Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU) to launch shariah PhD, MS programmes

Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU) to launch shariah PhD, MS programmes

ISLAMABAD: The faculty of Arabic and Islamic Studies of the Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU) has decided to launch PhD (shahriah), LLM (shahriah), and MS (shahriah) from the Autumn semester. In this connection, all administrative and academic homework have been finalised, said Vice Chancellor Ali Asghar Chishti. The admissions in these programmes would be offered in the Autumn semester, which would be started in August/September. Chishti said that the departments working under the faculty of the Arabic and Islamic Studies includes Arabic, Quran and Tafseer, Islamic Law and Jurisprudence (Fiqh), Islamic Thought, History/Culture and Hadith, and Seerah. The scope and activities of the faculty, he said can be seen in the wide range of courses which are offered by the faculty of Arabic and Islamic Studies. The Islamic Law and Jurisprudence was established in 1999 to teach the Islamic Law and shariah from Matric to PhD levels as per contemporary requirements, and to provide opportunity of professional growth and development to the scholars of Islamic law in general and in service personals in particular, he added. The vice chancellor said that now the department of Islamic Law and Jurisprudence, Faculty of Arabic and Islamic Studies is going to launch PhD (shariah), LLM (shahriah), and MS (shahriah) programmes the upcoming semester.

Chinese language course concludes atConfucius Institute of National University of Modern Languages (NUML)

Chinese language course concludes atConfucius Institute of National University of Modern Languages (NUML)

ISLAMABAD: A special Chinese language course has concluded at the Confucius Institute of National University of Modern Languages (NUML). The course, which was of four-month duration, was supervised by Yin Hujie, a Chinese teacher. The course was attended by professionals and employees of different government and private departments and organisations. The participants of the course appreciated the NUML for its efforts in promoting Chinese language, saying that in the emerging world scenario, it is imperative to learn the language as China is the second largest economy. He urged the need for arranging more courses of Chinese language.

Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) to start cessation clinic in first week of June

Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) to start cessation clinic in first week of June

ISLAMABAD: Capital Administration and Development Division (CA&DD) Deputy Director Minhaj Siraj on Saturday said that the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) is all set to open its cessation clinic in the first week of June.Addressing a press conference, he said that the district administration has approved the request of the CA&DD in declaring all mega-social events in the city, tobacco and smoke free. He said that the CA&DD is also developing a plan for cancer prevention and its control involving all stakeholders and last week, it has been assigned to prepare itself to establish the first “Comprehensive Care Cancer Hospital”, of the country, in the capital. He said that the “Islamabad Tobacco Smoke free initiative” by the Capital Administration and Development Division aims at a comprehensive and universal protection of the masses. He said that a project has conducted a baseline survey of “Second-hand Tobacco Smoke” in over 100 ear-marked public places of the capital.The data from the recorders is being interpreted and would be compared with another similar monitoring at the end year of the project to ascertain the impact, our efforts could make. He said that another survey regarding the current implementation status of the law was completed involving 1,250 public places and retail sale points of tobacco products, within the city. He said that the district administration’s focal person for tobacco control is exerting her best efforts but there is need to exercise less tolerance and enforce the law in stricter dimensions, as the results of this survey are very far from pleasing. The current volatile law and order situation in the country is not conducive to focus on the tobacco control laws but the use of tobacco is killing five times more Pakistanis then terrorism, target killings, road accidents, sectarian violence, honour killings, and drone attacks combined. Minhaj said that as the tobacco control efforts in the country are donor-funded, the CA&DD secretary has instructed the project management to prepare a PC-1 for securing the ownership of the government for this major public health issue. The first draft of the project digest would be submitted to the Planning Commission, within this financial year before end June, he added.

