, than the subsidy provided to the airline-sector alone.
This deprecation of our public health is not simply the result of inadequate funds. The deeper issue stem from a constitutional disregard of the sector.
To this end, let us start by recognizing that reform of our healthcare sector is, at its core, divided in the reform of two different (yet connected) areas: 1) regulation of private healthcare institutions, and 2) restructuring of the public/governmental healthcare system. The first (private healthcare) is primarily regulated, on the one hand, by federal institutions such as PMDC (who certify the expertise of doctors) and on the other by provincial regulatory mechanism (such as the Punjab Healthcare Commission). However, this regulation remains porous, in large parts, and there is no mechanism to oversee the everyday running of private healthcare institutions.
In order to assess the mechanism for operation and regulation of public/governmental healthcare sector, it is pertinent to first review the relevant constitutional paradigm. From the constitutional perspective, per Article 70(4) read with Article 142, the Federal Legislature has exclusive legislative authority in regards to items specifically enumerated in the Federal Legislative List (Fourth Schedule of the Constitution). As a result, the Federal Government (alone) has the authority to constitute ministries and sectors that are expressly mentioned in the Federal Legislative List, and all other items (post 18th Constitutional Amendment) fall within the exclusive legislative domain of the respective Provincial Assemblies (Article 142 (c)). And, admittedly, “Public Health” finds no mention in the Federal Legislative list at all, making it a ‘Provincial’ subject.
This constitutional paradigm, in which public health is exclusively a provincial subject, can also be traced through the earlier constitutional schemes of Pakistan, including the 1956 Constitution, and the 1962 Constitution. Still, however, throughout our history, there has existed a Federal Ministry of Health (presently the Ministry of National Health Services (Regulation and Coordination)), and the Provinces have taken no meaningful steps to assert their respective autonomy over the subject.Existing somewhere between this confused constitutional domain, of a Federal healthcare apparatus vis-a-vis competing Provincial autonomy, our national focus on public health has suffered at the hands of debilitating apathy. Pakistan, having signed and ratified over a dozen public health related conventions and treaties, continues to lag behind the modern world in terms of provision of healthcare to its citizenry. We continue to host numerous diseases (e.g.: Polio) that have been eradicated from most other countries of the world. Our population growth is disproportionate with our healthcare budget. Our public sector doctors continue to seek better opportunities abroad. Our borders continue to stay porous for smuggled (expensive) medication. And caught in this myriad of public health problems, the people of Pakistan struggle to find their rightful place in the comity of healthy nations.
Faced with this sad state of affairs, one must recognize that the void in our public healthcare space is being filled (in part) by select private citizens of miraculous abilities; individuals who have no legal or constitutional obligation to participate in the public healthcare space, but have accomplished miracles through the dint of their hard work and moral commitment. This includes, above all, the late Abdul Sattar Edhi, and SIUT’s Dr. Adeebul Hassan Rizvi.
Why do State institutions exhibit such blind spots when it comes to public health? Why is this issue not front and center in each political party’s manifesto and agenda? Why are tragedies, such as Nashwa Ali, nothing more than momentary spikes in media coverage? Why does the silent suffering of the sick find no space in the political and national narrative?
The answer to these, and related questions, is simple: a healthy man, woman, or child, does not make for a great campaign slogan, or form the crown-jewel of political achievement. It cannot be advertised, like the Metro Bus, on placards and holdings. Public health does not manifest itself as a monument that beckons an opening ceremony from the political office-holders. It cannot be displayed, as a mark of development, to foreign dignitaries. It does not suit our conventional need for tangible progress. And so, naturally, it does not form a priority in the hackery of our political system.
The crisis of public health, across Pakistan, is likely to continue till such time that we shift our political preferences away from tangible monuments of stone, and towards the intangible monuments of well-being. And if our political elites are not willing to do so, it is incumbent upon us, as conscientious citizens of the State, to force their hand through all our political might, public narrative and (if necessary) street power.