26 February, 2011

Book launch: 'Faiz Ahmed Faiz in Beirut'

ISLAMABAD: “Faiz Ahmed Faiz in Beirut” - a book which gives account of four years of the renowned poet’s stay in the capital city of Lebanon has been published by Pakistan Academy of Letters (PAL).
The book has been written by Tasleem Elahi Zulfi who has focused on activities and routine life of Faiz in Beirut during his stay there as expatriate. The new publication on Faiz Ahmed Faiz is in relation to his centenary celebrations being marked all over the world.

Fakhar Zaman, Chairman, PAL, said on the release of the book that “Tasleem Elahi’s brings new aspects of Faiz to us as he has shed light on those four years of poet’s life which were not discussed” by writers before. Tasleem has written his memoires about his meetings with Faiz Ahmed Faiz during the four years of Faiz’s asylum in Beirut. 

Endorsing Peace through Interfaith Harmony

Published in Pakistan Observer (26 Feb. 2011)
Sana Jamal

ISLAMABAD: “There will be no peace among the nations without peace among the religions and there will be no peace among the religions without dialogue among the religions.” This message was highlighted at a seminar on ‘Peace and Tolerance’ held on Friday at a local hotel in Islamabad.

Experts at the seminar showed distress over growing trends of intolerance in an Islamic state and stressed that “Islam advocates for tolerance and for settlement of issues by consultations.” Tolerance in Islam towards other religions is rooted in the Holy Quran and contrary to the perception that Islam has been spread by force, the Holy Quran asserts that: “There is no compulsion in religion. Verily, the Right Path has become distinct from the wrong path.” (2:256)

Liberal Forum Pakistan (LPF), Islamabad Chapter organized the healthy debate in which the key speakers were Aamir Rana, Dir. Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies; Prof. Mushtaq Victor, former minister for Minorities; Allama Ayaz Hasmi, chairman National Peace Commission on Interfaith harmony; Dr. Khalid Masood & Anees Jillani, Chairman LFP.

The speakers noted that, in a pluralistic society, there can always be a divergence of opinion on a number of issues, but these differences can be solved through interfaith harmony which means “a cooperative and positive interaction between people of different religions, traditions, faiths, and spiritual or humanistic beliefs,” at all levels.

Discussing ‘Religion and Secularism’, Dr. Masood said that “Islamists often describe secularism as anti-Islam and fail to recognize that attributes of Islam and secularism are somewhat similar” as both stands for individual freedom.

Prof. Mushtaq Victor said that “advocacy seminars on interfaith should include all classes of society and not only the rational-minded people.” He also gave example of King Abdullah’s historic initiative of international conference on interfaith dialogue in Makkah, Madrid and at UN headquarters in New York to boost tolerance and understanding, in particular between the Muslim, Christian and Hindu cultures to strengthening world peace and stability.

Speakers were of the view that despite worsening conditions of the country, the issue of interfaith harmony do not receive due share in national debate.

25 February, 2011

6% decrease in Incidents of violence against women reported

Published in Pakistan Observer (25 Feb. 2011)

ISLAMABAD: “There were 8000 incidents of violence against women in the country in 2010 according to the newspaper reports – which indicates a decrease of 6 per cent in the violence against women as compared to the preceding year in 2009.”
This information was revealed at a press conference by Aurat Foundation and Violence against Women Watch group (VAW) in Islamabad on Thursday. The two organizations have compiled a brief report “based on the reported cases in a majority of newspapers of the country as no FIR was registered in a large number of incidents, reflecting the citizens’ lack of confidence in police” told an official of Aurat Foundation. The report covers the incidents of violence against women in Pakistan during January -December 2010.

The summary of the report titled the “3rd Annual Statistics of Violence against Women” shows a positive sign with the decrease in violence. But at the same time, it is also a warning for the related authorities as it presents a pretty grim picture of the overall state of affairs regarding violence against women in Pakistan.

According to the figures in the report, “Out of a total 8000 incidents, as many as 5492 cases of violence were reported from Punjab; 1652 from Sindh; 650 from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 79 from Baluchistan and 127 from Islamabad. The figures of Islamabad are alarming given the smaller population and high security maintained in the capital.”

Violence against women may take the form of beating, torture, rape, burning, confinement, honor killings, acid-throwing crimes and women trafficking. According to the report, out of the total incidents, “2236 women were abducted; 1436 women were murdered and 557 were killed in the name of ‘honour’ killing; 928 women were raped; 633 women committed suicide; 32 women were made victim of acid attacks and 38 women were target of stove burning.”

