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Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Private schools seek interest free loan for surival

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Chairman of the All Private Schools Management Association Sindh (APSMAS), Syed Tariq Shah, who is also Secretary General of the National Educational Council Pakistan (NECP), fears closure of privately-run educational institutions if parents do not pay tuition fee.

In a statement issued in Karachi on March 31, he also demanded of the federal government to provide interest free loans to private educational institutions in order to enable them to overcome the current crises by temporarily meeting their expenditures. 

He appealed to parents to pay tuition fee regularly every month so that private institutions would not suffer badly and would survive in such crisis situation. 

He didn't mince words in stating that it would be very difficult for the private educational institutes to survive in such crisis situations and not only there would be possibility of unemployment of staff but also the future of millions of students could be at risk because tuition fee is the only source of income for institutions and the revenue collected through the tuition fee is being used to pay staff’s salaries, building rent, utility bills and government taxes. 

Tariq Shah advised the private school administrations to provide a payment solution in terms of easy installments for those parents who are unable to pay tuition fees on a monthly basis due to severe economic constraints. 

While appreciating the measures taken by the government to deal with Coronavirus (COVID-19), he stated that private institutes were supporting the government in every step taken and desire them to focus solely on the eradication of the virus and treatment of its victims so that the pandemic could be controlled in Pakistan including Sindh and normal routine life would be resumed soon. 

He pointed out that the private education sector was actively supporting the government to upgrade the standard of education and literacy rate by providing quality education. 

“The private institutions are not only the source of employment for millions of people but also paying a huge amount of revenue to government as taxes, therefore if these institutions would be closed, then not only the future of students will be at risk, thousands of staff will be unemployed as well as government will not get revenue in terms of tax which would result in new educational crisis,” Tariq Shah warned.

Government urged to let private schools administration work

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The All Private Schools Management Association Sindh (APSMAS) has urged the provincial to allow the schools to open their offices to carry out administrative functions. In a tweet on April 1, 

Syed Tariq Shah, Chairman, APSMAS, has appealed to the Sindh Chief Minister, Syed Murad Ali Shah, to let the schools open for administrative matters. 

“Appeal from Govt of Sindh. Allow schools to open office for admin matters. Only source of fund for schools is fee collection as we have to pay salaries, building rent, govt taxes and utilities. We request Honourable CM Murad Ali Shah, Education Minister Saeed Ghani and Murtaza Wahab,” he tweeted. 

Tariq Shah, who is also Secretary General of the National Educational Council Pakistan (NECP), in a statement the other day, had drawn the attention of the government about this matter too. 

While requesting parents to pay tuition fee regularly every month so that private institutions would not suffer badly and would survive in such crisis, he also demanded of the federal government to provide interest free loans to private educational institutions in order to enable them to overcome the precarious situation by temporarily meeting their expenditures.

Coronavirus: Indigenous research generates concerns

By Mukhtar Alam
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The release of details of a ‘half-done’ study by a group of scientists at the University of Karachi, claiming that their analysis of the whole genome sequence of coronavirus will be helpful in decision making at national level for the use of future therapeutic options and vaccinations, has generated concerns among experts. 

A press release of the university quoted Prof M Iqbal Choudhary, Director of Director of International Center for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS), saying this was the first indigenously sequenced whole genome of Coronavirus from Pakistan. 

“Analysis of the sequence revealed nine mutations in the different regions of genome, as compared to the sequence reported from Wuhan, China,” where the virus originated three months back.

“Mutation is change which appears in the DNA of all organisms and viruses, Dr Choudhary said, adding that comparison with genomes from other parts of the world revealed that virus examined at Jamil-ur-Rahman Center for Genome Research was more closely related to the virus from China, the point from where the pandemic was started. 

A day earlier, a senior scientist from the University had claimed that the virus was different than the one in Wuhan and was less harmful, said a scientist requesting secrecy. 