76 young professionals ready to attend United States Educational Foundation in Pakistan (USEFP) scholarships

76 young professionals ready to attend United States Educational Foundation in Pakistan (USEFP) scholarships

ISLAMABAD: Seventy-six (76) young professionals gathered at a local hotel on Saturday for their pre-departure orientation for a year of study at the United States community colleges.This is the eighth group of Pakistani students to study in the US under the US government-funded Community Colleges Initiative Programme (CCIP). The programme is administered by the United States Educational Foundation in Pakistan (USEFP). Addressing the ceremony, US Embassy Country Cultural Affairs officer Robert Raines said, “Going to the US on this programme would be a life-changing opportunity.” He said that after studying in the US colleges and completing internships in their fields, community college initiative students come back to Pakistan with new skills and knowledge to help their communities. “So far, 248 Pakistanis have participated in the CCIP and had the opportunity to show everyday Americans the true face of Pakistan,” he added.The programme is a one-year, non-degree scholarship programme that provides opportunities for the Pakistani young professionals to develop leadership, professional skills, and English language proficiency, while studying at a community college in the US. Participants during their stay in the US would study agriculture, applied engineering, business management and administration, media, early childhood education or tourism, and hospitality management. The US Embassy in Pakistan administers the largest educational and cultural programmes of any US Embassy in the world.Around 9,000 Pakistanis have participated in fully-funded academic or professional development programmes in the US. Five thousand Pakistani youths are currently enrolled in US government-funded English language programmes in Pakistan. These programmes manifest the sincere interest of the US to build partnership with the people of Pakistan.

No Tobacco Day observed at Benazir Bhutto Hospital BBH Rawalpindi

No Tobacco Day observed at Benazir Bhutto Hospital BBH Rawalpindi

RAWALPINDI: Rawalpindi Medical College and Allied Hospitals Principal Muhammad Umer on Saturday said that smoking is one of the main causes of heart diseases and blood pressure. He was addressing at a function in order to mark the “No Tobacco Day”, held at the Benazir Bhutto Hospital. He asked the people to adopt precautionary measures because prevention is better than cure. He asked the doctors and the medical students to play their active role in promoting health education. Benazir Bhutto Hospital Medical Superintendent Asif Qadir Mir said that special emphasis is being laid down to sensitise patients and smokers about the after effects of smoking, besides extending medical treatment facilities. Consultant Cardiologist Mehdi Hassan Raja said it is alarming to note that 5 million people die every year in the world due to heart disease. He said that 80 thousand people die in Pakistan due to this ailment which needs to be tackled by creating awareness. Later, the staff of the hospital distributed informative material among the patients and their relatives about the negative and adverse effects of smoking.

Literary festival held to remember Parveen Shakir

Literary festival held to remember Parveen Shakir

Literary festival held to remember Parveen Shakir

Literary festival held to remember Parveen Shakir

ISLAMABAD: Literary figures on Friday paid tribute to great Urdu poetess, Parveen Shakir on first day of ‘Perveen Shakir Urdu Literature Festival,’ being organised by Parveen Shakir Trust here at COMSATS University.Veteran Intellectual and poet Majeed Amjad said that Parveen Shakir skilfully portrayed complexities of life through her profound insight.Majeed Amjad, told APP that Parveen Shakir has added a new dimension to the traditional theme of love by giving expression to her emotions in a simple style and she used variety of words to convey different thoughts with varying intensities using imaginative insight. “Her poetry was a breath of fresh air in Urdu poetry. She used the first-person feminine pronoun, which is rarely used in Urdu poetry even by female poets,” Amjad added. Famous poet Abbas Tabish said that Parveen Shakir portrayed the issues related to the women. “She gives a message for women that they must have high aims whatever the consequences are,” Tabish said. Her poetic collection reflects the universal feelings of anger, happiness, pain and love, besides feminine perspective of love and the associated social problems, he said. Prominent poetess Hameeda Shaheen said Parveen Shakir was the first female poetess who expressed emotions and feelings of a young girl in a realistic manner. Spontaneity in expression was the hallmark of her poetry that mesmerized the young lot especially girls, she said. Shaheen further said Parveen played greater role in depiction of romanticism in her poetic work. Like Ahmad Faraz, the poetry of Parveen Shakir attracted the hearts of youngsters, she said.Her published collection of works including Khushboo, Sad- barg, Khud Kalami, Inkar, Mah-e-Tamam are considered as most popular collections in literary history and admired by people, Hameeda Shaheen added. Actor Qawi Khan while paying tribute to the great Urdu poetess said that she was a self-made woman and adopted purely eastern style in her poems. She not only expressed her feelings but also of working women. The sitting was organized in Eight different segments in which many others paid tribute to the poetess. Head of the Parveen Shakir Trust, Parveen Qadir Agha, told APP that she was one of those female poets who could be regarded as pioneers in defying tradition by expressing the “female experience” in Urdu poetry. On the occasion many others also paid tribute to the poetess.