Alarming rise in Polio Cases in Pakistan

71% increase in Polio since last 2 years
Published in Pakistan Observer (25 Feb. 2011)
Sana Jamal

ISLAMABAD: “Polio has had a 71% increase in Pakistan in 2 the last 2 years with 84 cases of polio in 2009 to 144 and rising in 2010-2011” which signifies indifferent attitude of the health authorities regarding the harmful disease of polio. These views were shared by experts at a session on ‘Critical Need to Improve Immunization in FATA’ arranged by PILDAT in Islamabad on Thursday.

Sharing the alarming figures of polio increase in FATA, experts told that “of the 144 cases of polio in Pakistan in 2010, 74 occurred in FATA alone - which indicate that 25% of the children in FATA are inaccessible for polio immunization” calling for support and timely policies of government regarding the immunization campaign in FATA especially.

Key speakers at the seminar noted that FATA is the key to achieve the goal of polio eradication in Pakistan, and urged the FATA MPs to play their due role in creating awareness regarding the hazards of polio among the masses.

Munir Khan, Orakzai MNA and Parliamentary leader FATA in the National Assembly chaired the session while the speakers included Senator Saleh Shah Quraishi; Engineer Shaukat Ullah, Federal Minister for SAFRON; Bilal Rehman, MNA; Kamran Khan, MNA; Abdul Maalik Wazir, MNA; Senator Hafiz Rasheed Ahmed and Samina Mushtaq Pagganwala, MNA, member Parliamentary Caucus to promote
Immunization in Pakistan; Dr. Azhar Abid Raza, Health Specialist UNICEF and Dr. Altaf Bosan, National Progamme Manager-Expanded Programme of Immunization.

Munir Khan Orakzai said that the “situation in FATA is indicative of lack of government’s interest and it is largely the Health administration’s inability to manage the spread of virus. He believed greater awareness campaigns need to be run in FATA using Pashto radio and religious leaders should be involved to give brief statements on radio attesting immunization.
Azhar Abid Raza said that the target to reach 10 million children in 65 high risk districts was set in 2004 and 26 districts achieved elimination status in that year. “However polio has persisted and today 75% of polio cases in Pakistan are identified only in KPK and FATA.” 32 children recently affected from polio never had a single drop of polio vaccine, he added.

Dr. Altaf Bosan said that around 50% children in FATA because of inaccessibility, lake of awareness and low performance of immunization teams. He requested parliamentarians to play their role in creating awareness among masses and monitoring the performance of administration.

23 February, 2011

Josh remembered as ‘Poet of Revolution’

Sana Jamal

ISLAMABAD: Kaam hai mera taghayyur, naam hai mera shabaab, mera na’ara: inqilaab-o-inqilaab-o-inqilaab (My task is change, my name is youth! My slogan: revolution and revolution and revolution!) These words of Josh were recited by the key speakers of the conference reminding the audience of one of the greatest revolutionary poets and a dominant figure of Urdu language, Josh Malihabadi.

Josh was remembered as Shaayar-e-Inquilaab (Poet of the Revolution) by admirers of Urdu literature on his 29th death anniversary at Josh Literary Conference, arranged by Josh Adabi Foundation in collaboration with National Language Authority (NLA), and held at the premises of NLA on Tuesday.
The speakers of the event included Dr Farooq Sattar, MQM Parliamentary Leader and Shabnam Shakil, a poet and educationist, Iftikhar Arif, Chairman NLA; Dr Yahya Ahmed; Afshan Malik, poetess, and Dr. Ghazanfar Mehdi.

Iftikhar Arif called Josh “an influential poet and a giant literary figure of Urdu language” and said that besides poetry, the prose by Josh is also noteworthy. He also talked about Josh`s prolific poetic work, his prose and contribution for the Anjuman-i-Taraqi-i-Urdu for compiling a comprehensive Urdu dictionary under the leadership of Maulvi Abdul Haq.

The speakers at the conference lamented that Josh has not received due recognition as he has been ignored by the authorities and literati over the years.
The grandchildren of Josh, Farrukh Jamal and Tabassum Ikhlaq regretted lack of official recognition for the poet. Ikhlaq pointed that “despite 29 years have passed since Josh has left the world, there is not a single street or avenue in Islamabad to recall his achievements in the field of literature.”

Shabnam Shakil said that “Josh should not only be remembered on his birth or death anniversary but the work of Josh should be part of the national curriculum.” She regretted that the new generation was completely unaware of national literary greats, including Josh and urged that the government should play its due role to educate the young generation.

Speaking on the occasion, Dr Farooq Sattar called Josh – “the poet of revolution and resistance.” Sattar urged Pakistanis "to follow the teachings of Josh and raise the banner of resistance against all sorts of oppression and repression."