The technique that allows researchers to read and decipher the genetic information found in the DNA of anything from bacteria to plants to animals is called genomic sequencing. 

"In pandemic it becomes more important to monitor the way, rate and nature of mutations which may have impact on effectiveness of future therapies and vaccinations," the ICCBS director said while recommending that more genomes from Pakistani patients were sequenced to understand the full spectrum of genetic variations, and the way the virus was evolving here.

Interestingly, the research details did not mention the age, gender and place of treatment of the patient from whom the RNA was drawn for the scientific research at the KU facility in question. 

It was claimed in the press release that the genome sequencing of Coronavirus collected from a local patient having a travel history was complete now. 

An enquiry conducted by this scribe in the matter revealed that the sample was drawn from a child belonging to a locally infected cluster of people. 

“The subject in question has never visited abroad,” claimed a source privy to the handling of the oropharyngeal swab specimen obtained for genome sequence at a public sector medical university.

In the meantime, experts have termed the development a premature assessment, rather a ridiculous move as the KU Centre needed to seek more such samples from different hospitals. 

They are also silent about the in question traveler's exact place of visit. “Why does not the solitary scientist in question interact with experts related to the subject?” “We need to apply our experts' brain and support as well along with the machines”, said a keen observer, adding that efforts should be made to ensure protection and treatment out of the available resources. 

Meanwhile a senior microbiologist and pathologists at the Dow University of Health Sciences (DUHS), Prof M Saeed Khan, in a television interview, said that the research details pertained to a collaborative study undertaken by a KU centre and Dow university, but it was difficult to draw any conclusion about the behaviour of the virus at this stage, particularly when the human genetic in the country is different from other parts of the world. 

“The virus under study was isolated by DUHS scientists from among a sizeable number of Coronavirus patients, while it is anticipated that research would move out of the initial stage,” he added.

First Coronavirus treatment in Pakistan recalled

By Mukhtar Alam
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Admitting the first COVID-19 infected patient of the country at the privately run Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH) in Karachi over a month back was not any cumbersome action by its team of doctors, according to a communication of the hospital on March 31, when the overall tally of corona positive patients raised to 1,938, with 26 deaths, for the country.

Pakistan’s first case of Coronavirus infection, a 22-year-old, presented at the hospital on February 26 as he felt unwell and wanted to be tested for corona. 

“Although he had COVID symptoms, he seemed healthy and calm,” Dr Faisal Mahmood of AKU Infectious diseases department recalled. 

According to him, at a time when spread of the virus in many of the countries had become inevitable, he too was anticipating a healthcare emergency in Pakistan and as such he and his colleagues rapidly assessed the preparedness position and started coordinating with the Sindh and federal governments. 

The health authorities confirmed its two maiden Coronavirus cases on February 26. The youth of Karachi in question, a student of the University of Karachi, had a history of travelling from February 6 to 19 in a group of 28 people to Iran, which was already in the grip of the in question virus, which originated from Wuhan city of China in the mid-December 2019.

“Once he (the KU student) tested positive, we admitted him immediately,” Dr Faisal Mahmood further said that since he and his team members were all prepared to deal with local corona patients, “it was an easy decision for the team: isolate him and go for supportive treatment.” 

Not giving the in question patient’s stay at the hospital, the AKUH communication said that the man soon recovered. 

“It was a memorable day for the patient, his family and the healthcare team when he was discharged from the hospital,” Dr Faisal Mahmood added. “He is now doing well, talking to the media, and spreading the message that being COVID positive is not a death sentence. You can get well.” 

Referring to the increased number of corona cases in the country, Dr Faisal Mahmood remarked that this was not a fight that could be won through health workers or government measures only. 

“This is a fight that every individual has to fight for themselves: reduce the risk of getting infected to reduce the chance of others getting infected from you to win the war against the virus going viral,” he remarked. 

According to AKUH, the father of the patients had written a letter of appreciation to Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, praising the provincial government for its timely response and the AKUH for the excellent care. 

