30 April, 2011

‘A. Hameed’s death - an immense loss to Urdu fiction’

Sana Jamal
A. Hameed

Islamabad - A. Hameed, a prolific Urdu fiction writer, who rendered great services to national language has passed away, closing a golden era of Urdu literature. A. Hameed died at the age of 83 in Lahore on Friday. He was a patient of cardiac disease and diabetes.

Condolence messages

Prime Minister Gilani expressing his deep sorrow, said that the “death of A. Hameed is not only a great loss to his family but also for the entire literary circles of the country.”
National Language Authority (NLA) chairman Iftikhar Arif noted that “with the demise of A. Hameed, a golden romantic period of Urdu literature has come to an end.”

In his condolence message, Fakhar Zaman, Chairman of Pakistan Academy of Letters (PAL), lauding Hameed’s services to the literature, recalled that Urdu Nasar Ki Dastan and ‘Urdu Sher Ki Dastan’ are considered trendsetting publications in Urdu literature.” His other famous books are Mirza Ghalib, Dastango Ashfaq Ahmad and Mirza Ghalib Lahore Main.

A brief look at A. Hameed's memorable life

Abdul Hameed, whose nom de plume has always been A. Hameed, was one of the most popular Urdu fiction writers from Lahore. He Hameed was born in 1928 in Amritsar.
His first collection of short stories Manzil Manzil got a great acclaim from the readers and made him a well recognized romantic short story writer. He has written over 200 novels and 100 books for children, among which the most popular play for children, ‘Ainak Wala Jinn’, is still remembered for its vivid imagination, colourful characters and thrilling story.

Apart from writing short stories and novels, he wrote columns for national newspapers and also wrote Radio and TV programmes. A. Hameed’s son, Masood Hameed said his father left Voice of America because he never felt comfortable there and quoted his father as having said: “I can’t live anywhere in the world except Lahore. I am in love with the city”.

A. Hameed's Lahore

A. Hameed is known for his excellent essays on Lahore, seen from a unique and original perspective of a common city dweller. In his column, A Hamid’s Lahore Khalid Hasan recalled that “His (A. Hameed's) two collections of reminiscences of Lahore in the early years of independence are to be treasured because there is little of that kind of writing in our literature. The two books, Lahore ki yaadain and Chand chehrey, are like periscopes through which we can relive earlier times and catch a glimpse of the men who made the city what it was. That Lahore is no longer around!”

29 April, 2011

Report on Plight of Pakistani Children launched

Sana Jamal

ISLAMABAD: Year 2010 has been a tumultuous year for children in Pakistan, claimed a report ‘The State of Pakistan’s Children 2010’. The comprehensive report highlighting issues of children was launched by Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC) here on Thursday.

The annual report portrays a gloomy picture of the state of children claiming that “out of the six million children affected due to floods, nearly 3.5 million remain at risk.” It also stated that 92 children died while 118 children were seriously injured due to militancy in 2010. Around 210 children were affected mainly due to bomb blasts. The report also claimed that 187 children committed suicide and 80 attempted suicide last year. “Challenges of conflicts, terrorism, and violence, abysmal state of health and education sector, and lack of legislative initiatives” added to the misery of the Pakistani children.

The speakers at the report launch included Bushra Gohar, MNA; Terje Barstad, Deputy Head of Mission from the Royal Norwegian Embassy; Samar Minallah, Dir. of Ethnomedia; Arshad Mahmood, Ex. Dir. of SPARC, and Qatrina Hosain, a senior journalist.

Ms. Bushra Gohar said that the report highlights the need for reforms in FATA which is a critical issue. She also invited suggestions from civil society for the formulation of legislation on child right and protection.
“Lack of political will, poor budgetary allocation, rampant corruption and health not being government’s priority” were proclaimed as reasons of Pakistan’s failure to achieve EFA and MDG goals in the education and health sector.

