Saturday, December 23, 2017

Policy planners receive immunization financing training

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Immunization programme managers, health policy planners and private sector officials from Pakistan and Afghanistan attended a four-day skill-building workshop at Aga Khan University on the planning of financially sustainable national vaccination programmes.

Pakistan and Afghanistan rely on the financial support of the Global Alliance for Vaccines (GAVI) for their nationwide routine immunization programmes. 

From 2020, Pakistan will need to take on greater responsibility for financing the provision of these life-saving vaccines as GAVI phases of support in order to focus on the needs of the world’s poorest countries. 

Pakistan is currently in the preparatory transition phase and this shift requires the country’s health planners to develop the advanced skills needed to move towards self-sufficiency. 

“We’ve applied economic concepts and used real-life case studies from around the world to share practical lessons on how to plan a sustainable response to forthcoming financing challenges. Interestingly, we have kept a mix of public and private sector trainees so that we can develop a network of knowledgeable resource people who can collectively respond through pooling expertise and blended financing,” Dr Shehla Zaidi, regional trainer and an associate professor in Community Health Sciences and the Department of Women and Child Health at AKU, remarked. 

The Sindh Health Secretary Fazlullah Pechuho said: “Donor commitment for vaccines is declining and we have to make arrangements to fill this gap when the GAVI and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation support disappears. There should be arrangements for the local production of vaccines as this will help improve the financial sustainability of programmes.” 

The workshop was the first of three such capacity building workshops funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on vaccine economics and financing. 

During the workshop faculty from the Aga Khan University, Johns Hopkins University and senior figures from the World Health Organization (WHO), provided training sessions to immunization sector stakeholders. 

Speaking about the goals of the workshop, WHO’s Representative to Pakistan Dr Mohammad Assai said: “Vaccines save over 2 million lives a year and represent one of the most cost-effective ways to protect children and adults from disease. By addressing critical gaps in the financial planning and management of immunization programmes, these workshops will ensure that vital health programmes can manage forthcoming challenges. They will also make sure that decisions to introduce new vaccines are based on sound evidence.” 

The workshop ended with a panel discussion featuring a mix of public and private sector representatives from Pakistan and Afghanistan, moderated by literary critic and former public health specialist Asif Farrukhi, and chaired by Sindh Health Secretary Fazlullah Pechuho. 

The sessions under the workshop represent the university’s efforts to support Goal 3 of the Sustainable Development Goals which call for countries around the world to ensure the availability of safe, effective, quality and affordable vaccinations for all.

Policy experts recommend steps to help Pakistan excel in science education

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The persistence of outdated teaching methods in science in Pakistan’s classrooms, coupled with a lack of emphasis on developing qualified science teachers, is holding back the country’s potential to excel in science and technology, according to public and private sector experts speaking at a policy dialogue at the Aga Khan University’s Institute for Educational Development.

The policy dialogue brought together a panel of experts from Alif Ailaan, the Sindh Curriculum Bureau, the Institute of Business Administration as well as science teachers from schools and universities to discuss how to transform education practices so that today’s students can become tomorrow’s innovators.

“Innovation in science and technology begins by inspiring students about the possibilities of science. Too many classrooms across the country have teachers using rote learning methods that fail to involve students and limit their ability to apply their knowledge to the world around them,” Professor Nelofer Halai from the Institute of Educational Development observed. 

On the reasons why rote learning methods remain prevalent in schools, experts noted that there are serious gaps in the content knowledge of teachers at all levels of the education system. 

The specialist teachers for science are only present at college level; even though all students from primary to secondary to higher education should have access to knowledgeable, trained teachers. 

Since many of today’s teachers lack confidence in their understanding of the subject, they focus on telling students how to pass exams instead of teaching them how to think for themselves, the panel noted.

The experts recommended that teaching training programmes for science teachers should inquiry-based teaching methods that require students to pose questions and to develop their own processes to arrive at answers. 

To this end, Professor Halai noted that science teachers would need formal mentoring programmes to help them introduce such techniques into lesson plans and called for the induction of science teacher educators in colleges across the country. 

“Science education of the future needs to accommodate the changing views of science as well as the changing views of effective professional development to make real headway in developing science literacy in Pakistan,” Professor Halai added. 

Speaking at the event, Salman Naveed Khan, head of policy and political engagement at Alif Ailaan, said: “Subjects such as science and mathematics can be inspirational when taught well. Our studies have shown that Pakistani students consistently score the lowest in mathematics and science even though these subjects are key drivers of a country’s economic growth. We need to act now to ensure that Pakistan’s large and growing youth population is inspired by the potential of science and can contribute to the country’s prosperity.” 

The panelists also stated that the world’s most prosperous societies are distinguished by their ability to generate knowledge that helps them tackle the challenges posed by poverty, hunger, pollution and inequality. 

This ability to generate knowledge by asking questions and approaching problems in new, imaginative ways relies on a scientific mindset being inculcated at the primary, secondary and higher education levels. 