When contacted, a hospital’s personnel did not reveal the cost of the treatment in question and by whom it was borne, but mentioned that majority of the Coronavirus cases were being referred to the hospital by the Sindh government as their sponsor, while the remaining, who report to the hospital for treatment, either pay the cost by themselves or they are managed through the welfare fund of the hospital. 

According to official data, there were as many as 1,938 confirmed COVID-19 patients, including 676 each in Punjab and Sindh. Sindh, where a total 51 patients have recovered from Coronavirus, recorded 49 new infections, all from Hyderabad involving tableeghi jamat members, while total death tally reached to eight. 

The Sindh Health Minister, Dr Azra Pechuho confirmed two more deaths on March 31. She revealed that the deceased persons were aged 70 and 74 years respectively.

Jang Group’s chairman passes away

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Mir Javed Rahman, the Chairman of the Jang Group, the largest media house of Pakistan, breathed his last, after a protracted illness, at Karachi’s South City Hospital on March 31. 

He was being treated for lung cancer while he was also reported to have suffered a heart attack a few days ago. He was 72. 

The eldest son of the late Mir Khalil-ur-Rahman, the founder of the Jang Group, he was the printer and publisher of a number of popular newspapers and magazines like Jang, Akhbar-e-Jahan and MAG. 

The Jang Group, which also owns Geo Television network, had abruptly closed down two of the leading evening newspapers of the country, Daily News and Awam, about a year ago. 

Mir Javed’s younger brother, Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, is acclaimed as a media tycoon, who is currently under the custody of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). 

Meanwhile the death of Mir Javed Rahman has been condoled by the President of Pakistan, Dr Arif Alvi, besides the key opposition leaders in the National Assembly, Mian Shahbaz Sharif and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Coronavirus update: 31 new cases confirmed in Hyderabad

By Mukhtar Alam
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Sindh health authorities, late on March 30, confirmed new Coronavirus infections in 31 members of a tableegi jamat in Hyderabad, which took the overall tally of the infection in Sindh to 526, with six relevant deaths since February 26 when the first patient of COVID-19 was detected in the province.

According to the earlier reports, about 250 people including foreign nationals were staying in a mosque in Hyderabad, which was later declared a corona quarantine place as one of the foreign nationals tested positive for corona. 

Earlier, about 20 of the people staying in the mosque were shifted to another quarantine centre established in Latifabad. 

According to official data updated at 2245 PST, with the latest detection of positive cases, the total number of corona infected people in Hyderabad reached to 43. Karachi and Jacobabad reported 27 and one new case, respectively, on March 30. 

According to the government data, 265 of the pilgrims from Iran in Sukkur have so far been found infected with the virus. Similarly, seven pilgrims from Iran were found corona positive in Larkana. 

“Of the 294 positive cases reported from Karachi, Dadu, Hyderabad and Jacobabad, 236 acquired the infection locally, while the remaining were believed to having acquired the diseases during their foreign visits,” an official disclosed.

Earlier, during the day the Sindh health minister Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho confirmed the last of the six corona related deaths in Sindh, a woman of 63. 

She, in a statement, said that the deceased woman was a resident of Karachi, who had been diagnosed with COVID-19 two days back. 

“The patient, who returned from Saudi Arabia about 10 days back, had a history of acute respiratory distress syndrome,” she added, saying the death brought the total number of deaths in Sindh to six. 

Pakistan has so far reported 1,171 corona positive cases. 

According to Health Minister of Punjab Dr Yasmin Rashid, her province had so far tested 14,570 people, out of which 642 (4.40 %) were found corona positive, with 9 deaths. 

She told a TV channel that her province has decided to intensify the testing activity and soon will be able to test samples from 3,000 people for corona infection every day. 

In the meantime, Sindh minister for Anti-Corruption and Industries & Commerce and Cooperative Department, Jam Ikramuallah Dharejo, has said that the Sindh government has not yet decided to impose curfew in the wake of Coronavirus crisis. 

