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Sunday, August 11, 2019

Pakistan to host World Tourism Forum


By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Pakistan will be playing host to the World Tourism Forum (WTF) in 2020. The decision in this regard was taken during a meeting between Prime Minister Imran Khan and a delegation of the WTF in Islamabad on August 9. 

The WTF delegation was led by the President of its executive board, Bulut Bagci while the chairman of the Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC), Syed Zulfikar Abbas Bukhari, was also present in the meeting. 

Over 1,000 foreigners are expected to attend the five-day proceedings of the forum in Islamabad next year. The date of the event will be announced later.

The WTF is an Istanbul-based organization, dedicated to developing tourism around the world with its annual meetings. It was founded under Bulut Bağcı’s leadership in 2014. 

The WTF principally intends to develop tourism around the world. Accordingly, it was launched in 2015 following the extensive connections in 2014. 

The event is organized four times a year in global centers around the world under the auspices of the Presidency of the Republic of Turkey. It brings together global tourism leaders and tourism industry representatives. Regional meetings are held three times a year in different cities around the world, and one annual Global Meeting is held annually in February, in Istanbul.

New tourist resorts planned in Balochistan

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Prime Minister Imran Khan has declared that the government was making all out efforts for promotion of tourism in the country and new tourist resorts would be developed in coastal areas of Balochistan. 

Maintaining that there existed great potential in different areas of tourism in the country needs to be exploited, the Prime Minister made the announcement during his meeting with a delegation of the World Tourism Forum (WTF) which called on him in Islamabad on August 9. 

He informed the delegation that eight new tourism resorts would be developed in eight coastal areas in Balochistan, emphasizing that natural beauty, social values and environmental protection would be ensured for promotion of tourism.

Earlier this year, the government had announced a new visa policy for 175 countries to promote tourism and investments in the country. The visitors from these countries will be able to apply for an online visa. As per the new visa policy, e-visa facility will initially be provided to five countries namely Turkey, China, Malaysia, United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Think-thank launched at AKU


By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The health professionals at Aga Khan University have launched a new think tank, AKUPI-NCD, in partnership with experts from a variety of sectors, in order to recommend novel, integrated approaches to address the threat of non-communicable diseases (NCDs): the leading cause of death in the country.

Approximately 80 million Pakistanis are living with one or more NCDs, a set of chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, cancer, diabetes, conditions caused by tobacco abuse, and mental disorders, that are predominantly caused by poor lifestyle choices and environmental risk factors such as pollution and urbanization. 

Despite being the country’s top cause of death and the leading cause of poor quality of life, the country continues to pursue a fragmented approach with little coordination among stakeholders, experts said. Pakistan is far from meeting the targets set by the WHO for the National Systems Response for NCDs. 

“NCDs aren’t a problem for the healthcare sector alone. These diseases have complex causes and long-lasting consequences and their costs to society extend far beyond lost productivity and stunted economic growth. That’s because of the cost of treating advanced cases of NCDs drive many families into poverty and makes them dependent on the government or other actors in society,” AKU’s Professor Zainab Samad, chair of the initiative, remarked.

The demographics of today’s Pakistan mean that NCDs are a particularly pressing problem. Speakers noted that the majority of Pakistan’s population is under the age of 30 and warned that the coming decades could see a rising burden of these illnesses in an aging population. 

“NCDs are silent killers which continue to go unnoticed. The Airblue crash of 2010 claimed 125 lives and the public attention to the tragedy resulted in immediate regulatory action. NCDs cause 14 times as many deaths every day yet there is an absence of coordinated action from government and civil society on the issue,” Professor Wasay remarked. 

The think tank’s inaugural meeting brought together officials from the insurance, market research, non-profit, banking and public sector to discuss the creation of an integrated plan. The presence of this plan would demonstrate the think tank’s long-term vision and enable stakeholders to coordinate their efforts, speakers noted. 

AKU’s Professor Wasay, AKUPI-NCD co-chair, called on stakeholders to consider partnering on initiatives in three areas: education and training, policy advocacy and awareness, and research. 

“NCDs are preventable. Efforts to forestall their onset must begin at home at an early age. As a starting point, he noted that advocacy measures should revolve around lifestyle modification campaigns in which media organizations and schools can help disseminate information about the risks posed by tobacco use, a sedentary lifestyle and poor eating habits," he said.

The experts noted that education and training initiatives can make an immediate impact in the area hypertension as the condition often goes undiagnosed until it leads to life-threatening complications such as stroke. 