Smoking kills 100,000 Pakistanis every year: Health experts for increased taxes on tobacco in budget 2014-15

Smoking kills 100,000 Pakistanis every year: Health experts for increased taxes on tobacco in budget 2014-15

ISLAMABAD: Highlighting the alarming number of deaths tobacco use causes every year, health experts demanded the government to raise taxes on tobacco and its products in the upcoming budget 2014.They were addressing a public awareness seminar organised by Shifa International Hospital (SIH) in connection with World No Tobacco Day here on Friday. Every year, on 31st May, World No Tobacco Day is marked, underlining the health risks associated with tobacco use and advocating for effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption. The theme of this year’s campaign is “raise taxes on tobacco, lower death and disease”. A large number of people including consultants, doctors, civil society representatives, medical students and citizens of twin cities attended the seminar. Executive Director Health Services Academy Dr. Asad Hafeez was the chief guest of the seminar. Director Strategic Planning SIH Mahmood Mirza thanked the audience, chief guest and the media for their support to create awareness in masses about the negative effects and threats tobacco use can pose to human body. Dr. Asad Hafeez the government will implement comprehensive ban on tobacco advertisement by May 31. He said there was a dire need to impose more taxes on tobacco as around one thousand children from age 8 to 10 start using tobacco every day.Consultant Pulmonologist SIH Dr. Sohail Naseem said as many as 5000 people in the country are admitted in the hospitals everyday owing to tobacco related diseases, Above 100,000 die every year due to smoking related diseases. Tobacco kills nearly six million people each year, of which more than 6, 00,000 are non-smokers dying from breathing second-hand smoke or passive smoking. Unless we act now, the epidemic will kill more than 8 million people every year-by-year 2030 across the world.Dr. Sohail said smoking would kill one billion persons by the end of this century. He said half of the Pakistani men are regular smokers and about 55 percent families in Pakistan have at least one person who smokes. He said sheesha was equally dangerous. “Major part of household income is being spent on smoking rather on health and education,” he said. Pakistan is losing almost Rs562 million daily in cigarette smoking. Eighty percent of cigarettes are consumed in developing countries including Pakistan.He informed that smoking causes an estimated 90 percent of all lung cancer deaths in men and 80 percent in women. An estimated 90 percent of all deaths from chronic obstructive lung disease are caused by smoking.Consultant Cardiologist and Head of Cardiology Department SIH Dr. Asad Ali Saleem said negative effects of smoking and tobacco use are beyond lungs and pulmonary diseases. He said smoking is one of the major causes of hypertension, heart attack and stroke. He observed that above 70 percent people with cardiovascular diseases are smokers. Smoking causes failure to taste food; it shrinks arteries and causes various cardiac diseases. Smoking is major cause of heart attack. “Heart attack death rate is 70 percent greater in male smokers than non-smokers”, he added. “Government must increase tax on cigarettes in this budget, as it’s the most effective policy to reduce tobacco use”, Dr. Asad stressed. Consultant Radiation Oncologist Dr. Asif Masood said that various cancers including acute myeloid leukaemia, lung cancer, mouth cancer, throat cancer, stomach cancer, bladder cancer, cancer of the cervix, cancer of the oesophagus, kidney cancer, cancer of the larynx (voice box) and uterus cancer are caused by direct smoking, second-hand smoking, chewing tobacco and using pan, gutka or sheesha.“Smokers face an increased risk of certain types of throat and stomach cancers, even years after they quit,” he remarked. Dr Asif concluded on the message that “Tobacco Company kills its best costumer”. Later, Shifa announced to launch a support group for citizens who want to quit smoking and seek support after getting rid of this deadly habit. The hospital also announced to arrange hiking on Islamabad’s trail 3 to raise awareness on the harms of tobacco on Sunday, June 1.