Urging the people to stay at their homes, however, he said that if the people did not follow the lockdown policy, the government will have no other option but to make a compulsory curfew decision.

In his interaction with media persons in his office on March 30, the minister said that no case Corona virus had been reported in Ghotki district till now. 

He further said that the government was going to provide ration to the daily earners soon. 

In a statement, Sindh Minister for Information, Syed Nasir Hussain Shah, has said that the government could not control the spread of the Corona virus without the cooperation of the people. 

He said that the government was considering various options to provide ration and cash to people belonging to the working class, especially the daily wagers, and various possible measures were in the final stages of implementation.

“In this regard, the Sindh government is also launching a mobile registration system, through which all needy people would be registered first and then after verification the cash would be transferred to them through mobile cash transfer service,” he added.

Metropolitan University await HEC verdict

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Metropolitan University Karachi (MUK), which was chartered by the Government of Sindh in 2015, awaits the No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the Islamabad-based Higher Education Commission (HEC), before opening admission at its spacious campus located on University Road near Safoora Chowk.

By the look of things, the management of the MUK has started feeling burdened by the long delay as it has not been able to open admissions despite having invested heavily in the development of the various facilities at their campus during the last five years.

Despite being chartered from the Sindh Provincial Assembly in 2015, they have been deprived of the opportunity to initiate their academic activities even after five years.

The MUK is believed to have built facilities at the campus at an estimated cost of PKR 500 million, on a piece of land whose commercial value is thought to be around PKR two billion.

The university complex appears ready to offer education services to a population of around six million as they still await the issuance of the NOC despite three costly inspections conducted by the HEC Islamabad, the decision of Honorable High Court of Sindh and the clearance of the HEC Sindh.

It has been learnt that the working capital reserved was now reaching to an end due to the administrative cost of around PKR 70 million.

The sponsors, management and staff of the MUK look forward to the HEC to save their dream institution from becoming a possible disaster.

They are still confident that the HEC Islamabad, respecting the law and the provincial government, will issue the NOC to the MUK in the larger interest of education.

Dewan Yousuf suggests Prime Minister to refrain from creating another task force

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Dewan Mohammad Yousuf Farooqui, an eminent industrialist and a former provincial minister, has advised Prime Minister Imran Khan to avail the existing infrastructure instead of creating a task force for ration distribution among the masses.

Talking to PNFS in Karachi on March 30, he didn’t mince words in declaring that considerable resources will be required to build a new task force for the purpose of reaching out people affected by Coronavirus (COVID-19).

“Both time as well as funds will be needed for carrying out this task of creating a new infrastructure for such an activity which makes little sense to me. Instead the government should utilize the information which is already in possession of area Deputy Commissioners. NGOs and welfare organizations could also be pressed into service to do the job with the collaboration of DCs,” he suggested. 

Dewan Yousuf expressed confidence in the abilities of DCs and the social workers who could jointly perform the action to fulfill the Prime Minister’s cherished goal of reaching out the people in need. 

“The government should devote its energies and resources in helping out greater number of people in every nook and corner of the country, who are in desperate need of support, instead of thinking in terms of creating a new authority or task force for carrying out this purpose,” he concluded.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Coronavirus patients rise in Sindh


By Mukhtar Alam
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Sindh Health Minister, Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho, on March 29, declared that Sindh had two more deaths due to Coronavirus infections in Karachi the previous day.

“We received the lab reports of the two patients after they had passed away and we found out that the cause of death in both the cases was pneumonia along with COVID-19. The patients were 83 and 70 years old respectively,” she revealed. 

Meanwhile, Sindh reported another 33 corona positive tests, all in Karachi, by 7 pm PST on March 29. According to the data, made available by the Sindh health department, the province, which reported its first Coronavirus positive cases on February 26, witnessed an increase of 19% in it's over all corona test tally. 