Commenting on research initiatives, Professor Wasay added that market research firms, insurance companies and public sector institutions all have information that can be analyzed to determine the most effective course of action for each type of NCD. 

Besides pooling together data, experts noted that the establishment of a central data point would advance the study of the public health impact of NCDs. 

There were a number of other experts at the event from the finance, insurance, public health and data science industries as well as representatives from the National Institute of Health and Ministry of National Health Services and Regulation.

Monday, August 5, 2019

AKU ranks among top global universities


By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

In global rankings, the Aga Khan University (AKU) has been ranked among the top 100 universities for clinical medicine and among the top 200 for public health internationally in the latest Shanghai Ranking’s Global Ranking of Academic Subjects 2019 released by the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU).

The AKU is the only university in Pakistan ranked in clinical medicine and public health in the top 500 universities. 

In clinical medicine, the AKU is in the group of universities ranked between 76th and 100th, a marked improvement from its 2018 position in the 151–200 group. 

The university is ranked 151–200 in the public health group. 

“This international ranking is recognition of the AKU as a role model for health and education in the developing world. Even places where resources are scarce, we aim to meet the global quality standards and demonstrate that excellence is a powerful force for transformation,” Firoz Rasul, President, AKU, stated. 

The Shanghai Ranking Consultancy is a fully independent organization dedicated to research on higher education intelligence and consultation. It has been ARWU’s official publisher since 2009. 

This year, Shanghai Ranking published its third round of subject rankings covering 54 subject areas. The ranking draws from Web of Science bibliometric data, InCites, and considers performance in five categories: publications, citations, top journal presence, international collaboration in publications and awards. 

An increase in papers published and indexed in major citation indices has improved AKU's ranking over the last three years. 

“Our clinical investigations are closely linked to teaching to innovate for better healthcare and to research for creating new knowledge. We take great pride in this ranking not only for ourselves but for Pakistan, and will work to use it as an opportunity to enhance clinical care and access to life-saving treatments in the country,” Dr Adil Haider, Dean of AKU’s Medical College, observed.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Jan Muhammad’s gold medals stolen, yet not recovered

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Karachi Police have not yet succeeded in finding any clue of the dacoits, who had barged into the North Nazimabad House of former international hockey player, Jan Muhammad, and decamped with cash, jewellary and other valuables after taking the inmates on gunpoint. 

But bigger agony for Jan Muhammed was that the bandits deprived him of his most precious and valuable asset, the medals he had earned in various international events during his 17-year career in the hockey field.

The incident had occurred in the last week of Ramazan, when in the broad daylight, four armed bandits barged into the house of Jan Muhammad, a member of the gold medal winning Pakistan team in the Hockey Junior World Cup of 1979.

It may be recalled that there was no male member in the house at that time as all had gone away on their jobs and the dacoits had made all female members hostage besides the lone lady tenant residing in the ground floor of the house as well as kids, and made good their escape with cash, jewellary and other valuables besides his medals earned during various international competitions. 

The wife and kids of Jan Muhammad's son Rauf Jan, a reputed chartered accountant, who recently returned from Toronto, Canada, to serve the country’s economy, were also taken hostage on gunpoint. 
The soft spoken Jan Muhammad recently retired from the United Bank Limited (UBL) after having served the institution with distinction for 42 years.

He remained posted at the UBL Sports Complex for quite some time. He was also the Vice President of the Karachi Hockey Association (KHA). 

Despite the lapse of a couple of months, there has not been any word or any clue from the North Nazimabad Police. Neither has any senior police officer of Karachi Police contacted Jan Muhammad. 

Engineers of Sindh press for demands


By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

After having done it in Baluchistan, the engineers of Sindh also took to streets when, led by the Chairman of the Pakistan Engineering Council (PEC), Javed Salim Qureshi, stageda protest demonstration outside Karachi Press Club (KPC) for the attainment of their long standing demands. 

Addressing on the occasion, the PEC Chairman affirmed that the council will continue to strive for the attainments of demands for engineers which are being pursued for a long time. 

Javed Qureshi urged the authorities to order for the release of payment of technical allowance to engineers as being practiced in Khyber Pakhtoonkhawa, Punjab and Azad Kashmir. 

He said that the government should forthwith remove non-engineers from the slots of engineering professional seats and they should be replaced with qualified engineers.

The PEC Chairman demanded that all vacant engineers’ seats be forthwith filled engineers in the province of Sindh. 

He was of the opinion that only engineers can take the country to path of prosperity if they were given their due role in policy making with their induction into grades 21 and 22. 

