Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Rampant corruption mars KW&SB

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi 
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Corruption and mismanagement at the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KW&SB) seem to have become so rampant and the menace was only to grow further to the extent of being irreversible if most drastic action was not initiated to overcome it. 

The situation in this public utility organization is reported to have reached its present stage due to malpractices carried out at the behest of the various political parties who desired to have their maximum possible control at this organization as they considered it a goose delivering golden eggs. 

A number of official documents containing disgusting material verified the growing concerns about the ruining of this particular organization which enjoyed good reputation in the past in the absence of political interventions. 

One of documents showed the name of one Aijaz Kazmi, a Superintending Engineer (BS-19), in his last quarter of service, getting himself posted in BS-20 as Deputy MD Planning on OPS basis in gross violation of order of Supreme Court and is maneuvering to get himself promoted to BS 20. 

According to the documents, next to him ready to join the cruise and ride on the BS-20 slots, were Mohammed Saqib and Shoaib Tughlaq, both enjoying BS-20 OPS as DMD and Secretary KWSB, against the orders of the Supreme Court. They were believed to have made their way from low clerical ranks and through out of turn promotions. 

They were shown in lower cadre rank until 2006-07 when more than 100 tax officers (BS-17) in the 1987 to 1094 had 15 to 20 years of service. Shoaib and Tughlaq, with some other clerks, jumped to grade BS-18 in Accounted and Administration, allegedly by tempering the records. 

Shakil Qureshi, Tariq Latif, Ayub Shaikh, Hashim Abbas, Khurram Shahzad, thought to be enjoying blessings of a political party, have reportedly extended total support for Aijaz Kazmi. They were also believed to be supported MD Asadullah and Prof Sarosh Lodhi, Vice Chancellor of NED University, who is also a member of KWSB. The Board’s HR Committee headed by Abdul Kabir Kazi and the Managing Director was also toeing similar line in promotion proposal. 

The documents revealed that Aijaz Kazmi and some others were facing enquiry on the order of Chief Minister, having been charge sheeted by the Chief Secretary for causing loss of billions of rupees to exchequer. The projects of K4, S3, Dhabeji Pumping, 35 MW Power Generation, Rehabilitation of Filter Plants and 100 MGD and 65 MGD projects have either failed or left incomplete, causing grave losses of government funds, due to the rampant corruption culture at the KW&SB. 

Meanwhile The Chief Secretary Sindh has submitted lists under enquiry officers in the High Court on court direction, advising that these officers could not be be considered for promotion. A notification issued by the Local Government has also reasserted that officers will not be considered for potion until cleared/exonerated from enquiries.

Educators advocate for teaching license in Pakistan

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi 
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The participants at a policy dialogue organized by the Aga Khan University Institute for Educational Development advocated for a teaching license can help certify that a teacher has the skills and knowledge needed for effective classroom practice.

The dialogue aimed to raise awareness, gather evidence and make technical recommendations on the possibility of introducing a teaching license in Pakistan. Such a certification can serve to enhance teaching quality and, subsequently, students’ learning. 

A teaching license can also raise the professional status of teachers and open new employment opportunities for them locally as well as abroad. 

One of the keynote speakers, Dr Linda Darling-Hammond, professor emeritus of education at Stanford University, drew upon the history of the medical profession to highlight the long struggle that it underwent before it arrived at its current state. Likewise, she felt that teacher education would undergo the same struggle. 

“Licensure will benefit teachers as well as teacher education institutions to improve quality. Teacher licensing is desirable in Pakistan to improve teaching standards. However, we need to be mindful of the political economy of teaching licenses. The schools of education at universities need to make concerted effort in this regard,” Dr Irfan Muzaffar, technical director at Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Education Support Programme, the other keynote speaker at the dialogue, reckoned. 

The dismal learning outcomes of Pakistani students are visible in the assessments conducted by many local and global agencies. The government’s NEAS, National Education Assessment System, the citizen-led ASER Annual Status of Education Report and the international TIMSS, Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study show how weak students’ learning outcomes really are in Pakistan. 

The experts felt that students will benefit more from better teachers who have undergone relevant and credible professional development. “A good teacher is like a good doctor. A bad doctor despite having access to a well-equipped clinic and medicines cannot treat a patient adequately. Similarly, a bad teacher despite having an excellent curriculum or assessment system cannot transform students into successful learners,” Dr Sajid Ali, an associate professor and director of research and publications at IED, pointed out. 