Josh was fluent in Urdu, Persian, Hindi and English and his poetry collections include the Paighambar-e-Islam, Shula-o-Shabnum, Fikro-Nishat, Sumbul-o-Salasal, Maujood-o-Mufakir, Aroos Adab, Awaz Haq and Dewan Josh. He also wrote prose and published works include Auraq Zareen and Muqallat Josh while his autobiography, is titled ‘Yaadon ki Baaraat’ (‘A Cavalcade of Memories’), informed Malik Fida ur Rehman.

22 February, 2011

Mother Tongue Day marked in Islamabad

Sana Jamal

ISLAMABAD: “We must glorify, preserve and develop our regional languages as it plays a vital role in the development of a country.” This message was highlighted at a seminar  to address the issues of preservation and development of regional languages on Mother Language Day (Feb. 21).

Linguistic experts noted that Pakistan is a multicultural and multi linguistic country, however if sustainable measures are not taken, the regional languages of the country will face extinction, endangering the pluralistic features of society eventually.

19 February, 2011

Textile, clothing exhibition

Published in Pakistn Observer (Feb. 19, 2011)
Sana Jamal

Islamabad - Innovative yet elegant exhibition of textile and clothing at Federal Government College, F-7/2, Islamabad, demonstrated the dedication of the younger generation towards their future careers through their unique artwork. The exhibition was the endeavor of the students of Home Economics and Management Sciences of the college on the completion of a six year integrated professional scheme of studies at the college.

The exhibition titled “enchanting world of ideas” was inaugurated by the Principal of the college, Mrs. Durdana Israr on Friday afternoon.

According to the Principal of the college, Mrs. Durdana said “the work displayed at the exhibition was extraordinary and spoke highly of the hard work put in by the student.” She was of the view that dedication always has its reward in the form of high achievements which further strengthens our belief in hard work.

The exhibition displayed colourful apparel and household items, such as bed linens, cushion covers, lamps which were designed and tailored by the students. The techniques and skills used by the students included were silk screen printing, block printing, tie and dye, batik and draped garments using different techniques with applied embellishment. “Four of my dresses are on display here in which I have used four techniques of screen printing, batik, block printing, and tie & dye” said Marium Khan, a student of Textile & Clothing.

Ms. Samar Zafar, Head of dept. of Textile and Clothing seemed pleased with the work of the students. “We aim to facilitate the students so that they can recognize their potential however due to partial funds we are only able to assist them at college level only” she said while talking to Pakistan Observer.
The car prints on the bed sheet and engines on the sofa cover, was the unique idea of Khaula Ahmed who wishes to maintain the work as her career due to “high appreciation of the work from the teachers and the fellow” she said.

18 February, 2011

Artworks of Five Artists on display at Nomad

Sana Jamal

ISLAMABAD: A beautiful combination of paintings of five different artists at an exhibition titled ‘I See You’ opened at Nomad gallery on Thursday. The group exhibition conveys the message of soul-searching on the whole, however “each art work is distinctive in the sense that it tells a different story residing in the heart of the artist” informed Nageen Hyat, curator of the gallery while talking to Pakistan Observer.
If closely observed each artwork is certain to engross the visitors as it not only expresses the individual thoughts of the artist but also provides food for thought for the art lovers. The exhibition features the artworks of five talented artists Mizna Syed, Ahsan Masood, Amra Khan, Mohsin Shafi and Maria Khan which will continue 5th March.
The artists have used mix media to express their inner desire, wrath and judgment. Maria Khan has used floral patterns for their aesthetic beauty. Using black mount sheet and wall paper in her artworks ‘Screams blue murder’, ‘Apple of eye’ and ‘In black and white’ she has expressed her inner feelings and psychological state. “Flowers, since they bloom, fade and die, symbolic of our own mortality, the temporariness of our brief lives, my life” Maria said.

15 February, 2011

Iranian Cultural Week opens in Islamabad

Sana Jamal
A collection of Iranian jars on display.
Photo Courtesy: M. Javaid/APP

ISLAMABAD: Iranian Cultural Festival commenced at National Arts Gallery (NAG) of Pakistan National Council of the Arts (PNCA) with a lively inaugural ceremony on Monday. The event has been arranged to mark the 32nd Glorious Victory of Iran (also known as 1979 Islamic Revolution) which relates to the overthrow of Iran's monarchy (Pahlavi dynasty) under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and its replacement with an Islamic republic under Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of the revolution.

The week-long (February 14-19) cultural festival has been organized by the Cultural Consulate of the embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran in collaboration with PNCA featuring calligraphic paintings, photographs comprising development of Iran, original handwork on wood, metal, and cloth, engraved and rugs work, recitation of ‘Asmaul Husna’ and ‘Durood e Pak’, and screening of feature films to highlight the life after the great revolution.