The other speakers at the event included Dr Shehzad Jeeva, director of the Aga Khan University Examination Board, Mr Noor Khoso, deputy director of the Sindh Curriculum Bureau, and Dr Irfan Rind, head of the department of education at IBA, Sukkur. 

The event’s objectives are in line with goal 4 of the Sustainable Development Goals: ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning. Targets under the goal call for steps to widen access to education and to ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Rotary sets up polio immunization post in AJK

Pakistan News & Features Services

Rotary International’s Pakistan National Polio Plus Committee, ably led by the versatile Aziz Memon, has intensified its efforts to eradicate polio and recently it has provided a couple of Permanent Transit Post (PTP) shelters upon the request of NEOC Islamabad to install at Kohala Check Post and Neelum Valley in Azad Jammu Kashmir (AJK).

This is the maiden effort of its kind undertaken by the National Chair, Aziz Memon, and his team in the AJK. 

These two shelters were made up 20 feet long re fabricated containers to save polio workers from hard cold and rainy weather of Kashmir. 

The health department of the AJK had arranged the inauguration ceremony of a PTP shelter placed at Kohala check post which is located on river Neelum Bridge along with police check post. 

The local police was facilitating polio vaccinators at the post and ensuring to stop each vehicle till vaccination was completed.

A team of 14 polio vaccinators was working at this check post and average coverage is 350 children per day. 

The inauguration ceremony was attended by the functionaries of the World Health Organization (WHO), the local health department and the Rotary’s National Polio Plus Committee. 

The National Chair, Aziz Memon, inspected the re-fabricated shelter followed by visiting Police check post where he met with polio vaccinators and police officials.

He appreciated the best vaccination arrangements at the PTP and the role of polio workers to fight against polio.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Aga Khan inaugurates state-of-the-art healthcare education centre in Karachi

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Aga Khan University’s Centre for Innovation in Medical Education (CIME), a state-of-the-art facility for technology-based learning for health professionals, was inaugurated today by His Highness the Aga Khan, Chancellor of AKU.

In his inaugural address, His Highness the Aga Khan acknowledged the many contributions made towards the advancement of healthcare in the country stating that civil society was underserved in education in Pakistan. Expressing his gratitude to all those who had sustained the University, he said: “We should position this institution in its correct place in service to Pakistan.” 

The CIME’s mission is to transform the education of health professionals through the use of simulation and virtual reality technology to develop knowledge and skills before treating patients. 

“The Centre aims to raise the bar for teaching and learning and to thereby deliver higher standards of practice across the professions of medicine, nursing and allied health,” the CIME Director, Dr Charles Docherty, announced.

“We seek to become a strategic asset for Pakistan and the region that is at the forefront of efforts to raise the standard of healthcare,” he declared.

The 80,000-square foot, Rs. 1.6 billion ($15 million), donor-funded Centre comprises three buildings, the Mariyam Bashir Dawood Building, the Ibn Sina Building and the Shiraz Boghani Building. 

The Centre offers multi-purpose teaching spaces, high-fidelity simulators, and specialty environments such as the phantom-head dental lab, a cardiac catheterisation lab and telemedicine clinics. 

Learning from other such centres around the world, CIME supports student-centred problem-based and team-based learning. Students and professionals from different disciplines work together on real-life patient simulations. 

For example, nurses and doctors can practice responding to a situation in which a patient stops breathing, using a high-tech mannequin that responds as a real patient would respond. Afterwards, they can watch a video of themselves and analyse their performance. 

“Using the latest technology in simulation, whilst being guided by our faculty, makes for a more effective learning environment for students, by converting high-risk, high-reward scenarios into zero-risk, high-reward scenarios,” Ibrahim Habib, a third-year medical student at AKU, remarked. 

High-speed communications technology allows video connectivity throughout CIME and with international experts, offering a truly ‘global classroom’, with students able to learn from specialists anywhere in the world in real-time. 

This same connectivity allows CIME to work with remote and rural populations within Pakistan and neighbouring countries to expand access to quality healthcare.

“In everything we do, as our Chancellor says, ‘we must look to the future, seeking always to think creatively, to innovate and to improve,” the AKU President Firoz Rasul, stated. 

“Technology-enabled learning has the potential to transform how we prepare students and professionals to face society’s most pressing issues. By giving today’s health professionals the most advanced facilities to work and learn together at CIME, we give them the best chance of becoming leaders capable of solving tomorrow’s healthcare challenges,” he added. 

“AKU has been the recipient of significant philanthropic support. That support has enabled us to launch important new ventures, build new facilities and achieve ever-higher standards. We are very grateful to our donors for their extraordinary generosity,” the AKU President acknowledged. 

His Highness the Aga Khan laid the foundation stone for the three buildings of CIME during his previous visit to Pakistan in 2013. 