Mr. Terje Barstad expressed that Pakistan has a long way to go in the implementation of the Recommendations made by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.
“The government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) took a positive step towards addressing violence against children by propagating the KPK Child Protection and Welfare Act 2010 in September” informed Ms. Amina Sarwar, research officer of SPARC.

Samar Minallah spoke on culturally sanctioned violence against children and highlighted the different forms of forced child marriages such as Vanni, Swara, Sung Chatti and Irjaai though a documentary which explained how girls have paid the price.

“While the trend of child labour is decreasing globally but unfortunately in Pakistan there has been an increase in child labour” said the report.
The report however stressed on case studies rather than providing substantive and authentic data and figures on subjects of violence against children and child labour. The yearly report quoted an NGO, ‘Sahil’ as claiming that 1216 cases of sexual abuses reported across the country in 2010. In 2010, about 1225 juvenile prisoners comprising 1074 under trial and 151 convicted were reported detained in different cities.

Arshad Mahmood regretted that no concrete steps were being taken at official level to address the critical state of child rights in Pakistan. He urged for a national commission and proper budgetary allocation for the protection of children.

Qatrina Hosain, a senior journalist condemned all forms of child labour stating that children are exploited with all kinds of sanctimonious reasons. She urged the public to “Break the silence” against child domestic labour.

27 April, 2011

Tragic death of Child Servant sparks off New Concern

Govt urged to notify Child Domestic Labour in the banned occupations list
Edited news published in Pakistan Observer (27 Apr. 2011)
Sana Jamal

ISLAMABAD: The tragic death of a child servant has sparked off a new concern in the civil society section and also exposed an obscured, cruel facet of the society. Six-year old Laiba died after being beaten by her employers who were later arrested by the police in Harbanspura, Lahore on Monday.

25 April, 2011

The art of Pottery Making

Students learning the art of Pottery Making
at a workshop held  at PNCA, Islamabad.

19 April, 2011

IIUI Cultural Festival: Food, Fun and Learning

IIUI Festival endorses harmony among diverse Cultures
Published in Pakistan Observer (19 Apr. 2011)

Sana Jamal

Spainish stall.
ISLAMABAD: A huge number of visitors on Monday were fortunate enough to get glimpses of the major cultures of the world including Islamic, Asian, Eastern, Western, Latin and African culture – all under one roof at the 23rd Cultural Festival of International Islamic University Islamabad (IIUI) held at Faisal Masjid Campus. The festival will continue till April 20.

18 April, 2011

"No discrimination, No harassment" : Rehman Malik assures women journalists

Sana Jamal

ISLAMABAD: Speaking at the second day of the conference on ‘Gender Discrimination in Media and Capacity Building for Female Journalists’, Minister for Interior, Rehman Malik stated that “let there be no discrimination” on basis of gender as “women render great contributions in every walk of life” and discrimination only promotes injustice.

While addressing the participants at National Press Club (NPC), Islamabad, the minister said on Sunday that government has decided to establish committees at provincial level soon in order to deal with harassment issues and implement the ‘Anti-Sexual Harassment Act’ efficiently. The committee would comprise of members of Women Division, Home Secretaries and Inspector General Police and NPC representation including a team of women journalists headed by senior journalist Rubab Ayesha, he told.
Rehman Malik urged the media houses to endow the working journalists with health “insurance and training” for dangerous encounters.

17 April, 2011

Women without Voices

National Convention of Female Journalists

Published in Pakistan Observer (17 Apr. 2011)

Sana Jamal

ISLAMABAD: The first day of the national convention of female journalists gave an impression that women in Pakistani media are committed, professional and determined to change the societal barriers. Around 100 women journalists from Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar, Quetta, Multan and Islamabad/Rawalpindi participated in the conference which started here at National Press Club on Saturday.

At present, women journalists (of print and electronic media) in the country are struggling for their equality as professionals and the convention emerged as a ray of hope for female journalists to voice their concerns on major hazards faced by them
such as sexual harassment, gender discrimination, lack of training opportunities, lack of representation in journalist unions and bodies.