14 February, 2011

Valentine’s Day festivity in Islamabad

Sana Jamal

ISLAMABAD - Valentine’s Day has gained momentum in recent years in Pakistan where it is celebrated with more fervor every next year. From the roadside florist to the telecom companies, from the lavish restaurant to the trendy gift shop, everyone seems to be celebrating Valentine’s Day in their own special way on 14th of February.

A day before the big day, all commercial ventures of the federal capital seemed to be fervently endorsing love by immersing in red theme. In Islamabad the major shopping area, Super Market (F-6), Jinnah Super Market (F-7) and F-10 Markaz were seen decorated with greetings cards, red ribbons, heart-shaped pillows where teenagers were found in huge group numbers. “For me Valentine’s Day is incomplete without a gift and flowers and here I am searching for a unique gift” said Ali Khan, who was busy in finding the right kind of gift at a shop in F-7.

13 February, 2011

Mobina’s figurative work on display at gallery 6

Sana Jamal

ISLAMABAD: Gallery 6 brings an exclusive exhibition of paintings by Mobina Zuberi in which she has captured snap shot moments through lines and brush strokes. Mobina’s present exhibition titled “The Moment” is unique in the sense that it displays two very different genres of paintings with distinct interaction - one dealing with women and other with abstractions.

Mobina has been painting since 1970s and over the years she has produced diverse series of work. However, the recent paintings of Mobina are not decorative materials for the drawing room - an approach that is gaining popularity among some contemporary painters but these are pieces of imaginative art work in which figures are not static and bland.

Dr. Arjumand Faisel, the curator of the gallery said that “this is a landmark return of Mobina Zuberi to the figurative painting as the artworks are starkly far more powerful than any of her previous work that I have seen. Capturing the snap shots of split second momentary expression, she creates the entire mood of that moment with minimal lines and brush strokes”.

Photo Courtesy: Abdullah Bai.
Mobina’s women are neither beautiful glamorous woman nor are they fairy tales princesses, mythological figures or folklore legends. In a distinct contrast, these are simple drawings that use paints to portray a relationship with a moment or an internal feeling which create a bond with a happening – something that is part of the routine life. This creates an element of drama, a story, a moment.

Mobina is able to create the presentation of these emotional feelings by the choice of a pose, a posture, contour, a definite gesture on the faces of these women, and her own form of sketching. The effect is further enhanced by her adopted treatment and texture on the canvas.

National Women’s Day marked

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Islamabad - Islam initially granted all due rights to women in a primitive era when they had no rights at all, however, in today’s era mistreatment of women is often justified in the name of religion. This viewpoint was noted at various events held across the city by women activists and NGOs to create awareness about women rights on National Women’s Day (Feb. 12).

To commemorate National Women’s Day, a discussion on ‘Religious Extremism and its Impact on Women’ was organized by Insani Haqooq Itehad (IHI) on Saturday at National Library in which civil society, women activists, and rural women participated urging the government to immediately pass the ‘Domestic Violence Bill’.

A variety of programmes were also arranged by Women Action Forum (WAF) at Nomad gallery on Saturday including discussion on discriminatory laws and its impact on women in which women activists highlighted that the state of women particularly was deteriorated during Zia’s regime who omitted all articles regarding the equal rights of men and women.

Bushra Gohar, Chairperson Standing Committee on Women Development said in her address that “religious extremism has its roots in the state systems and policies” and the “present government is committed to abolish laws or constitutional amendments introduced by Zia-ul-Haq.”

Justice (R) Nasira Javaid Iqbal said that “today women’s rights in Pakistan are gradually deteriorating as 80% housewives are facing domestic violence which often goes unnoticed as 66% women accept it as their fate, 33% complain, while less than 5% take steps to redress the situation.” Women are often “denied any legal redress or community support despite being brutally mistreated” thus “inheritance and family laws should be brought under a Uniform code”, she added.

Women activists at the seminar termed the existing discriminatory laws an outcome of extremist policies by the Zia regime. Samina Khan, Executive Director, SUNGI (NGO) was one of those women activists who were baton charged on 12th Feb. 1983 when Punjab Women Lawyers Association in Lahore protested against Gen. Ziaul Haq’s law of evidence that reduced the testimony of women in court to half that of men” she said while giving a detailed account of the historic day.

12 February, 2011

Measures to improve women status stressed

Sana Jamal

Islamabad - Ignorance and backwardness are the major reasons of oppression on rural women hence timely measures must be taken to improve the status of women by providing them equal opportunities. This was the crux of the two seminars held in Islamabad to mark the National Women’s Day (Feb. 12).