The tally increased up to 5,945 on March 29 against 4,810 of the previous day. The overall corona infection rate came as 8.44%, which was 9.75% on March 28.. 

A source privy to the corona control activities said that in the case of Karachi, which mostly received the air travelers from corona infected countries, there were 171 (74%) local contact cases, out of 230 cases. As such 59 infected travelers in question or other who could not be traced by local surveillance and cure team so far can be blamed for the spread of the disease in Karachi, the source remarked.

Karachi Mayor seeks Coronavirus testing facilities at more hospitals


By Mukhtar Alam
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Anticipating that the testing for the Coronavirus will rise in the coming days in the city, the Karachi Mayor, Wasim Akhter, has urged the Sindh government to designate any of the public sector hospitals located in the central and western districts of Karachi for assessing the people against the virus, which has claimed three lives in the city so far. 

According to sources in the health department, there at present are five health facilities, including two run by the private sector, which have been listed by the government as COVID-19 testing facilities in Karachi. 

The Karachi mayor pointed out to the government that none of the centres in question were accessible by the common man, particularly due to enforcement of partial lockdown across the city, when public transport has come to a standstill following the provincial government’s directives. 

"People of District Central and West were unable to go to the government designated corona testing hospitals due closure of public transport. A hospital from Abbasi Shaheed Hospital, Sindh Government Hospital New Karachi and Qatar Hospital Orangi Town can be declared a new testing facility and equipped accordingly," he suggested. 

The mayor in a statement, issued on March 29, asked the Sindh government to provide Coronavirus test facility at one of three public sector hospitals in district Central and West to cater over 10 million people residing there. 

Moreover, he emphasized that the government designated centres, limited in number, cannot cater the entire city, particularly the people of Districts Central and West.

He also demanded from the government to provide precautionary dress (Personal Protective Equipment) for doctors and paramedical staff and kits to the hospitals. 

The Mayor was of the opinion that more people will have to be tested in coming weeks that's why one of the three hospitals he named should be given the test facility. 

He stated that the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) was facing shortage of funds, asking the Sindh government to provide kits and other facilities to Abbasi Shaheed Hospital which could cater both the districts. 

"The people of Orangi Town, Manghopir, Banaras, Pahar Ganj, Nusrat Bhutto Colony, Aligarh Colony and other less privileged areas cannot afford to go far as most of the people are daily wages. If they are not provided the facility nearby, their miseries might be increased," he noted.

Tendering his support to federal and provincial governments on behalf of what he said more than 300 elected representatives of local bodies to face this critical situation. 

He also appealed to the philanthropists to come forward and help the needy ones, adding local bodies representatives could be approached for identifying the poor and deserving for any governmental aid. 

In the meantime, residents in some parts of Karachi including Ibrahim Hydery and Liaquatabad came out demanding for free food (ration) supply.

KPT sprays disinfectant to contain Coronavirus


By Abdul Qadir Qureshi 
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Karachi Port Trust (KPT) arranged for spraying of disinfectant on the roads and streets of Karachi in an effort to combat the spread of the deadly disease of Coronavirus (COVID-19). 

The management of the KPT took the initiative of engaging trucks to spray the chlorinated water in and around the Keamari Road leading to the port. 

The various portions of the port were also sprayed with disinfectant. The purpose of carrying out the exercise by the KPT authorities was to make the port and surrounding areas safe and free from virus. 

Rear Admiral Jamil Akhtar, Chairman, KPT, in a brief statement, observed that their institution, standing with the people at this critical moment of lockdown, will continue the spraying of disinfectant to contain spreading of Coronavirus.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

NBP announce revised banking hours


By Syed Sajid Aziz
(Pakistan News & Features Services)
The National Bank of Pakistan (NBP), following the directives of the central bank, starting from March 30, will now remain open for public dealing from 10 am to 3.30 pm until further orders. 

The working hours at the selected branches will be observed from Mondays to Thursdays while the bank will be open from 10 am to 12.30 pm on Fridays. 