15 April, 2011

Role of Media in Conflict Situations discussed

Sana Jamal

ISLAMABAD: Speakers at a conference highlighted that the significant elements required while reporting in conflict situation included responsibility, impartiality and accuracy - in short the basic ethics of journalism. Media persons at the meeting stressed that media need to play its due role by bridging people and creating understanding among diverse communities, while it was also highlighted that media should be self accountable. These views were shared at a seminar entitled “Role of Media in Conflict Situations” organized by Individual-land Pakistan (NGO) held here at a local hotel on Thursday.

The participants highlighted the need for an institution for training of journalists and to develop a code of conduct for journalists working in conflict zones, along with standardizing the safety procedures that can help to survive in the conflict situation.

The participants included veteran journalists, Syed Irfan, Shamim Shahid, Absar Ikram Hoti, Ali Saleem (Search for Common Ground) and Adnan Rahmat (Intermedia), Mazhar Arif as well as Gulmina Bilal Ahmad Ex. Dir. Individual-land Pakistan (IP).

“Education, training and knowledge of ethics” were defined as three most vital features of rational reporting
by Syed Irfan.

It was also pointed out at the meeting that Pakistan has been classified as one of the most dangerous countries of the world and the volatile situation in the country has affected the freedom of journalists and the media, as the threat of terrorism has now also engulfed them in the conflict. According to the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) in 2010, fifteen journalists have died in Pakistan, due to violence related incidents. Adnan Rahmat pointed out that “67 journalists have been killed in Pakistan since 9/11 and not a single culprit was apprehended” which depicts the direct impact of terrorism on media persons. He held that following the ethics of journalism is the only solution to tackle various issues within media house.

14 April, 2011

‘Don’t send us back to stone age’: Students protest

Students stage a massive protest in Islamabad
Published in Pakistan Observer (13 April 2011)
Sana Jamal

ISLAMABAD: Hundreds of students and scholars took to the streets on Tuesday to protest against the devolution of Higher Education Commission (HEC) and vowed to continue protests till the government shelved the plan of devolving the HEC.

The protesters gathered at Press Club Islamabad and marched to the parliament building near D-chowk waving hundreds of national flags, holding banners and placards while chanting the slogans ‘Save HEC, Save Education, Save the Pakistan’ and ‘Don’t send us back to stone age’.

As the activists reached D-chowk, the policemen prepared themselves to counter any possible undesirable incidence. However, the student protestors prepared a chain of hands in order to give an impression of an organized demonstration.

08 April, 2011

'Combat Drug Resistance through simple hygienic practices' :Health experts

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

ISLAMABAD: Health experts agreed with the idea that instead of giving antibiotics, people must be given full awareness to prevent and control the disease through traditional hygienic practices as simple as washing hands regularly.

Raising concerns over drug resistance, Dr. Khalid, WHO representative informed that "52 per cent Pakistanis take antibiotics with/without a doctor's prescription." And this is a major concern because antibiotics create “Drug Resistance (DR) - which is becoming more severe and many infections are no longer cured, leading to prolonged and expensive treatment and greater risk of death”, warned .

Pill-popping without proper medical advice has become the norm nowadays. Another serious problem is of self-medication emanating from random reading on the Internet or health magazines” Dr. Khalil Ahmad Mukaddam told Pakistan Observer.

To mark World Health Day 2011, Pakistan’s first Health and Hygiene Conference was held in Islamabad on Thursday focusing on this year's WHO theme - "Combat Drug Resistance” through hygienic practices. The conference organized by Reckitt Benckiser (RB), was attended by leading doctors of the country and medical students. The speakers included Prof. John Oxford, Chairman Global Hygiene Council; Dr. Arshad Karim Chandio, Deputy DG Health; Dr. Samia Babar, Director, Health Awareness Society; Dr. Khalid Bukhari, WHO Country representative for essential medicine and Tahir Malik, Managing Director of RB.