Women activists at a conference termed the existing discriminatory laws an outcome of extremist policies by the Zia regime and urged the parliament for effective legislation to defend the vulnerable women of the country. The conference was organized by National Commission on Status of Women (NCSW), Potohar Organization for Development and Advocacy (PODA) and Aurat Foundation (AF) at Pakistan National Council of the Arts (PNCA).

Begum Shahnaz Wazir Ali, former Advisor to PM on social sector, said that the struggle for the rights of women has just begun and it is “the mission of present government to empower the women and enlighten the women of their rights” because women play a key role in the development of any society.

National Assembly Law committee Chairperson Naseem Chaudhary said that to make the women “aware of women of their rights, it is important for them to be educated.”

At another seminar “Tribute to Women’s Leadership at grassroots level: Actions and Achievements”, Mukhtaran Mai, the chief guest of the seminar said that “women in rural areas are particularly vulnerable to oppression because of lack of awareness hence there is a need to raise the level of education.”

National Women’s Day is observed every year to mark the police brutality against women in Lahore on February 12, 1983” when Punjab Women Lawyers Association protested against Gen. Ziaul Haq’s law of evidence that reduced the testimony of women in court to half that of men, informed Naeem Mirza of Aurat Foundation.

60% Pakistanis at risk of Iodine Deficiency Disorders (IDD)

Sana Jamal

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is rated 6th amongst countries where iodine deficiency is a serious public health issue. More than 60% of the population of Pakistan is at risk of Iodine Deficiency Disorders (IDD) due to delay in legislation on availability of iodized salt, warned the health experts at a seminar by TheNetwork held at a local hotel on Thursday. 

The seminar on “Health Professionals’ Alliance on promotion of breastfeeding (BF) and Universal Salt Iodization (USI)” highlighted that non-implementation of rules to ensure exclusive breastfeeding among infants for six months has made the future generations of Pakistan vulnerable to various deadly diseases which are entirely preventable. “Only 30% of the health professionals of the country are aware of BF rules and approximately 2 million babies are born with iodine deficiency every year in Pakistan” which can lead to a loss of up to 15 IQ points and various psychological and physical impairments such as mental retardation and cretinism, informed the health experts. 

Dr Zil-e-Huma, member of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health was the chief guest of the seminar. Dr Zil-e-Huma ensured the implementation of breastfeeding rules and of legislation on iodized salt at parliamentary level. “I will make all efforts to get the iodine deficiency disorder bill passed from the cabinet” she pledged.

11 February, 2011

Faiz centenary celebrations: Tributes paid to Faiz Ahmed Faiz

Published in Pakistan Observer (11 Feb. 2011)
Sana Jamal

ISLAMABAD: Faiz Ahmed Faiz was remembered as the symbol of hope, courage and resistance for the people of Pakistan by the scholarly figures of Islamabad who gathered here at a seminar to pay tribute to Faiz.

The seminar was arranged by Pakistan Academy of Letters (PAL) on Thursday to commemorate 100th birthday of Faiz Ahmed Faiz (1911-1984) who gave voice to the people of Pakistan. The seminar was part centenary celebrations of Faiz being marked all over the world by the organisations that promote Urdu writers and writings.

Mehar Ghulam Farid Kathia, Minister of state for Education was the chief guest of the ceremony. Sharing his views he said “Faiz is one of a few major poets in Urdu and is the only one after Iqbal who received recognition at international level. He voiced the problems and miserable conditions of liberals and people from marginalized sections of society in his poetry.” 

Iftikhar Arif, a poet and Chairman of National Language Authority presided over the seminar while renowned literary figures including Agha Nasir, Ishfaq Saleem Mirza, Yousaf Hassan, Sarwat Mohyuddin, Ishfaq Hussain and Dr. Col. Abdaal Bela, Acting Director General of PAL explored the various aspects of the life and work of Faiz Ahmad Faiz in their speech.

Iftikhar Arif said that after Iqbal, Faiz is the most literary personality who made great impact on our national literary history. Faiz is among those poets whose work has been translated in all major foreign languages which is the indicator of his distinction as a humanist poet nationally as well as internationally.

Yousaf Hassan said that in the discipline of knowledge Faiz prefers class struggle over enlightenment. “In the area of art he gave preference to artistic and aesthetic characteristics which added beauty and energy in his poetry.”

Directory on NGOs launched

Sana Jamal

ISLAMABAD: Most of the Pakistani NGOs run social and welfare works through self-generated income while rest of the support comes from national and international donor agencies. This information was revealed at the launch of the directory of certified nonprofit organizations working in Pakistan compiled by Pakistan Centre for Philanthropy (PCP) here on Thursday.