Millions of Newborn Deaths Reported (Listen to audio report)

Millions of Newborn Deaths Reported (Listen to audio report)

Every Newborn Action Plan, an international initiative, is scheduled to be launched in June 2014. It's estimated there are 5.5-million newborn and still birth deaths each year

Every Newborn Action Plan, an international initiative, is scheduled to be launched in June 2014. It’s estimated there are 5.5-million newborn and still birth deaths each year

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Despite five-and-a-half million newborn and stillborn baby deaths each year, investment in newborn health remains very low. That’s one of the findings in a series of papers published in the medical journal The Lancet. The research also shows the vast majority of those deaths could be prevented.

Lead researcher Joy Lawn said the research is the most accurate estimate yet on the number of deaths of newborns and stillbirths.

“Every year there are two-point-nine-million babies who die in the first month of life — and most shockingly a million who die on their birthday, the first day. And there are two-point-six-million stillbirths — most shockingly, one-point-two-million who die while the woman is in labor. So together this is five-and-a-half-million babies,” she said.

Most of the deaths are in low and middle income countries. But rich nations, she said, are not immune. There are about 500,000 pre-term births in the United States every year.

“The three leading causes around the world are pre-term births, birth complications — so where women don’t get the right care during labor. And babies that are full-term can have damage and even die because of lack of care during labor – and then, thirdly, infections,” she said.

Lawn is a professor and Director of the March Center at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and an advisor to Save the Children UK. She said many babies and their mothers could be saved for just a few dollars worth of medical care.

“In this series we show very clearly that 71-percent of newborn deaths can be prevented with solutions that we have already. And that together, three-million women, babies – counting newborns and stillbirths – could be saved every year with investments at the time of birth. So that’s a triple return on investment with care at the time of birth,” she said.

That care includes simple things like keeping the baby warm; helping it learn to breastfeed and making sure it has skin to skin contact with its mother.

Also, Lawn said there are injections that can greatly improve the odds of a baby’s survival. One injection prevents tetanus infections, a nearly always fatal condition for babies.

Another contains corticosteroids and is given to women in pre-term labor. Corticosteroids affect stress and immune response and inflammation. They help premature babies improve their breathing. This is standard treatment in rich nations, but not in developing countries. It costs less than one dollar.

Lawn said that it’s been known for many years that a large number of newborns die. Yet, funding to prevent the problem remains low.

“Of the billions of dollars that are given for child survival, only four-percent of that donor funding even mentions the word newborn. And yet 44-percent of under-five deaths are among newborns. So there’s a major mismatch in what the funding is going to compared to where the deaths are now,” she said.

Much of the funding goes towards preventing deaths of mothers and children up to age five.

In recent years, it’s become more common in the U.S. to issue birth certificates for stillborn babies. Lawn said it means a lot to parents to know that their child has been recognized. However, what the papers in The Lancet also show is that in many developing countries no record is kept.

Lawn said, “A women who loses a newborn death or a stillbirth in many of the places I’ve worked in Africa – there will be no piece of paper. The baby may not be named. It’s very unlikely there will be any funeral or public recognition. And those things aren’t just sad for the woman, but they hide the whole problem. The fact that in this day and age you can have five-and-a-half million babies entering and leaving the planet without official record – but also mostly without funerals or recognition – actually stops us [from] acting.”

More than 50 experts from 28 institutions in 17 countries took part in The Lancet series.

In June, a new international initiative is set to be launched called Every Newborn Action Plan. It’s described as “an evidence-based roadmap toward care for every women and a healthy start for every newborn baby

Melinda Gates Pushes to Curb Newborn Deaths

Melinda Gates Pushes to Curb Newborn Deaths

Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, speaks during a press conference on the sidelines of the World Health Assembly, in May 2014, in Geneva.

Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, speaks during a press conference on the sidelines of the World Health Assembly, in May 2014, in Geneva.

 — Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, urged delegates to endorse the first global action plan to end newborn deaths in a keynote address to the World Health Assembly.  

Health officials agree that newborn deaths are preventable. Yet nearly 3 million babies die each year within their first 28 days of life.  Many do not even get a chance to draw a breath. The World Health Organization (WHO) says 2.6 million babies are stillborn, and more than one million of those deaths occur during labor.