The deliberations at the event led to participants recommending the introduction of teaching licenses, which can enhance the government’s efforts to improve the standards of teaching and overall teacher management system. They also touched upon various technical, political and economic questions that need to be resolved as efforts progress towards a licensing policy. 

The dialogue team aims to produce a White Paper on teacher licensing, from the proceedings, that will contain the literature review, the outcomes of dialogue, findings of survey and policy recommendations for introducing teaching license in Pakistan. It will also contain the key pressure points and their possible resolution. The White Paper will be useful for legislators to move forward towards teaching license policy. It will also serve as a resource for a continuing dialogue amongst educationists, policy makers, educational managers, legislators, parents, schools, teachers and other stakeholders from across Pakistan to assess its feasibility in Pakistan. 

In the past, various efforts have been made to introduce teacher licensing under the banner of various education development projects. This White Paper effort is spearheaded by AKU-IED without any project support and is based on a systematic process that includes a thorough situation analysis, global comparisons and national consultations. The dialogue was preceded by a series of seminars with international speakers and will continue post-event to determine the feasibility and next steps for teacher licensing in Pakistan.

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Lions Club launch Azra Qureshi’s travelogue

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi 
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Azra Qureshi’s travelogue titled ‘Barah-e-Safar’ was launched in a simple but graceful ceremony, under the auspices of Karachi New Sunrise Lions Club, at the Usmania Restaurant, housed in Gulshan-e-Iqbal, on November 27. 

Wazir Hussain Sahito, District Governor (South), Lions Club International, presided over the ceremony which was also attended by one of its Past District Governors, Zafar Iqbal. A large contingent of the Karachi New Sunrise Lions Club members was present on the occasion. 

Both DG Wazir Sahito and PDG Zafar Iqbal, in their speeches on the occasion, showered Azra Qureshi with praise for having penned the stories of her various trips, many of whom were related to the events of the Lions Club. 

The ceremony was moderated in typically lively manner by Syed Ahmed Naqvi, a veteran library professional, who had worked with the author at the Aga Khan University for a number of years. 

Syed Khalid Mahmood, a known library activist besides being a leading media personality, in his brief speech, praised Azra Qureshi for having authored the travelogue and suggested to her to produce its second part too. He complimented the Lions Club leaders for supporting the book culture and urged them to keep doing it for the sake of the society. 

Azra Qureshi, acclaimed as one of the seasoned medical librarians of the country, graciously acknowledged the pivotal role of Prof Dr Nasim Fatima for having motivated and encouraged her to write the travelogue which was published by the Library Promotion Bureau (LPB) under her own guidance.

Indus River threatened by climate change

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi 
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Pakistan is fifth on a list of all countries most vulnerable to climate change and rising temperatures are already affecting the Indus River, a lifeline for people across the country, mapped in a moving film Vanishing Wetlands. 

The Indus River is one of the world’s longest rivers. It flows through parts of China and India, and runs through Pakistan sustaining the livelihoods of millions of people. 

The combined effects of growing pollution, the building of dams, and the permanent melting of glaciers, which provide up to 80 percent of the river’s water during the dry season, are all having an unprecedented impact on the region’s environment, health and quality of life. 

In Vanishing Wetlands, Pakistani filmmaker Abdullah Khan tells the story of farmers dependent on the river and the age-old fishing community, the Mohanas, whose very existence on Lake Manchar is threatened. Along the way, the film profiles the stunning central Indus wetland complex which supports seasonal bird flyways and rare crocodiles and deer species.

“The drastic decrease in visiting migratory birds, the loss of 90 per cent of the hog deer population, almost complete wipe out of mugger crocodiles and threats to the Indus River wetlands is an eye-opener. Equally depressing is to witness the loss of age-old cultures and communities struggling for livelihood,” Abdullah remarked. 

Wetlands is part of Voices from the Roof of the World, a series of 10 environmental documentaries, produced by filmmakers from Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and India under a joint initiative by Aga Khan University, Aga Khan Agency for Habitat, Aga Khan Foundation and University of Central Asia. 

The series focuses on the climate crisis in the earth’s highest mountain region from the Pamirs to the Himalayan mountains. Home to 240 million people and countless rare and endangered species, these mountains are also the largest depository of ice outside the polar ice caps, providing water to a quarter of the world's population. 

“With VRW support and tutelage, these filmmakers have captured poignant personal stories of people and cultures threatened by both deluges and desiccation of their environment. They have ventured downstream to document how the melting of the Himalayan glaciers will affect 1.5 billion people living in the threatened fishing and farming communities of South and Central Asia. Others will show how deforestation, air pollution and killer heat waves will make the world’s most densely packed cities unlivable,” Andrew Tkach, Executive Producer of the series, stated. 