Dr. Babar, while sharing the findings of a study about the level of hygiene awareness conducted in Karachi, Lahore and Rawalpindi/Islamabad said that only “7% of Pakistanis take bath every day.” While 63% wash hands regularly while 64% wash hands after going to the toilet and 61% wash hands before and after meals. The study's sample size of 504 an was restricted to urban areas, but still the “results are not satisfying and there is a need to raise the level of awareness regarding hygiene” she remarked.

According to Prof. Oxford, a global study show that “worst sites failing the bacterial tests were bathroom seals, fridge interior and kitchen towel” - which we generally overlook. He termed “vaccines, antibacterial products and hygiene” as most important practices to combat diseases instead of taking antibiotics. “The studies show a clear need for better hygiene in home and at hospitals” he stressed.

Dr. Bukhari suggested a six-point policy package: political commitment; surveillance; drug regulation; rational use of medicines; infection prevention and control; innovation and research, to prevent drug resistance. Regulation of medicines, accountability of pharmaceutical companies and pharmacies as well as a policy at hospitals for antibiotic consumption is mandatory for Pakistan, he stressed.

07 April, 2011

Wealth secures Health in today's world

Sana Jamal

ISLAMABAD: The old saying ‘Health is Wealth’ is no more applicable in a world we inhabit today where wealth ensures good health and not the vice versa. It means the more money you have, the better health you enjoy, as an individual and as a state. However, lack of better health facilities, least health awareness, and low expenditure on health has widened health disparities (access to health care) between the rich and poor of the country.

Today, one may ensure that Pakistanis enjoys a vast network of health care facilities, but accessibility, cost and quality of health care remain critical issues, mainly because spending on health by government remains abysmally low i.e. 0.54 percentage of GDP, which is amongst the lowest of all other countries of South Asian region.

World Bank’s recent publication ‘Tackling Non-communicable Diseases in South Asia (2011)’ has termed ‘Non-communicable Diseases’ (NCDs) as Pakistan’s next major health challenge.
NCDs include Cardiovascular Diseases (CVD), Mental Health (neuropsychiatric conditions), injuries, Chronic Respiratory Diseases, Cancers, and Diabetes.

While the report also revealed that “a National Essential Drugs List (containing 452 drugs) exists, but the stock and availability of the drugs are problematic as only a quarter of primary health centers are stocked with basic medicines such as aspirin, thus making the drugs costly, and accessible to only those who can afford it from private health centers.

Dr. Javaid A. Khan, a senior chest physician lamented that in Pakistan, a single cigarette pack was cheaper than a loaf of bread and consequently smoking was getting popular among youth due to its easy availability and affordability. On the other hand, the treatment to curb smoking such as nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) and medicines such as “Tarceva, (used for the treatment of lung cancer) costs patients more that US$ 4000 per month, and is unaffordable for majority of Pakistani.”

What Pakistan needs on this World Health Day 2011 is a National Health Survey
to gauge the gravity of health situation in the country. Since only a thorough research can facilitate the authorities in formulating effective policies that can provide equal health facilities to the all the segments of the society without distinguishing between the socio-economic status of a citizen.

06 April, 2011

Teachers, Students protest against devolution of HEC

HEC - Victim of democratic dissolution?

ISLAMABAD - Ever since the Implementation Commission of the 18th Amendment to the constitution announced that several federal ministries including the education ministry were to be devolved to the provinces, certain ambiguities started surfacing in the minds of the educationists and officials.

Students chant slogans during protest
 demonstration at HEC building.
 Photo: PPI
One of the victims of this democratic move is an organization which not only created several hundred Ph.Ds for Pakistan but also earned international repute and esteem for the country. The decision of the government to dissolve the Higher Education Commission (HEC) thus generated perplexity and uncertainty not only among intellectuals but also in the civil and social society of the country.

Art exhibition features work of country's fine Artists

ISLAMABAD: An impressive contemporary art exhibition titled ‘United – in the age of dialogue’ featuring artwork of around 100 artists from all over Pakistan was opened here at National Art Gallery in Islamabad on Tuesday. The exhibition organized by Rastay (NGO), a forum to promote art and culture of Pakistan, was a well-attended event and the chief guest of the occasion was Federal Information Minister Dr. Firdous Ashiq Awan.