The demonstration was largely attended by the PEC member engineers and addressed besides the PEC Chairman, also by Mohammed Shafiq, Vice-Chairman PEC (Sindh).

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Enthralling musical concert at ACP


By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Arts Council of Pakistan (ACP), Karachi, came alive with enthralling musical concert held at the open air theatre on the evening of July 18.

The event was organized by the ACP’s Special Projects Committee with the collaboration of the Funoon Cultural Forum. 

The live music performance by a battery of vocalists of varying talents was thoroughly enjoyed by the audience which remained glued to seats for about three hours as it was entertained with some of the popular numbers, both old and new. 

Ayub Khan, the chief organizer of the show, was thoroughly praised for having put together an exciting concert, fuelling the passion for music even without the presence of the star performers. 

Having earned the reputation of organizing successful musical concerts without engaging any superstar, he delivered once more with his acumen and presentation skills much to the delight of the big audience which enjoyed the proceedings despite the up and down sea breeze, which blew in patches.

There was a particular treat for the ghazal lovers and the last segment was a smashing success.

Vocalist Ishtiaq Bashir, hailing from the family of Ustad Amanat Ali Khan, mesmerized the audience who were asking for more when the show was finally brought to an end.


Akhlaq Ahmed, Ahmer Abbas, Aisha Khan, Uzma Noor, Laila Ali, Fouzia Noor and Ghazal Khan were the other singers to have showcased their talents in front of an appreciating crowd.

Sardar Nazakat Ali was the chief guest of the night while Abdul Khaliq and Noman Abid were the guests of honour. 

Syed Khalid Mahmood, Khalid Mumtaz Ansari, Abdul Hamid, Dr Barkatullah Memon and Nazir Mateen were among the VIP guests invited for the programme and all of them were delighted to have watched the full concert spanning more than three hours. 

Tazeem Jamal, one of the coordinators for the event, expressed satisfaction at the large turnout and she took pride at having entertained the audience with brilliant performance from the participating artists. 

“Obviously its teamwork and the credit for the successful programme need to be shared between the organizers and the performers. The guitarists, the vocalists, the violinists and the tabla-nawaz made it possible with their joint efforts on the stage,” she recognized. 

Herself an event manager by profession, she didn’t mince words in stating that such musical concerts provided lifeline to the inhabitants of a city as big as Karachi where the majority of the people spend bulk of their time in work-related pursuits with negligible avenues for entertainment. 

Khalid Mumtaz Ansari, a widely travelled scientist, reckoned that the three-hour programme remained lively for the major parts of it and the finishing was an icing on the cake. 

Abdul Hamid, an accountant and trainer, was also thrilled with the performance of the artists and he thanked them for enlivening the proceedings even though the weather was not particularly pleasant.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Shanta Zaibunnisa Bukhari remembered


By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Glowing tributes were paid to late Comrade Shanta Zaibunnisa for her services for the downtrodden society and specially tilling women on the occasion of her death anniversary observed at the Arts Council of Pakistan, Karachi. The speakers on the occasion included comrade leaders, intellectuals, law makers, members of teaching community and people from various walks of life.

They hailed Shanta Zaibunnisa Bukhari as first comrade leader of South Asia who struggled her whole of life in advocating the cause of women particularly the downtrodden. 

They pointed out that Shanta Bukhari launched her struggle for tilling women in her young age when there ‘satti’ tradition used to be followed in India. 

The speakers described her role for working and downtrodden women as most important, particularly in organizing and motivating them to get them a respectful place in the society and putting forward the concept of freedom for such women of the subcontinent. 

She struggled rest of her life in creating awareness and organizing the women working in factories, women working in bangles-making units, working in the field of garbage collection and sweeping, home maids and those working in the field of agriculture and domestic units. 

The speakers admitted the big role played by Shanta Zaibunnisa and her comrade husband, Jamaluddin Bukhari. They said that history will never forget the struggle waged by Shanta for the welfare of women and their rights.

Noted intellectual, Dr Jaffer Ahmed, recalled that Shanta was a women who created awareness among working women for carrying out struggle for their rights and stood fast against extortionist forces. 

He said this very awareness brought her close to Comrade Jamaluddin Bukhari and truned into Zaibunnisa from Shanta. 

He said that our today’s society strongly needed such volunteers. 

Noted social worker, Mehnaz Rehman, reckoned that Shanta enjoyed the status of a mother for communists and such personalities do born in centuries. 

She said it was because of personalities like Shanta who created an awareness among women to come forward to lead the society and where they still face a discriminatory treatment. 