Because of this staggering toll, Gates hopes WHO will pass the Newborn Action Plan by the end of the week. That way, she says, health ministers can immediately start the process of saving these young lives.  

At a news conference in Geneva, the philanthropist told journalists five low-cost interventions are very effective in saving newborns, including breastfeeding, methods of resuscitating newborns, preventing and treating infections, and so-called kangaroo care for premature babies. That technique involves prolonged skin-to-skin contact with the mother.

Finding success

Gates says Ethiopia, Rwanda, and Nepal are already applying these interventions with some success.  
“Simply by using the health care extension worker, a health community worker platform that they have got and focusing on those newborn deaths, they have been able to bring down not just under-five mortality, but newborn death rates as well,” she said. “So, we have those as models and the other African nations and other countries around the world are looking at those three countries to learn what is actually possible by focusing on this.”

Gates says Ethiopia’s newborn death rate has gone down by 28 percent since it began focusing on this issue in the last six years.  

As part of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals, great progress has been made in cutting maternal and under-five child mortality. But WHO reports South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa have the highest numbers of newborn deaths every year, with India, Nigeria and Pakistan topping the list.

Maternal mortality 

Gates says the issue of newborn deaths has been neglected as a consequence of focusing on maternal mortality.  

The lives of mother and child are inextricably linked. Nevertheless, Gates says midwives or community health workers tend to focus on saving the life of the mother during delivery.

“They have seen so many mothers die in childbirth,” she said. “So they will focus immediately and sometimes exclusively, unfortunately, on the mother until they have got her in a state, making sure that she is going to survive.  And, then they turn to the newborn.  So, quite often, you will get in a situation where the baby has got cool over time.  Sometimes they will do wrong practice in some countries. They will actually scrub the vernix off the baby, which will introduce infection.”

Gates says it is important to make midwives and community health workers understand they should focus on both mother and child at the same time.

An analysis published by the British journal, The Lancet, shows that progress in reducing newborn mortality lags behind successful efforts to improve the survival rate for children under the age of five. In most regions of the world, more than half of all child deaths are among newborns.

While saving newborn lives is a tender-hearted thing to do, the Lancet notes it also makes good economic sense. It says every dollar invested in newborn survival returns $9 in economic benefits.

Melbourne Declaration Released (Listen to audio report)

Melbourne Declaration Released (Listen to audio report)

The International AIDS Conference is the world's largest HIV related gathering. It's held every two years. In 2016, the event returns to Durban, South Africa

The International AIDS Conference is the world’s largest HIV related gathering. It’s held every two years. In 2016, the event returns to Durban, South Africa


Listen to audio report

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

The world’s largest gathering on HIV/AIDS will be held in July in Melbourne, Australia. The theme of the 20th International AIDS Conference – also known as AIDS 2014 – is Nobody Left Behind. Organizers have issued the Melbourne Declaration.