Speaking at the launching ceremony the book, Anjum R. Haque, Executive Director of PCP informed that 181 NGOs were examined during the survey which revealed that “around 43% of the NGOs work through self-generated income while 34% from national donors and around 23% from international donors.”
Malik Babur, Manager Certification of PCP informed that “Out of 181 NGOs, 57 are working on health issues, 52 are working in educational area while 11 NGOs are focused on advocacy.”

The directory titled ‘Gateway to Giving’ is a reflection of PCP’s unique Certification Programme which is the first of its kind to be implemented in South Asia. The certification programme provides a system of voluntary evaluation of Certified Social Organizations on standardized parameters by an external agency aimed at promoting international best practices of good governance, financial transparency, documentation, disclosure and accountability. “It also seeks to bridge the information and credibility gap that exists between grant givers and grant seekers that often is an impediment in the promotion of social development” said Ms. Haque.

Diary - Urdu stage play enthralls audiences

Published in Pakistan Observer (8 Feb. 2011)
Sana Jamal

ISLAMABAD: Yasra Rizvi’s play “Diary” enchanted the audiences of the twin cities throughout the week as the play was staged at Pakistan National Council of the Arts from February 2-7. The reality-based play aimed to preserve the language and the cultural heritage of Urdu was well-received and attracted a large number of theater lovers of the city.

Diary is an original Urdu stage play written and directed by Yasra Rizvi, and based on her own life. The play presented by Gravity Productions was inspired by the teachings of Ameer Khusro - musician, scholar, poet and an iconic figure in the cultural history of the Indo-Pak subcontinent.

Diary was the story of a woman who must lose all touch with reality and the outside world before she could forgive herself and hope to be forgiven by others for unintentionally choosing love over life. It resounds deeply with anyone facing the dilemma of having to pick between the material and the meaningful – what one ought to do and what one wanted.

10 February, 2011

Immunization Bill proposed

Published in Pakistan Observer (10 Feb. 2011)
Sana Jamal

ISLAMABAD: Keeping in view the poor state of immunization in Pakistan, a draft bill has been proposed by civil society to provide a legal cover to immunization as well as to make it mandatory in Pakistan.
To generate a debate and interaction on the issue, PILDAT arranged a legislative forum on “Critical need to improve Immunization in Pakistan and the Draft Compulsory Immunization Bill” on Wednesday at local hotel in Islamabad in which Parliamentarians and MPAs participated.

The parliamentarians believed that the Draft Compulsory Immunization Bill is a good initiative to make immunization compulsory in Pakistan and suggested that respective Governments should table the bill in the Parliament and Provincial Assemblies for review and adoption by the legislators.

The speakers at the PILDAT Legislative Forum included Chaudhry Anwar ul Haq, Speaker, Legislative Assembly of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK); Rana Mashhood Ahmed Khan, MPA, Deputy Speaker Provincial Assembly of the Punjab; Zameen Khan, MPA, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Provincial Assembly; Dr. Sania Nishtar, Founder President of Pakistan Health Policy Forum, Wazir Ahmed Jogezai, former Deputy Speaker National Assembly and Ms. Fozia Ejaz Khan, MNA and Vice President Parliamentary Caucus on Immunization in the National Assembly.

Rana Mashhood Ahmed Khan said that there is need of “enhanced coordination between Parliament and Provincial Assemblies for effective legislation” of compulsory immunization bill. He suggested that “immunization process should be made confirm before issuing birth certificates.”

Preservation of Cultural Heritage stressed at National Conference

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ISLAMABAD: Research scholars and experts at a conference stressed that cultural centers should be established countrywide to help document and project the country’s rich cultural heritage which faces extinction if appropriate measures are not taken. The two-day (Feb. 8-9) conference on ‘Safeguarding the intangible cultural heritage’ at Lok Virsa Library concluded on Wednesday with an aim to revive traditional art and culture “Pakistan should educate its young generation about arts & crafts to inculcate love and respect for the heritage” underlined the experts.

Federal minister for culture, science and technology Pir Aftab Shah Jilani was the chief guest on the second day of the conference while Moin ul Islam Bokhari, federal secretary culture was also present at the occasion.

In his address, the culture minister applauded Lok Virsa’s effort to “focus on neglected aspect of our magnificent cultural heritage that is threatened to vanish due to globalization, urbanization and revolutionized mass communication” endangering the pluralistic features of society ultimately. The minister said that in order to inculcate love for our culture “it is imperative for cultural sector to highlight significance of the intangible culture in the lives of the common masses”.