Former Commissioner Karachi, Shafiqur Rehman Paracha, considered himself fortunate for having had the opportunity of meeting Comrade Jamaluddin Bukhari when he was serving as Assistant Commissioner Larkana and always followed Comrade’s advice in administrative matters during his different postings. 

Jamaluddin had told him that government officials should always keep their doors open to help the helpless, he recalled and said that during visiting hours who would always come out of his office and meet the needy visitors.

Comrade Roochi Lal, advocate, disclosed that late Z A Bhutto would seek guidance from Jamaluddin Bukhari to learn the philosophy of socialism. He said history will always remember the services of Comrade Jamaluddin and his wife Shanta Zaibunnisa for the rights of tillers and working women. 

Dr Tausif Ahmed described the struggle waged by Shanta Zaibunnisa for the release of her husband as an important chapter of history. Researcher Aslam Khawaja told the audience that he ddin’t find any instance with regard to the struggle except the one waged by Shanta for development of women of Sindh. 

He asserted that there is need to carry out more research with regard to Shanta’s services and struggle for women of Sindh. Dr Riaz Shaikh noted that at the time when there existed the tradition of ‘satti’ in India, the women lacked the concept of equality in their rights and such an awareness was created by Shanta Jamaluddin. 

Former Ambassador and retired DIG, Jamil Ahmed Kha, regarded late Shanta Zaibunnisa as a woman with great farsightedness and it was her vision that she raised voice for women at a time when they were only restricted within boundary walls of their homes. 

Syed Munawar Bukhari, son of late Shanta Jamaluddin, said that her mother had dedicated her entire life in championing the cause of social welfare and particularly welfare of down trodden women.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Dr Firdous visits KPC, vows to resolve APP pensioners’ issues


By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News and Features Services)

The Federal Minister of Information & Broadcasting, Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan, during her visit to the Karachi Press Club (KPC on July 22, listened to the problems being faced by the media industry and the journalists’ community of the country.

The Federal Minister held meetings with the delegations of the KPC, Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), Karachi Union of Journalists (KUJ) and All Pakistan Newspapers Employees Confederation (APNEC) besides Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) Employees Union. 

The office-bearers of the KPC, PFUJ, KUJ and APNEC presented the cases of media persons particularly in Karachi and elsewhere in Sindh including retired employees of APP Karachi. 

Two of the former Presidents of APP Employees Union Sindh, Ehsan Qureshi and Masood Sattar Khan, informed the Minister about non-payment of dues to retired employees since 2008, pension increase as announced by federal government, non-payment of medical bills and non-availability of medical facilities including hospitalization for retired and old employees whose outstanding services for this premier agency of Pakistan can be reckoned with.

She was communicated that while millions of rupees were paid to current regular employees, the retired employees of APP Karachi and interior of Sindh were being totally ignored notwithstanding the financial conditions they were passing through. 

The small delegation of the APP pensioners appealed to Dr.Firdous Ashiq Awan for justice for the golden old employees of the national news agency. 

The Information Minister showed her utter surprise over non-payment of long standing dues of retired journalists of the APP.

She told the media people that Prime Minister Imran Khan was most concerned about their well-being and desired to resolve all their problems. 

The media persons present on the occasion were shocked to learn that the Federal Information Minister was being kept in the dark regarding the issues concerning the APP by officials of their own Ministry. 

The APP, being the leading news agency of the country, has been the mouthpiece of the government all along and it’s one of the most important organs of the Federal Ministry of the Information and Broadcasting, now headed by Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Railways stalwarts concerned about rising train accidents


By Abdul Qadir Qureshi 
(Pakistan News and Features Services) 

Former Railways bigwigs and stalwarts have taken exception to successive railway accidents claiming many precious human lives and described the same as utter professional mismanagement and overloading of railway system caused by launching of new trains with old rolling stock just for political reasons. 

“The recent spate of accidents on PR’s network reflects the breakdown of an intricate system put in place to ensure safety of train operations. These horrific accidents are reflective of utter mismanaged and a quickly deteriorating and overheated system, adversely affecting the safety of train operations,” the former senior railway professionals observed while offering their comments on railway accidents one after the other. 

The tragic accident occurred at Walhar station, near Sadiqabad, on July 11 in which about 24 precious lives were lost and more than 70 passengers injured, some of them critically. Akbar Bugti Express, on way to Quetta, had rammed into a stationery freight train, a nightmare for any operating system. 

An equally horrific had accident occurred a few days ago near Hyderabad when another passenger train rammed into a freight train. 