Since the AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa, in 2000, conference organizers have released declarations several months prior to the event.
Chris Beyrer, professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and president-elect of the International AIDS Society, said there are several reasons why declarations are issued.
“Certainly, the first is, as in the case with the Durban Declaration, that there are often compelling issues facing the field and facing everyone living with HIV and people working on HIV, that really demand international attention. So the conference provides a platform, a spotlight on the global epidemic. And so we use the conference declarations to really highlight those issues,” he said.
The Melbourne Declaration affirms that “non-discrimination is fundamental to an evidence-based, rights-based and gender transformative response to HIV and effective public health programs.”
Beyrer sais, “There has been a wave of new anti-gay, discriminatory laws and policies in a number of countries — the recent laws in Russia –the new laws that were passed in Nigeria in 2013 and in Uganda just recently – which really are a threat to access to care for people living with HIV and for sexual and gender minorities more broadly.”
AIDS 2014 organizers said such laws exist in over 80 countries.
“The motivation for this current declaration is really to say the HIV response has always been about universal access – about non-discrimination and about working with affected people and communities. That’s always been who we are, and that’s why we’ve had the successes that we’ve had. And so, we’re really trying to use the conference to highlight that we see these laws as really a dangerous trend in the wrong direction,” said Beyrer.
Many of the laws against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders have their roots in colonialism. But Beyrer said the new law in Nigeria takes discrimination further.
“It was not illegal, for example, to organize meetings, to have discussions, to do outreach for folks at risk, for gay and other men who have sex with men. The new law criminalizes all those behaviors. So, for example, [it] makes it illegal to organize a public health meeting to discuss these issues. It makes it illegal to do outreach and provide services.”
The effect, he said, is to quickly cut off access to life-saving HIV services.
“Untreated HIV is still fatal. So when you talk about reducing people’s access to care, this is not trivial. This is a life or death matter,” he said.
While the U.S. Great Britain and others have moved toward expanding gays rights, including same sex marriage, some former British colonies are going in the opposite direction. Some of the anti-gay laws have the support of American evangelical groups.
One minister, Scott Lively, has been active in Uganda and Russia, for example. He’s currently being sued in Massachusetts by an American group representing sexual minorities in Uganda. The suit accuses Lively of crimes against humanity. Lively’s attorney said his client’s preaching against homosexuality is protected by the U.S. Constitution.
In 2013, The U.S. Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional what’s known as the Anti-Prostitution Pledge as it relates to U.S. NGOs. It required that NGOs receiving federal funds to combat HIV and trafficking adopt a policy opposing prostitution and sex trafficking. However, the Supreme Court said it violated the First Amendment right of free speech. But, the ruling did not apply to foreign NGOs receiving such funds.
The International AIDS Society President-Elect said many who sell sex do so consensually and consider it their everyday job. They oppose the Anti-Prostitution Pledge. Professor Beyrer said the language surrounding the issue has caused problems.
“We have had some conflation, I think, in language and terminology around, for example, trafficking of persons and sexual exploitation with sex work that, I think, broadly speaking has not been helpful in terms of trying to provide services to people and really understand who is a coerced person who really needs protection? And who is a consenting a consenting adult, who is choosing to sell sex?”
He added that when sexworkers are organized and managers of commercial sex they can actually help control the spread of HIV.
“They do a very good job of promoting condom use — of STD care and treatment access. And when they’re organized this goes rather well. When you talk to the communities about what it is that they want, they want sex work to be understood as work. They want access to care and services. They want to be able to be organized and they of course want protection from violence, which is a major issue,” he said.
Instead, he said, crackdowns and exploitation drive sexwork underground where protection against HIV is lacking. There’s no indication the Anti-Prostitution Pledge will be repealed by the U.S.
In 2016, the International AIDS Conference returns to Durban, South Africa, where it was last held in 2000. It was the first time the meeting was held in a developing country and the last time it was in Africa. At the time, organizers issued the Durban Declaration, which said HIV caused AIDS. It was aimed at then South African President Thabo Mbeki, who had refused to accept that a virus was the cause of the epidemic.

CIA: Vaccination Programs Won’t be Used for Spying

CIA: Vaccination Programs Won’t be Used for Spying


CIA: Vaccination Programs Won't be Used for Spying

CIA: Vaccination Programs Won’t be Used for Spying

The White House has pledged that the CIA will no longer use vaccination programs as a cover for spying operations, three years after the agency used the ruse in Pakistan before the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
A White House spokesperson said President Barack Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser, Lisa Monaco, responded to a letter from the deans of about a dozen prominent public health schools last week who were concerned the ruse could cause serious consequences to public health efforts.
Monaco told the deans the CIA has agreed it would no longer use vaccination programs or workers for intelligence purposes. The CIA also agreed not to use genetic materials obtained through such programs.
In 2011, the CIA recruited Pakistani doctor Shakil Afridi to offer a program of hepatitis vaccinations in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad as cover to obtain DNA samples from the bin Laden compound. The United States wanted to make sure bin Laden was there before launching an operation into another country.
Afridi was convicted of treason and sentenced to 33 years in a Pakistani prison. The sentence was overturned in 2013, and Afridi now faces a retrial.
Last week, Pakistan’s Health Ministry announced that it would require that all travelers leaving the country first get a polio vaccination. That move followed the World Health Organization’s declaration earlier this month that polio’s spread was an international public health emergency. The WHO identified Pakistan, Syria and Cameroon as nations that had allowed polio to spread beyond their borders.

