Sunday, December 4, 2016

New strategies can renew hope for Pakistan’s five million disabled

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

“We are running successful businesses, leading civil rights organizations and inspiring students in schools,” members of the public with disabilities spoke at a seminar on December 2 at the Aga Khan University (AKU), Karachi, 

The strategies to prevent injuries that cause disabilities, initiatives to broaden access to rehabilitative services and steps to make educational services more inclusive were discussed at the event celebrating the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. In Pakistan, five million people suffer from some form of disability. 

“Yet less than 1 in 5 of the country’s persons with disabilities (PWD) can access the social and educational support they need to thrive. Only 1 in 7 receive the help they need to participate fully in the workforce and just 1 in 10 have access to rehabilitative services that can help them recover.” 

“If the true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members, then Pakistan has much more to do on this front. We can make a small start by ensuring that facilities for wheelchair users are present in all public spaces,” Dr Mohammad Wasay, professor of neurology at AKU, pointed out. 

The speakers at the event noted that the 2002 National Policy for Persons with Disabilities calls for the creation of an environment that provides full support to PWDs by 2025. 

They reckoned that much work still needs to be done to fulfill the government’s policy goals and also drew attention to the theme of this year’s world day Achieving 17 Goals for the Future We Want which refers to international commitments under the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. 

“Pakistan is committed to the global agenda and there are 11 specific references to persons with disabilities in the Sustainable Development Goals, under Goals 4, 8, 10, 11 and 17. These goals call for access to quality education, steps to reduce inequality, strategies to promote inclusive economic growth, initiatives to make communities and cities accessible to all, and formal efforts to track the impact of programmes on the most vulnerable populations.” 

“Support for these goals is needed across all sections of society so that Pakistan adopts policies that support PWDs and creates an environment that enables them to achieve their full potential,” Dr Wasay added. 

Outlining the steps that can help prevent disabilities and create an inclusive society, experts called on members of civil society, welfare organizations and the government to collaborate to introduce three types of measures. The first is to improve the enforcement of road traffic laws on speed limits, rash driving and mandatory helmet wearing that the results in one million trauma injuries a year in the country. 

About 10 per cent of these injuries, which affect the brain and spinal cord, lead to disabilities which can be prevented by ensuring that traffic laws are obeyed. 

A second initiative that needs to be taken is within hospitals, said speakers. Many types of disabilities related to childhood development delays, sensory impairments and motor disabilities can be treated through rehabilitative programmes, therapies, and the provision of orthopaedic devices. 

Unfortunately, these vital services are not available in most public sector hospitals. Experts said the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) has taken the lead in this area by ensuring the presence of rehabilitative services at every district level public sector hospital and urged other provincial governments to follow KP’s example. 

Commenting on the importance of rehabilitative services, Javed Sheikh, CEO of HR consultancy e-square, spoke of the severe spinal cord injuries in 1995 that left him paralysed from the waist down. 

“After my injury, I went through 25 days of rehabilitation and occupational therapy which helped me to understand how to return to daily tasks at home and work. The therapy enabled me to return to living my life. Today, I continue to lead the company I founded in 2006, 11 years after my disability. I may be in a wheelchair but I can go wherever I please and I am independent.” 

Dr Wasay also mentioned the need for public awareness initiatives to help in the early detection and treatment of diseases such as stroke and diabetes that can cause disabilities. 

He explained that stroke could cause paralysis while diabetes can result in vision loss, renal issues and complications requiring amputation. 

Finally, speakers also stressed how professional bodies, the media and public sector stakeholders can play an important role in helping the disabled access higher education. Nasimuddin, an associate professor at the Government College for Women, Sharea Liaquat, who is legally blind, said: “There are many institutions devoted to supporting the education of those with special needs but they lack the funds and workforce to make a difference. Scholarships and reserved seats for the disabled can empower PWDs to achieve their potential.” 

“The government can also help by conducting a census of PWDs so that they can understand that there are many PWDs who are capable of excelling in school and in the workplace. In addition, we also need the electronic media to profile successful people with disabilities so that people believe that we can play a useful role in society.” 

Javed Sheikh also highlighted how support among one’s immediate family and colleagues plays an important role in adjusting to the new reality and in encouraging PWDs to take charge of their lives. 