Artists discussing the nature of art.
The four-day exhibition features grand collection of authentic artworks in the medium of paintings, prints, drawing, sculpture and photography.

The Minister appreciated the work of all the artists and said that the exhibition was “a much needed effort by Rastay to promote art and artists of Pakistan.” As Pakistan has been a victim of terrorism, “art is the best tool to counter extremist mindset.”

The art show was an excellent combination of the work of both, senior and junior artists as one can find the work of some renowned artists such as Mansoor Rahi, Ghulam Rasul, Saeed Akhtar, Nahid Raza, Shahla Rafi, M. Sulehri. While the work of some promising artists Farrah Adnan, Bushra Saadat, Tashfeen Majeed, Abdullah Qamar, Malik Tariq bear out that the future of Pakistani artists is brilliant in the days to come.

“This exhibition is a ray of hope for the artists who have completely submerged to hidden part of the country like interior Sindh, hazara and Balochistan” remarked Mansoor Rahi who had the privilege to teach at least three-fourth of the artists whose work was on display.

It is important to mention that originally, display of artwork by 150 Pakistani artist was planned however work of only 83 artists could make their way to the grand exhibition. When asked, the organizers responded that it was “due to lack of space at the gallery and keeping in mind the aesthetic arrangement of the exhibition, all the artworks could not be arranged.”

05 April, 2011

Rasheed Butt’s Captivating Calligraphic work go on display

Sana Jamal

Rasheed Butt, the world renowned calligrapher who is the only in the world who writes in Gold with Qalam (pen) was present in Islamabad on Monday to grace the inauguration of his calligraphic exhibition at Khaas gallery in the capital. This is for the first time that internationally well-recognized veteran artist, Rasheed Butt offered his prestigious artwork at a private gallery which according to the owner of Khaas gallery, Zishan Afzal, was “an exemplary and unique occasion for art lovers of Islamabad.”

02 April, 2011

Empowering Women for Agricultural Development

‘An Acre for Every Woman’ demanded
Published in Pakistan Observer (2 Apr. 2011)
Sana Jamal

ISLAMABAD: In an informative world, which is often reminding us of the future threats for instance, food shortage, global warming, and water crisis; it surely is hard to believe that “we live in a world that is capable of feeding every person that lives on the planet” and women can play a dynamic role in overcoming the food mismanagement often termed as food shortage in the country. This point of concern was highlighted at a talk on ‘Food Security and Coping Mechanism’ arranged by National Commission on the Status of Women here on Friday.

In the backdrop of food insecurity and price hike in Pakistan, Head of the Green Economics, Shirkat Gah (NGO), Najma Sadeque initiated the idea of ‘An Acre for Every Woman’ which will “bring life-altering opportunities to balance the gender power dynamics and enhance personal dignity for women in Pakistan” she believed. As researches indicate that “as compared to men, women are more likely to spend their income on the well-being of their families, including nutritious foods, school fees and health care.”

In her presentation, she introduced an alternative idea for producing vegetables on ‘at least 16 (4X4) square feet’ land which can help meet food needs of a person per year. She said that the area will be enough for growing leafy vegetables including spinach and will not only save money but also provide fresh and healthy vegetables at home.

Filmmaker Deneb Sumbul’s documentary, ‘A woman’s harvest’ highlighted the hardships of a rural woman as she gets very little amount as a pay of her hard work on farm. While the short film ‘Mini farming’ was a guide to sow home grown vegetables - a feasible solution to hike in food prices.

A common Pakistani is facing serious food price hike which is also reality, but if there is a food problem, it does not need a technical answer; it needs simple steps such as a campaign to get people to grow their vegetables in their home gardens which would reduce food inflation in the country. This was the simple yet effective step proposed by Ms. Najma.