“There are many culprits to share the blame for the predicament humanity finds itself in, but with every target we miss to control CO2 emissions, we are squarely painting a target on our own back. It is time to show that even in a world beset by intractable conflicts and it is possible to work across borders and social strata to save our common home. People living in some of the world’s most extreme conditions are fighting this battle every day, it is time we listen and learn from them,” he stressed. 

The VRW series, which will run for at least two seasons, seeks to amplify the voices of those who have borne the greatest burden of climate change.

Friday, November 26, 2021

SIUT adopts robotic surgical facilities

By Iqbal Jamil 
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Acquisition of two robotic surgical units at the Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation (SIUT) has been described as a major breakthrough on the country's scene of surgical sciences.

The introduction of units is a part of the institute’s efforts to provide state of the art facilities to its patients. The introduction the programme of a robotic surgery in a public sector hospital and that too free of cost is also termed as a major milestone as the treatment is free of cost with follow up facilities. 

The SIUT offers all its medical services to its patients free of cost without any discrimination of cast, color, creed and religious beliefs as a part of its laid down policy. 

The medical sources regard robotic surgery as the one of next generation in the field of surgical sciences. The surgical procedure performed under this technology is less painful and it causes lower loss of blood besides faster recovery for patients. The patients in most of such cases could be discharged in a very short time. 

The robotic platforms allow surgeons to perform complicated procedures with greater precision. During first few robotic surgeries, which were performed in recent days, it brought stellar results and now procedure is taking place on daily basis. 

The journey of using robotic surgery had initially started in 2017 when the SIUT did it with the collaboration of Civil Hospital, Karachi. However, with the arrival of two units it is expected that this facility would enable the surgeons of the institute to perform surgical procedure on a larger scale covering a wide range of ailments. 

The Versius Robotic System developed by the Cambridge Medical Robotics has been introduced and commonly used in medical centres across Europe, South America, India and the Middle East. Plans are also underway to set up a regional surgical training programme in order to train the upcoming generation of surgeons to acquire the state of the art surgical skills.

Thursday, November 25, 2021

NLA offered to hold events at National College

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Government National College, which happens to be one of biggest colleges of Karachi being run under one roof, with all the three faculties of science, arts and commerce up to degree level being affiliated with the University of Karachi, has offered the National Library Association (NLA) to hold some of their events in future. 

The offer was made when a two-member delegation of the NLA, comprising of its President, Syed Muzaffar Ali Shah, and Secretary, Anwar Hussain, called on the Principal of the Government National College (Evening), Prof Syed Uzair Ahmed Madni, on November 25. 

The college, having fully equipped laboratories, well-furnished classrooms and an independent library containing several hundred books of various disciplines, has been promoting extracurricular activities as well besides providing quality education to its students. 

The NLA top officials were highly impressed by the proactive approach of the college Principal, Prof Uzair Madni, who has plans to add more departments at their institution including the one for Library and Information Science. 

“Prof Uzair Madni, who is also a noted poet, writer and broadcaster, is quite eager to have more academic and extracurricular activities for the students and scholars at their college which is very gladdening and another testimonial of his positive outlook,” Anwar Hussain, Secretary, NLA, complimented.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

NLA delegation praises Bahria University’s Central Library

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi 
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The delegation of the National Library Association (NLA), which visited the Karachi campus of Bahria University, located on Stadium Road, commended the facilities being provided to their students at the Central Library.

“The presence of hundreds of students inside the library premises, actively engaged in scholastic activities, is a sight to behold. These young scholars are availing the opportunity of enhancing their skills and preparing for a better tomorrow for themselves and the nation as a whole,” the NLA President, Syed Muzaffar Ali Shah, who was leading the delegation on November 24, observed on the occasion. 

The NLA Advisor, Syed Khalid Mahmood, a renowned media personality besides being a library activist, also lavishly praised the set-up of Central Library and he complimented the management and administration of the Bahria University for facilitating their students in such elegant environment. 

The NLA Secretary, Anwar Hussain, expressed similar sentiments and he urged academic and other institutions to take the cue from Bahria University and mobilize their resources in creating the same sort of atmosphere at their libraries. 

The NLA office-bearers also held a meeting with the university’s librarian, Farhat Jabeen, in which matters relating to the future programmes of the Association and the engagement of youth in book fairs and other events were discussed at length. 

The NLA volunteered to support the upcoming annual book fair at the Bahria University, planned to be held next month, by promoting the event among the librarians community to make it more successful than ever before.