The spokesman of the NBP, Ibne Hasan, informed PNFS that the digital banking services and ATM will remain functional round the clock, as usual, and the customers have been advised to ring 111-627-627 for complaints or assistance. 

He further disclosed that the NBP management has ensured adequate safety measures at the branches and its offices for the customers as well as the staff in view of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“All the necessary precautions are being taken with emphasis on social distancing in these times for the safety of people,” he added.

4th batch of Chinese aid to fight COVID-19 arrives


By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The fourth batch of Chinese government's medical assistance to Pakistan for anti-epidemic campaign arrived Islamabad on March 29.

The Chinese Ambassador, Yao Jing, the Chairman of National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), Lt General Muhammad Afzal, and the representatives of the Pakistan government and the military were present in the handing over ceremony at the Nur Khan Air Force Base.

On behalf of the Pakistan government, General Afzal thanked China for supporting Pakistan to fight the epidemic. 

He stated that since the outbreak of the new crown pneumonia epidemic, under the leadership of President Xi Jinping, the Chinese government and people have adopted timely, decisive, scientific and effective prevention and control measures to successfully curb the spread of the epidemic. 

Reflecting China's firm political determination and strong organizational response capabilities, Pakistan appreciates China's success in fighting the epidemic, he said, adding that various sectors of the Chinese society have assisted the Pakistani side with many consignments of urgently needed medical supplies. 

He also mentioned that an expert medical team from China that arrived in Pakistan a day earlier, fully demonstrating the excellent tradition of Pakistan-China all-weather strategic partnership especially in time of need.

In this connection, General Afzal recognized that at the time of Pakistan's present crises situation, only China resolutely extended its helping hand to cope with the challenges. 

“The Pakistan government and all walks of life are deeply grateful. This is our true feeling from our hearts. The Pakistani nation is very proud of China-Pakistan friendship,” he concluded. 

Ambassador Yao asserted that China and Pakistan were true friends who shared the same distress and are good brothers who share at the same share happiness. 

At the most difficult time for China to fight the epidemic, the Pakistani government and people gave China valuable support. Pakistan’s President, Dr Arif Alvi, had visited China in person at the time China was facing difficult challenges from Coronavirus.

Now when the epidemic prevention situation in Pakistan is severe, the Chinese government has actively implemented the consensus reached by the leaders of the two countries and urgently sent aid goods to Pakistan to provide strong support for the anti-epidemic efforts of Pakistan. All sectors of society have also acted to help Pakistan. 

At present, the epidemic is spreading globally. The international community should strengthen its confidence and work together to respond. 

China upholds the concept of a community of shared future for mankind, and is willing to provide assistance within its capacity to other countries, reflecting the role of major powers and contributing to world economic stability. 

China will continue to stand firmly with Pakistan and take more active measures to support the Pakistani response to the epidemic. 

By jointly fighting the epidemic, China-Pakistan's all-weather strategic cooperative partnership will be further deepened, and the foundation of the China-Pakistan community of shared destiny will be more solid.  

Ambassador Yao was also interviewed by the media, present on the occasion, with the focus on China-Pakistan cooperation in fighting the epidemic.

Halqaa-e Arbaab-e Zauq holds online literary sitting

By Zaib Azkaar Hussain
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Halqaa-e Arbaab-e Zauq (HAZ), Karachi, created history of sorts by holding its first-ever online literary sitting in which writers from across the country discussed at length Urdu creations of three writers. 

The Zoom Cloud video conference was prompted by the ongoing Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in which social distancing is strongly discouraged. 

The participants observed that the ‘Coronavirus factor' had compelled them not to hold a gathering but the tools of modern information technology provided them a good opportunity to hold an online literary meeting. 

Famous writer Shaguftta Shafeeq, who presided over the meeting, titled a 'tanqeedi nashist’ remarked that the HAZ Karachi had done a great job to hold an online gathering to discuss latest creations of three writers that included Sarah Mehboob, Naaz Arif Naaz and Mutriba Shaikh. 