WHO: Conflict, Inequality, and Economic Exclusion Threaten Health Gains

WHO: Conflict, Inequality, and Economic Exclusion Threaten Health Gains


WHO Director-General Margaret Chan.

WHO Director-General Margaret Chan.

 — The Director-General of the World Health Organization warns conflict, social inequality and economic exclusion are threatening important gains made in health.  

WHO Director-General Margaret Chan lost no time in telling delegates achievements in the global campaign to wipe out polio are in danger of unraveling.

She says armed conflict, weak border controls, poor routine immunization coverage and the targeted killing of polio workers are standing in the way of eradicating this crippling disease.  

“Two years ago, the international spread of polio virus had nearly ceased.  Not anymore. Two years ago, polio was on its knees, thanks to committed political leadership, better strategies and tools, and the dedication of millions of polio workers.  The factors responsible for this setback are largely beyond the control of the health sector,” said Chan.

Dr. Chan cites what she calls “ominous trends threatening the health sector.”  She says rising inequality and economic exclusion are affecting social cohesion and stability.  She warns damage to the environment is putting at risk the planet’s ability to sustain human life in good health.

The WHO chief says the rise of antimicrobial resistance, which is rendering many antibiotics ineffective, now affects every region of the world.  

Also on the rise are non-communicable diseases, including new cancer cases and increases in heart disease, diabetes, and chronic lung diseases.  She says the prevalence of obesity and diet-related diseases are growing

“Parts of the world are quite literally eating themselves to death.  I am deeply concerned by the increasing prevalence of childhood obesity in every region of the world, with the increase fastest in low-and middle-income countries,” she said.

But while some children are getting fatter, Dr. Chan says others are going hungry and suffering from malnutrition.  

Despite this gloomy assessment, the WHO chief points to a number of health successes.  She notes the pursuit of the Millennium Development Goals has saved many millions of lives.  These include cuts in maternal and child mortality, and advances made in reducing deaths from TB and malaria.  

She says more than 12 million people with AIDS are living longer because they receive antiretroviral therapy, and India’s eradication of polio shows anything is possible.

UN investigator: Unhealthy Food Taxes Vital to Fight Obesity

UN investigator: Unhealthy Food Taxes Vital to Fight Obesity


U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food Olivier de Schutter

U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food Olivier de Schutter

 — Unhealthy diets pose a greater risk to global health than the increasingly regulated sale of tobacco and governments should move fast to tax harmful food products, a United Nations investigator said on Monday.

In a statement issued on the opening of the annual summit of the World Health Organization (WHO), Belgian professor Olivierde Schutter called for efforts to launch negotiations on a global pact to tackle the obesity epidemic.

“Unhealthy diets are now a greater threat to global health than tobacco. Just as the world came together to regulate therisks of tobacco, a bold framework convention on adequate diets must now be agreed,” he said.

De Schutter, who has held his post of special rapporteur on the right to food since 2008 and earlier headed the Paris-based International Federation of Human Rights, reports to the U.N.Human Rights Council in Geneva.

In 2005, a U.N. convention on tobacco control aimed at reducing deaths and health problems caused by the product went into force after long negotiations under the umbrella of the WHO. In a report to the rights council in 2012, de Schutter said a similar accord on food should include taxing unhealthy products, regulating food high in saturated fats, salt and sugar, and “cracking down on junk food advertising.”

That report also called for an overhaul on the system of farm subsidies “that make certain ingredients cheaper than others”, and for support for local production “so that consumers have access to healthy, fresh and nutritious foods.

“In his Monday statement, issued through the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, de Schutter said any attempts to promote better diets and combat obesity “will only work if the food systems underpinning them are put right.

“Governments have been focusing on increasing calories availability, but they have often been indifferent to what kind of calories are on offer, at what price, to whom they are made available, and how they are marketed. “Such measures, he declared, “are essential to ensure that people are protected from aggressive misinformation campaigns.”