09 February, 2011

Conference on Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage

Sana Jamal

ISLAMABAD: In this era of globalization, with all its advantages, the poor craftsmen are the most vulnerable to having their traditions and skills ignored, leading to devaluation of Pakistan’s distinct culture and heritage.

This point was noted at a two-day national conference on “Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Pakistan” which opened at Lok Virsa’s heritage library on Tuesday.
Taking an initiative to promote the conservation and preservation of Pakistan’s cultural heritage, Lok virsa organized the conference which was attended by around 20 eminent cultural experts and intellectuals from all over Pakistan.

The conference was aimed at safeguarding the intangible culture of Pakistan’s folk and traditional heritage that are most endangered because of globalization, urbanization and technological advancement.

08 February, 2011

‘Spread Peace through Love’

Sana Jamal

ISLAMABAD: Jharoka Art Gallery is currently showcasing some of the exquisite art works by M. H. Sulehri whose theme of the work is largely centered on nature. The vibrant colours and striking images in the painting exhibition titled ‘Spread Peace through Love’ are indeed a treat for the art lovers of the twin cities. The solo show displaying 21 paintings and portraying peace and love through rich colour palette will continue at Jharoka till February 10.

The artist has brilliantly depicted serenity and love through prominent colours, flowers and human figures. The paintings give the impression of flowers or perhaps a beautiful garden if viewed from a distance, however on closely observing the flowers one can clearly make our a human face hidden in the flowers which signifies that human race and the Mother Nature have a bonding.

As an artist, Sulehri was always inspired by nature and believes that whenever we are faced with any problem, Mother Nature is always there to give us strength find peace and serenity in hustle bustle of everyday life.
“Peace and Love are two things that are badly needed in our world today,” explained Sulehri who has explored the themes of serenity and love in his recent collection. “Artists are extra sensitive about what is happening around them” and through their art, they try to explore ways of countering pessimism and send out positive images of life by painting on themes such as peace and love, Sulehri maintained.

“This is Sulehri’s second solo exhibition at Jharoka Art Gallery, in which he has wonderfully captured the beauty of nature offering peace and harmony through love” said Nahida Raza, curator of Jharoka gallery.

06 February, 2011

‘Nomadic Voyage of Colours’ opens in Islamabad

Sana Jamal

ISLAMABAD: A colorful exhibition of unique clay and wood artifacts has been arranged by the Nomad Art Gallery to gratify the art lovers of the twin cities. The show titled ‘Nomadic Voyage of Colours’ by Bina Ali, will showcase a wide range of artistic hand-made products including hand-painted tile-inlay furniture, artifacts, hand painted wooden vessels, jewelry, wall-hangings, mirrors etc. The exhibition is scheduled to open for public today (Feb. 5).
‘Nomadic Voyage of Colours’ will prove to be no less than a short trip to a local village allowing the visitors to experience the feel of a local town through hand-made clay and wood artifacts which are the innovative creation of Artel (meaning a group of craftsmen) by Bina Ali. The interesting fact is that the delicate and multi-coloured art pieces with an ethnic touch are not only aesthetically appealing but can also serve as household items. “Through this exhibition, Artel aims to increase the utility purpose of the artifacts along with the artistic appeal” informed Bina while talking to Pakistan Observer.
The designing on the mirrors, jewelry and vessels all seem like an assortment of old as well as modern artwork because Bina has combined the skills of old craftsmen with the innovative ideas of the young artists to get the desired result i.e. a mixture of old and new artwork.

“I have a team of boys and girls as the backbone of ARTEL while I have also managed to encourage generations old artisans (potters and carpenters)” explained Bina.
Artel has introduced a new imension in hand-painted pottery by using colours of ethnic origin while the motifs were derived from various civilizations including Islamic art. 

Artel was established in 1995 when a group of friends gathered over vacations to work and exhibit a different type of work but “as other friends ventured off in their careers, in 2000, I took it up as a full time work and Artel became Artel by Bina Ali” told Bina who has been associated with clay artwork for more than 8 years.

04 February, 2011

‘Self Absorption’ – a journey towards self-realization

Sana Jamal

ISLAMABAD: Rich colours and meaningful expressions in the new artworks of Abdul Jabbar Gul takes one into a spiritual journey of serenity leading towards the path to self-realization. The painting exhibition titled ‘Self Absorption’ was opened on Thursday evening at Khaas gallery, Islamabad.

According to the artist, Abdul Jabbar Gul “We all live in two worlds, the physical world that we see with our open eyes and the other one is inner world which we see when our eyes are closed.” In physical world, we speak in order to communicate while in inner world we remain quite to interact and the human faces in the paintings of Gul seem quiet and still as if they are in deep meditation, trying to achieve the ultimate goal of spirituality being completely absorbed in their own selves.