“These accident reflected the breakdown of the administrative, technical and operational framework put in place to ensure the safety of train operations,” one of the former Pakistan Railways high-ranking officials remarked, fearing that the nightmare may continue unabated unless adequate safety measures were put in place immediately. 

Another former Railways official, while commenting on safety aspects of train operations, pointed out that it’s a crucially important aspect of any railway system as the maintenance of the already weakened infrastructure had been completely neglected for the past year or two. The condition of the already dilapidated track has further deteriorated with the load of more passenger trains introduced by the current political leadership. 

Moreover, mandatory inspections of stations, track and rolling stock, maintenance facilities, essentially required to ensure safety of train operations, has lost its priority with the PR management. Their focus, unfortunately, has been diverted to arranging frequent inaugural functions for the political leadership. 

Complete track renewals, which were considered routine on the main line, are a thing of the past and short term track rehabilitation projects take ages to complete due financial suffocation and lack of proper supervision. 

Another senior railway official of the past was of the view that routine maintenance of rolling stock has also been criminally ignored as the attention of the mechanical staff, especially at MGPR workshops, washing lines and sick lines has been diverted towards rolling out refurbished passenger coaches for facilitating introduction of new trains being announced on a monthly basis, in compliance with policy directives of the Minister for Railways. 

Most of the newly introduced trains are financial disasters and do not even meet the fuel costs, he claimed Though fully convinced of the adverse financial, operational and safety effects of the newly inducted trains, the railway management has somehow failed to convince the Federal Minister for Railways. 

Yet another very senior ex-railway man opened that regular training of human resource, particularly operating staff like drivers, firemen, station staff, guards, signal staff and track maintenance staff is vital for the safety of train operations. This aspect of capacity building of operating employees has been ignored and is not a priority with the railway management. 

The rail experts unanimously reckoned that train operation is an intricate business where each department has to contribute to the system with commitment. This dedication, coordination and commitment is completely lacking, somehow. 

According to them the employees and supervisory staff have lost faith in the officers at the operational levels; and the junior officers have lost faith in the senior officers; worst of all the senior officers have no love lost for the political leadership of PR. 

The staff is disgruntled at the lack of strategic leadership. In the process, the organization is suffering as mandatory operating rules are ignored, resulting in derailments, train parting, fire in trains and head-on collisions. They noted that preliminary inquiries into the recent accidents at Walhar and Hyderabad point to not only technical failures but also to human failure in the form extremely indifferent attitude of the operating staff like, drivers, assistant drivers, station staff, signal staff, etc. 

The PR’s system is almost fool proof and all failures, whether human, electrical and mechanical or track related have to be in place in order to avoid accident. These accidents indicate some kind of tempering with the system. 
For an accident to happen, a combination of human and technical failure in track, rolling stock or signalling is required. The current overload of the already compromised track and rolling stock, by introducing nonproductive and financially nonviable trains has added to the chaos. 

They asserted that focused attention, through inspections and field visits, on day to day basis, of infrastructure and rolling stock facilities, punctuality of trains, safety of train operations, and crash refresher courses for operating staff will definitely reduce the current trend of accidents.

As accidents are a reflection of a failed system. The farce of introduction of new passenger trains on rickety tracks need to be stopped immediately. Running of more passenger trains, and that too loss making is a disservice to PR and causing over heating of an already compromised and weak system. 

They alleged that PR has been an unfortunate story of neglect in the form of deferred maintenance of its three main assets, namely, infrastructure, rolling stock and its human resource. Way forward is to concentrate on immediate implementation of upgradation of ML-1 project’ under CPEC; a once in a life time opportunity but slowly fading away due to mishandling at the political leadership level?

One word of caution though, PR and the government needs to concentrate on proper maintenance of the existing track till the time the ML-1 project is completed in five to six years. 

They advised that infrastructure engineers need to remain on line rather than in the comfort of their offices, especially during the upcoming monsoon season, so as to cater to minor track defects and to protect the track from flash floods. 

Going back to the elaborate framework of operating and safety code, rules and procedure would definitely reduce the frequency of accidents. The frequency of meetings on issues not related to train operations , especially at the highest levels, needs to be drastically curtailed enabling the officers to focus on basic things like punctuality, safety of operations, track and rolling stock maintenance and revenue generation. This is not a tall order. 

Referring to an important aspect of the up gradation project, under CPEC, is human resource development, senior former professional said adding that the Chinese can be of help in immediate upgrade of the training facilities at Walton so as to facilitate immediate training of operating and signalling staff, to avoid critical over load of the system and to reduce expenditures, stop running of new loss making passenger trains.”