CSS screening test – CSS screening test ill-devised move? – Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC)

CSS screening test – CSS screening test ill-devised move? –  Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC)

Lahore: The announcement by the Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC) that the CSS candidates will have to go through a screening test before appearing in the competitive exams has alarmed the quarters concerned.

The incumbent FPSC chairman who belongs to the police group and was inducted from army in the civil service during the regime of former dictator Gen Zia-ul-Haq had forwarded a novel proposal to the government for the approval of the scheme on the sole ground that the move would filter out non-serious candidates. That the number of CSS aspirants was increasing every year, the screening test will facilitate the FPSC to announce the results on time, he had argued. For the purpose, the FPSC authorities have introduced the 200 marks test on multiple choice questions (MCQs) pattern, with 40 per cent marks to pass the test.

The syllabus of the screen test includes English, General Abilities, General Knowledge and Islamiat. In case of non-Muslim candidates, in lieu of Islamiat, their marks obtained in Pakistan Affairs would be doubled.

However, the introduction of the screening test is being criticized on many accounts. Since the announcement of screening test for the CSS exams, there has been a mushroom growth of tuition centers for preparation, creating hardships for the poor/needy candidates in the name of hefty fee which is Rs 5000 as a package. Moreover, by introducing the screening test through MCQs, it is an indirect way to facilitate those candidates who got education from foreign, top institutions, or who did A& O level from to elite educational institutions. The test seems to be discriminatory against poor candidates hailing from remote and underprivileged areas.

To determine seriousness through MCQs is not a true mode of assessment. If a candidate fails to pass the screening test does not mean that he is not serious. Doctors and engineers living in major cities are trained for such tests and would easily excel those living in rural areas with masters degrees in other subjects.

The basic reason for the increase of number of CSS candidates is not non-seriousness but unemployment. It is impossible for a poor graduate to get job of small scales due to Safarish culture whereas it is easy for them to become CSS officers on the basis of merit.

It would create more discrimination among the candidates appearing for screening test when such test is not applicable to the candidates from the armed forces. Moreover, the screening test has already been in vogue in the CSS in the form of intelligence and psychological test, so burdening the students with another test on the pretext of short listing is uncalled for.

Many suggested that the FPSC should focus on the flawless conduct of CSS exams by selecting impeccable and aboveboard paper setters, paper checkers and invigilators and adopting strict secrecy measures to restore the image and credibility of the institution. They urged the prime minister to take notice of this discriminatory scheme against the voiceless candidates.

Summer vacation from June 1 in Punjab educational institutions

Summer vacation from June 1 in Punjab

Lahore: Punjab Education Minister Rana Mashhood Ahmad Khan has said that summer vacation will start in public sector schools of Punjab from June 1.

Talking to the media at Punjab Assembly on Thursday, the minister said private schools also had been asked to observe this schedule and, if not, they could observe summer vacation from June 10.

Rana Mashhood Ahmed said Orange Line Metro Train Project in Lahore with an investment of $ 1.6 billion was an excellent gift of China for Lahorites. He said the project would not only benefit the people of Lahore but also of the whole country.

He said large-scale investment and introduction of modern means of communication was of paramount importance for speedy economic development.

He said the investment of $ 32 billion by China in energy generation projects in Pakistan was reflection of the confidence of Chinese leadership in Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif. He said initial production of 20,000 megawatt electricity projects would start in next one and a half years, overcoming loadshedding and energy crisis in Pakistan.

He said the nation would not be hoodwinked by those who wanted to topple the government on the pretext of load-shedding.

Meanwhile, the education minister distributed achievement certificates among the participants of 12-day training workshop of master trainers under Federal Ministry of Education and Training and Standards in Higher Education here.

Provincial Director of Directorate of Basic Education Community Schools Faisal Shahzad Awan, in a briefing, said that his institution was providing facility of free education to 250,000 children of the Cholistan area from class 1 to 5.

The minister said his government was working for the same purpose, therefore, joint efforts should be made in this regard.

He said the Punjab government was ready to provide training facility to the teachers of community schools of federal government at DSD, Lahore.

Similarly, he said, the Punjab government was also willing to provide free textbooks to the students studying in community schools.