“I was working as the regional sales manager of a large telecommunications company when my spinal cord injury meant that I had to use a wheelchair. I remember the CEO of the company sending me a letter assuring me that I was an integral part of the organisation. My colleagues and immediate family were also very encouraging in the early days. When you give people such a harmonious and encouraging environment it empowers them to take charge of their lives and overcome any obstacle.”  
Other speakers on the day included deaf businessman Khursheed Akhtar, the President of the Deaf and Dumb Association, Aamir Nizami, a patient with multiple scelerosis who manages a retail business, Mohsin Kaimkhani, Director, Revenue, of the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board, who is paralysed from the waist down, and Nazir-ul-Hasan who earns a living as a rickshaw driver despite limb disabilities caused by polio.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

SSUET to raise boxing team

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Besides some other sports, the Sir Syed University of Engineering & Technology (SSUET), Karachi, is now raising its boxing team.

According to the SSUET Director Sports, Mubbashir Mukhtar, the work has started on preparing the university's boxing team of eight to 10 members. 

So far, he said, 35 students got themselves registered for induction in the team. 

Mubbashir Mukhtar said that the trials for selection of team members have been conducted and required number of team members selected. 

He added that these selectees will undergo training for which a 10-day training camp, planned to be organized at some reputed martial art club in the city. 

The trials were conducted under the supervision of boxing coach Nasir Khaleeq and witnessed by the SSUET Registrar, Syed Sarfraz Ali. 

The university already has teams in cricket, hockey, football, volleyball, basketball, swimming, judo, taekawndo, table tennis, badminton and bodybuilding.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

US-based scientist honoured at SSUET

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Shaheer Khan, the US-based Muslim scientist and a senior Aligarhian, currently on a short visit to Pakistan, was the chief guest at a luncheon hosted by Prof Dr Jawaid H Rizvi, Vice-Chancellor Sir Syed University of Engineering and Technology (SSUET).

A senior staff scientist at Applied Biosystems (Thermo Fisher Scientific), San Francisco Bay Area Biotechnology, Shaheer Khan is an accomplished multidisciplinary scientist with 20 plus years of research and product development experience in Biotech Company. 

He has demonstrated strong synthetic and analytical chemistry background for discovery and development of new products in a multidisciplinary team environment and has an extensive background in organic chemistry with an emphasis on nucleosides/nucleotides and oligonucleotide. 

During an interaction with the luncheon participants Shaheer Khan praised the Aligarh Muslim University Old Boys Association (AMUOBA) for its efforts for the establishment of an engineering university after the name of great reformer and educationist Sir Syed Ahmed Khan. 

He praised the SSUET founders late Zakir Ali Khan and Z A Nizami who, he observed, steered the AMUOBA towards achievements of cherished objectives in the field of education, particularly engineering. 

Shaheer Khan spoke about the AMUOBA like associations elsewhere in the world and expressing his desire to establish associations on the pattern of the Association at Aligarh University and called upon the SSUET's passed out graduates and now living abroad to contact him for the very purpose. 

He informed that the preparations have started to celebrate the 200th birth anniversary of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan on October 17, 2017. 

As regards his association in US, he said that its functions are attended by people belonging to all religion as they don't allow any political and religious discussions from its forum. 

In his remarks on the occasion the Vice-Chancellor, Prof Dr Jawaid H. Rizvi welcomed Shaheer Khan to the SSUET describing him as a proud Aligarhian rendering most important services in the field of science and technology in the US.

He disclosed that during his meeting with him he discussed with him important matter like visiting fellowship, research collaboration, student guidance, post-graduation programme with faculty. 

The luncheon was attended, among others, by senior Aligarhians, Vice-President AMUOBA, Anwar Ali, General Secretary Arshad Khan, Dean, Associate Dean, Chairpersons of various departments and senior faculty members besides Registrar Syed Sarfraz Ali. 

Later the visiting scientist, accompanied by Anwar Ali and Arshad Khan visited the under-construction Sir Syed Tower at M.R. Kiyani Road opposite Arts Council of Pakistan. He praised the AMUOBA for its outstanding projects and said these projects would contribute greatly towards national development as a follow up of the mission of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

LUMS students learn about Railways operations

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

A six-member group of students of the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) visited the headquarters of the Pakistan Railways in Lahore to acquaint themselves with the infrastructure, operation and working of the railway system.

The group consisting of four girls and two boys, called on the Chief Personnel Officer, Shoaib Adil, at his office and had an in depth interaction with him about the railway affairs. 

The CPO briefed the visitors about the railway working in greater details and specially the efforts being made by the Railways Minister, Khawaja Saad Rafique, for the railway's turn around to make it Pakistan's prestigious organization. 

He explained to the students the railway's soaring revenue income, the addition of new locomotives and carriages and the working of different cadres of the railway staff besides other things. 