She further said that Sarah Mahboob presented a relatively good Urdu ghazal that has amazing diction such as 'aaeena' and ‘hijro wesaal' and inspite of the fact that the ghazal had a romantic mood it brought to light a gap and distance between the lovers while symbolizing the 'mirror' as a reality of life. 

Underlining the Urdu 'khaaka' presented by Naaz Arif Naaz, the President of the meeting, noted thsat Naaz portrayed the personality of her husband (Arif) in her written sketch but she only projected qualities and avoided to argue on some demerits of life of her husband. 

She commended Mutriba Shaikh for her art of writing an article on a book of Urdu short stories titled "Dhoop mein jaltay khawaab' by Naghmana Shaikh', adding she presented a perfect paper. 

Shaguftta Shafeeq concluded that the paper underlined some of the stories of Naghmana Shaikh in relation to their subjects, characters and problems being faced by women in present times. 

Zahid Hussain Zahid, who was the chief guest on the occasion, thoroughly appreciated the three writers. 

However, the guest of honour from Lahore, Shahzad Nayyer, took exception of some weak diction in poetry and 'khaaka', saying instead of presenting repeated thoughts, the writers of modern times must experience fresh subjects and issues in their creations. 

Nevertheless, he appreciated Mutriba Shaikh for her piece, while noting that she tried her best to convey the content and characterization of stories of Naughmana Shaikh by discussing the worth and approach of the characters in different stories. Yet it needed to be further elaborated the characters and treatment of the writer in her book. 

Shabbir Ibne Aadil, who was also guest of honour at the meeting, Khalid Danish, Asif Ali Asif, Iffat Naveed, Kamran Mughal, Muhammad Asghar Khan, Khalid Moin, Khawaja Muhammad Azam, Kashif Ali Hashmi, Surria Hayya, Yasir Bashir, Dr Shahid Zamir, Aqeel Abbas Jaffery, Afzal Hazarvi, Sikandar Rind, Naughmana Shaikh and others also expressed their thoughts on the three creations. 

Sarah Mehboob and Asif Ali Asif coordinated the online discussion while the HAZ Secretary, Zaib Azkaar Hussain, welcomed the meeting participants and threw light on the nature of the 'tanqeedi nashist' and expressed hope that the writers would take keen interest in discussing the literary and cultural issues through online meetings. 

Later, in an informal online 'mushaira', President of the meeting Shaguftta Shafeeq, chief guest Shahzad Nayyar, Surria Hayya, Asif Ali Asif, Asghar Khan, Sarah Mehboiob, Kashif Ali Hashmi, Zaib Azkaar Hussain and others presented their Urdu verses.

Pakistan’s banks to facilitate customers to combat COVID-19

By Syed Sajid Aziz
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The banks operating in Pakistan have been allowed to facilitate their customers in the wake of Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, having rocked the world. The circular in this regard was issued by the country’s central bank on March 28. 

The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), in an attempt to combat the potential spread of the pandemic, has advised for limiting person-to-person interactions and to provide ease of services to the customers of the various banks. 

Now Direct Cheque Deposit Facility is being introduced under which a crossed cheque may be presented by payee/beneficiary directly into the paying/drawee bank instead of their bank branches as per the existing practice. 

Doorstep Cheque Collection Facility has also been launched in which Banks/MFBs may make arrangements to collect cheque from registered addresses of their customers upon their request. 

Drop box Cheque Collection Facility, under which customers may drop their cheques in drop boxes of their banks, will be installed in selected branches while the banks have also be authorized to allow their Corporates/Priority customers to send them the scanned image of the cheque along with relevant details of the Beneficiary either through registered emails or through mobile Apps of their banks to push funds from their accounts to the payee bank. 

The banks are being encouraged to implement additional risk mitigating measures as per their internal policies while offering these services to their customers. 