Religious symbolism is evident in few of the art pieces that include symbols of different religion such as Cross, Star of David, Swastika, Star and crescent combined together portraying religious harmony and coexistence. “I have a special interest in religious study and exploring different religions I examined spirituality, Sufism and the diversity of different sects” informed the artist while talking to Pakistan Observer.

02 February, 2011

Increased Tobacco Tax will Save Lives, enhance Revenue

Published in Pakistan Observer (2 Feb. 2011)
Sana Jamal

ISLAMABAD: Tax increase on tobacco products is one of the most effective tobacco control measure that can save thousands of lives as well as increase the national revenue. This consensus emerged at a two-day workshop arranged by International Union against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease in collaboration with Society for Alternative Media and Research (SAMAR) held at a local hotel in Islamabad.

Counseling services, high rate of taxation on sale of tobacco and complete ban on tobacco were few of the measures suggested on Tuesday, the concluding day of the two-day (31st Jan.-1st Feb.) workshop including health journalists and anti-tobacco campaigners.

Cigarettes are fairly inexpensive in Pakistan and the most popular brands cost PKR 18.40 per pack of 20 (USD 0.25 per pack) and this is the major reason that annual consumption of cigarettes has increased (from 292 cigarettes per capita in 1994 to 406 cigarettes per capita in 2007). This concern was raised by Dr. Ehsan Latif, Director Tobacco Control, International Union against Tuberculosis and Lung Diseases, Edinburgh, Scotland who termed low-pricing of tobacco the main cause of high consumption in Pakistan.
In his presentation “Tobacco Taxation – A need for effective tobacco control”, Dr. Ehsan suggested that “increasing tax rates is the single most effective method of reducing demand for tobacco.”

Apart from cigarettes and cigars, tobacco in forms of beeri (hand rolled cigarettes), huqqa or sheesha (water-pipe) and naswar, qiwam (chewing tobacco) is common in Pakistan.

Anti-smoking law (Ordinance 2002) prohibits use of smoking and tobacco in any other form at public places and is punishable with a fine up to Rs. 1000 or subsequent offence may extend to even Rs100,000.

However the participants noted that non implementation of anti smoking law is encouraging extensive use of tobacco leading to the deaths of 274 people a day and causing at least 25% of deaths in Pakistan.

Khurram Hashmi, Coordinator of Coalition for Tobacco Control in Pakistan (CTC-Pak) sharing the findings of the research report conducted in 36 major cities of the country informed that in “72.1% of the vehicles, people including the driver and conductor were found using cigarettes. Sales to minors were taking place at 77% outlets and 66% of the educational institutions had cigarette sales outlet in close vicinity to their building.”

01 February, 2011

Smoking hazards highlighted at a seminar

Published in Pakistan Observer (1st Feb. 2011)
Sana Jamal

ISLAMABAD: Smoking which is usually accepted by family members is now increasingly criticized by the society and people around smokers which is a positive indication that we are moving towards a smoke-free society. This phenomenon was noted at a media training workshop on ‘Tobacco Taxation’ on Monday in Islamabad aimed at educating people about the hazards of smoking. The workshop organized by Coalition for Tobacco Control – Pakistan (CTC-Pak) was held at a local hotel in Islamabad.

Participants at the inaugural session included Director General Tobacco Control of The Union Dr Ehsan Latif, Director General Tobacco Control Cell, Ministry of Health Yusuf Khan and health journalists from across the country.

The participants noted that tobacco use claimed around 100,000 deaths annually in Pakistan last year and over half of the adult population is addicted in one form or the other including shisha, gutka and niswar.
The workshop highlighted that there are about 22-25 million are smokers in Pakistan.

Smoking is highly addictive, and besides causing significant health risks, it reduces oxygen intake and damages arteries, increases blood pressure, contributes to cholesterol levels and can lead to certain cancers.

Tax increase on tobacco products is one of the most effective tobacco control measure. “According to the World Bank, price increases are the most effective and cost effective tobacco control measure, especially for young people and others on low incomes, who are highly price responsive” said Shahzad Alam of WHO suggesting measures to reduce tobacco consumption.

Dr. Ehsan Latif, Director Tobacco Control, International Union against Tuberculosis and Lung Diseases, Edinburgh, Scotland mentioned that “a price rise of 10% decreases consumption by about 8% in developing countries.”

Yusuf Khan, Director General Tobacco Control Cell, Ministry of Health, Pakistan said that “given the increase in the number of deaths arising from tobacco consumption, Pakistan’s Ministry of Health has mandated to have pictorial warnings covering 40% of the major display area on cigarette packets to discourage consumers, especially the youth.”