The LUMS students pitched a volley of searing questions especially about the steps taken for increasing the railway's revenues, the hiring system for the employees, the train operations, the safety and security measures for passengers. 

Shoaib Adil informed that since the present leadership took over, the efficiency of the railway staff has went up manifold which brought amazing changes in the organization leading to achievement of remarkable results. 

He said as of today any hiring is made on total merit and more focus is paid on their training particularly with regard to provision of travelling facilities, safety and security of travelers and related aspects.

Karachi Railways Division makes steep revenue gains

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Pakistan Railways has made great strides in its revenue earnings with Karachi railway division alone having achieved amazing targets with total revenue earnings rising from Rs 4172.468 million in 2011-12 to Rs 15,615.820 million in 2015-16.

The statistics showed that railways’ revenue earnings stood at Rs 2326.312 million in 1988-89 and soared to Rs 4726.668 million in 2012-13 but shot up to Rs 15,615.820 million in just 2 years 2014-16. 

"The earnings of the division stood at Rs 12,158 million in 2014-15 as against the target of Rs 9304.276 million and went up to Rs 15,615.820 million as against the target of Rs 12,732 million in 2015-16,”Engr Nisar Memon, the Divisional Superintendent Railways Karachi Division, informed in an interview. 

Giving head wise earning position, he revealed that from July 2016 to October 2016, the railway's passenger earnings touched a record Rs 2126.150 million as against the target of 1978.068 million and on the goods side it stood at Rs 3161.55 million as against the target of Rs 2941.462 million. 

According to him, the passenger earnings of Karachi Division stood at Rs 575.817 million in 1988-89 which entered into four figure when for the first time railway earned Rs 1064.570 million in 1995-96 and shot up to Rs 3102.947 million in 2012-13 after the present regime came into power registering a steep rise to Rs 4081.624 million in 2014-15 and a record Rs 5779.633 in 2015-16.

On the freight side, Nisar Memon stated that the earnings stood at Rs 1,610 .906 million in 1988-89 which soared to Rs 6391.714 million in 2013-14 and rose to a record Rs 9151.506 million in 2015-16 thus carrying the total earnings from both passenger and freight sides to Rs 15,615.820 million. 

He observed that these targets were achieved primarily because of the leadership provided by the Federal Railways Minister, Khawaja Saad Rafique who has made tremendous efforts to eradicate corruption from the organization which in the past badly devoured its resources. 

He remarked that the minister's appreciation of their performance had provided them a boost to their efforts to make Karachi Division the highest revenue earning Division of Pakistan. 

The minister, he said, has directed that the facilities being provided to traveling passengers be further improved and Karachi Railway Division is working on various projects in this regard. 

As a result of the efforts made the trains’ punctuality rate has increased to over 80 percent for Down trains and almost 100 percent for upcountry trains.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Sindh CM highlights importance of a broad-based, multidisciplinary education

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Chief Minister of Sindh, Syed Murad Ali Shah, in his address to Aga Khan University’s 29th convocation, highlighted the importance of a broad-based, multidisciplinary education in tackling the country’s problems.

“We need natural scientists and social scientists, writers and artists, entrepreneurs and public policy experts who can work across boundaries of all kind in order to start and lead progress in wide range of fields,” he observed while speaking to the university’s 383 graduands. 

While praising the AKU’s plans to invest in a new Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) in Karachi, he spoke of the social contribution that a liberal arts education can make. 

“The FAS will fill a deep need within Pakistan for universities that create leaders who possess the critical thinking, creativity and problem solving skills, an inquiring mind, breadth of knowledge and respect for all people needed to tackle the most complex challenges the country face. This is the mission of the FAS and the government of Sindh encourages the AKU to make this a reality,” he declared. 

The Chief Minister, who is himself a qualified civil engineer, also spoke of the ‘unyielding power of their education to impact humanity and urged graduands to use their skills to address the many issues in Pakistani society. “Be conscious of that power and use it to give the best to humanity,” he added. 

Firoz Rasul, President, AKU, in his welcome address spoke about how we, as human beings, seek a higher purpose, a challenge that brings meaning to our lives, and that leaves a mark on the lives of others. He mentioned that one great challenge is the Sustainable Development Goals that 193 countries, including Pakistan, have committed to by 2030.

“If Pakistan were to meet them, it would be a country transformed,a place where no child suffers from hunger, every boy and girl is taught by well-qualified teachers, and all people have access to high-quality healthcare. At AKU, we are working to make that vision a reality, as an educator of leaders, a source of research that generates solutions to critical challenges and a provider of life-saving health care,” he stated. 