Further, in order to minimize person-to-person interaction, Banks/MFBs may also make arrangements with the Clearing House (NIFT) for clearing their cheques through Image Based Clearing (IBC) functionality as per the agreed SOPs between NIFT and banks.

Sindh government urged to increase Coronavirus testing facilities


By Mukhtar Alam
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The overall rate of Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in Sindh was 9.50% on March 28 as compared to 9.43% the previous day while there was no change in the Sukkur pilgrims which stood at 7.76%. 

People have been somewhat relieved to see the rate of infection getting flattened during the last couple of days. 

In order to gain greater public confidence and support it has been suggested to the health data providers in Sindh to also provide details of 131 local transmission cases in Karachi as people will like to know if these new cases in question have been associated with the infected people coming from Iran or they contacted the infection through neutral persons, general crowd, workplace, market and transports. 

It’s also being felt that now time has come to observe scientific and convincing approach, otherwise any prolonged lockdown may backfire. It’s being pointed out that there may be no use of turning the majority of population into the lot of needy people, particularly as they don’t have any dignified mechanism to address social issues from hunger to health. 

The Sindh health department has tested 4,810 people for Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic across the province since February 26 according to official sources, as on March 28. As such on average 150 patients per day were tested for Coronavirus, who reported at any of the a dozen or so designated centres availing free kits from the health department or any other setting. 

And if we conservatively consider the population of Sindh to be around 55million, then the coverage rate comes as 27 people per ten million, which appears very nominal to have any practicable picture or trend of the infection. 

Here one could argue that the tests carried out by private sector units and a couple of public sector units using non-governmental kits are not included in the official list as either government takes the positive tested counts from them and not those which are negative. 

But at the same time it should be kept in mind that such units cannot afford to conduct such tests extensively as they have limited machines and expertise/technical hands including the specially trained hands that draw samples from patients for Coronavirus testing purpose 

On the other hand at present about 1,100 tests (half of it done by private sector facilities) ever day were taking place according to the Punjab health minister. 

If Punjab's population is thought to be around 110 million then it can be said that about 100 people  per day are being tested/day every 10 million people though the province is a late starter in the context of Coronavirus. 

The Government of Sindh is being urged to increase its assessing capacity/number of tests/per day while the authorities have been claiming that they were keen to overcome the shortcomings during the lockdown/partial curfew days. 

With the pandemic having wreaked havoc all over the world, the fear is growing among the masses and people wonder why more tests are not being carried out. At the moment only a few hospitals are doing it and they only report only the positive cases. 

The other day it was being claimed that the federal as well as the provincial governments were capable of preparing corona test kits indigenously. Probably PCRs and deployment of resources and trained manpower for an extended period seem to be the real issues.

If they find it plausible not to test neutral population, then should come up with the notion that virus was being found among foreign travellers (who could not be detained in the initial days of the crisis) and their family members/contacts only and general population is still not at the risk to any alarming extent. 

It has been generally agreed that lockdown/curfew can prove a time buying only if the government does not move in a scientific way. The task force needs to be broadened, involving more and more experts, like microbiologist, haematologists and infectious disease experts and other seniors from the public sector institutions. Engaging the universities for any meaningful exercise is another option yet to be tried.
Coronavirus Chronology 
February 26: Pakistan reported its first two cases of Coronavirus positive (Total-1,408, with 11 deaths)
February 26: Sindh reported the first positive case (Tally-469 cases, with one death)
February 26: Gilgit Baltistan reported first case (Tally-107, with one death)
March 10: Balochistan reported first case (Tally-133, with one death)
March 14: Islamabad Capital Territory reported its first case (Tally-39)
March 15: Punjab reported the first corona patient (Tally-490, with five deaths)
March 16: Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa reported its first case (Tally 180, with three deaths)
March 18: Pakistan reported the first two corona related deaths
March 18: Azad Kashmir reported its first corona case (Tally 02).