He went on to say how students can use the knowledge and skills they have developed at AKU to make an extraordinary difference, to “work on behalf of a great cause, to seek to do what has never been done is an experience as thrilling and inspiring as any you will ever know.” 

“There is no greater reward than the knowledge that your efforts have deeply and positively impacted the lives of a great many people. The chance to experience that knowledge for yourself is an opportunity indeed one I urge you not to miss,” the AKU President reckoned. 

The School of Nursing and Midwifery, celebrating its 35th anniversary this year, saw 176 nurses graduate, 163 with undergraduate and 13 with graduate degrees. After today’s convocation, the School has almost 4,000 diploma and degree graduates in Pakistan. 

The Medical College awarded 1 PhD in the health sciences, 34 master’s, 95 undergraduate degrees and 19 advanced diplomas (16 in human development, 3 in health professions education) as well as 10 diplomas in dental hygiene. In education, 1 PhD and 37 Master of Education degrees were conferred and 10 Master of Arts in Muslim Cultures to students from the University’s Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations. 

In his valedictorian speech, Sheraz Hussain, an MBBS graduate, said: “AKU’s student body is like a multicultural family. Everyone knows everyone else. We find strength in our diversity. There is one thing I would urge all my fellow graduates to do, once you’re ‘established’ do come back to serve the people who need you. I will end with three golden words, which have been my guiding principle since high school: Perseverance commands success!” 

Aziza Jaffer Ali received the 2016 Best Graduate Award from the School of Nursing and Midwifery. She was also presented with the Nursing Practice Award given to the student as the clinical and community practice reflects a client-centered approach, distinctive critical thinking, problem solving abilities and ethical decision making. 

The Medical College’s 2016 Best Graduate Award was presented to Dr Saneeha Shahid, for the highest aggregate score in the certifying examinations through the five-year MBBS degree programme.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

AKUH gets advanced laser technology for vision-correcting surgeries

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH), Karachi, has launched an advanced refractive surgery suite equipped with the latest laser technology for vision-correcting surgeries. The suite will enable eye specialists at the Hospital to customise treatment to each patient’s needs with improved performance in terms of precision, safety, comfort and recovery.

“A refractive surgery is a procedure that corrects common vision problems to reduce or stop a person’s dependence on eyeglasses or contact lenses,” Dr Irfan Jeeva, Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology and Service Line Chief of Ophthalmology and Otolaryngology, AKUH, observed at the inauguration of the facility. 

He described the most common vision problems as nearsightedness or myopia where distant images seem blurry, farsightedness or hyperopia where near images seem blurry, and astigmatism where close-up as well as distant images seem blurry. 

There are several types of refractive surgery and only a qualified eye specialist can advise what is suitable after evaluating and briefing a patient on advantages and anticipated side effects, if any. A laser procedure called LASIK is the most popular refractive surgery to correct refractive errors caused by irregularities in the shape of the cornea. 

“The first thing we check is the evaluation if a person is a good candidate for LASIK. Then we provide a consultation to help patients fully understand what improvements they can expect based on age, vision and lifestyle requirements. Patients who are not suitable candidates for LASIK would then be offered alternative solutions,” Dr Jeeva said. 

Dr Sharmeen Akram, Assistant Professor and Section Head of Ophthalmology, Department of Surgery, AKU, explained that all vision-correcting laser surgeries worked by reshaping the cornea, improving the eye’s ability to focus. 

“The laser portion of the treatment takes less than a minute and does not cause any pain. A person will usually be able to see well enough to drive on the day after the procedure,” he noted. 

“We at AKUH continuously seek innovative solutions that can solve local healthcare problems and also keep our institution current with advances in the industry. The new Refractive Laser Suite can help patients achieve the best vision,” Hans Kedzierski, CEO, AKUH, reckoned. 

“On top of that I would like to mention that our ophthalmologists will use protocols as per the best international practices. Training has been done accordingly and the protocols will be available on the Hospital website to support our patients,” he added. 

The AKU President, Firoz Rasul, thanked Bashir Dawood for generously gifting the suite. The facility was inaugurated by AKU President along with the donor, CEO Hans Kedzierski and ophthalmology faculty Drs Irfan Jeeva, Sharmeen Akram, Tanveer Chaudhry, Burq Maqsood and others. 

Ophthalmology or eye services at AKUH include assessment, diagnosis and treatment of a range of vision and eye conditions in both adults and children.