The inauguration of the facility on Friday was part of the Aga Khan’s state visit to Pakistan on the occasion of his Diamond Jubilee: the 60th anniversary of his accession as the spiritual leader of the Shia Ismaili community in 1957.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Aziz Memon shares Karachi Gymkhana history with RI President

Pakistan News & Features Services

The President of Rotary International (RI), Ian Riseley, undertook a historic tour of Pakistan recently during which he held a number of high profile meetings including those with the Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and the Governor of Sindh, Mohammad Zubair.

“I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Pakistan this past week. Pakistan is one of only three countries in the world with ongoing wild poliovirus transmission, alongside Afghanistan and Nigeria. It's critical that we continue our efforts to end polio so that no child is ever inflicted with this terrible disease,” the RI President observed. 

He highly appreciated the tremendous progress made by Pakistan Polio Programme by saying that “scientifically driven decision making with robust management and accountability mechanism shows that Pakistan is well on course to polio eradication and Rotary will extend continued support till the end of this mission. Together we will be able to make it across the finish line.” 

While he attended numerous meetings and sessions round the clock during what indeed turned out to be a whirlwind tour of Pakistan one piece of history which is likely to live longer in his memory related to the historic Karachi Gymkhana. 

The RI President 2017-2018, hailing from Victoria, Australia, was briefed about the history of the Karachi Gymkhana Cricket Ground by Aziz Memon, Chairman, Pakistan Polio Plus Committee, and a former Rotary Governor.

Both the Rotary leaders, sharing the common passion for cricket, were found engaged in a serious conversation about cricket, as the visiting RI President was informed by Aziz Memon about the memorable match staged at the ground, where they were standing, which paved the way for Pakistan becoming a Test playing nation. 

Belonging to Rotary Club of Sandringham, the RI President is a chartered accountant and principal of Ian Riseley and Co., a firm he established in 1976. Prior to starting his own firm, Risely had worked in the audit and management consulting divisions of large accounting firms and corporations. 

His firm specializes in income tax and management advice for individuals and small businesses. He has a master’s degree in taxation law and graduate diplomas in accounting and income tax. 

Riseley’s honours include the AusAID Peacebuilder Award from the Australian government in recognition of his work in East Timor, the Medal of the Order of Australia for services to the Australian community, the Distinguished Service Award and the Regional Service Award for a Polio-Free World from The Rotary Foundation.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Comprehensive medical atlas launched

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The faculty at Aga Khan University has launched a comprehensive medical atlas aimed at improving the diagnosis and treatment of fungal infections which are becoming a growing public health concern in Pakistan.

The new book Practical Guide and Atlas of the Diagnosis of Fungal Infections was launched at the 1st International Collaborative Mycology (ICM) Conference, jointly organized by the global research and advocacy body, Global Action Fund for Fungal Infections (GAFFI), the Medical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases Society of Pakistan and AKU. 

The skin specialists from around Pakistan told the conference that common fungal infections affecting the skin are now the leading cause of patients visiting skin clinics and hospitals. 

Despite the prevalence of such infections and the fact that 3.2 million Pakistanis are living with infections such as keratitis, which can cause blindness, and the life-threatening Candida auris infection, researchers noted that there is no specific national policy on fungal disease. 

“Fungal disease is an area almost forgotten by public health professionals and policymakers. Since treatment options for these diseases are already limited this policy oversight has dangerous implications. Fungal infections also represent a growing threat to the livelihood of our animals and plants which harms the country’s food security and biodiversity,” Dr Kausar Jabeen, associate professor in the department of pathology and laboratory medicine at AKU and chair of the conference, remarked.

The speakers at the book launch ceremony on the first day of the conference mentioned how the book contains high resolution microscopic images of over 20 types of fungal infections caused by more than 60 fungal species that have been reported at the country’s healthcare institutions. 

Compiled over a period of 6 years and through a series of eight intensive workshops, the publication also contains detailed instructions to guide medical professionals and students in diagnosing these infections, they added. 

The sessions at the conference also focused on the key concern of growing fungal resistance to medications which were narrowing treatment options and leaving patients little choice beyond very expensive drugs. 

Commenting on the challenges in treating by a serious fungal infection, Candida auris, which can trigger sepsis, a deadly illness that causes inflammation throughout the body, the speakers noted that poor availability of medicines was leading to delays in treatment. Even when medicines were present, the prohibitive cost of using second-line drugs, which can cost around Rs 13,000 per day, limited the availability of treatment, the experts added. 

Speaking in a global context, Professor David Denning, President of GAFFI, stated that fungal infections claim 1.6 million lives around the world every year: a death toll that exceeds malaria and is equivalent to the lives lost to tuberculosis. Similarly, fungi and fungi-like micro-organisms, oomycetes, commonly known as water mould, destroy a third of all food crops around the world which would have fed 600 million people. 

“The World Health Organization has no funded programmes specifically targeting fungal diseases, fewer than 10 countries have national surveillance programs for fungal infections, and fewer than 20 have fungal reference diagnostic laboratories. Many of the diagnostic tests that do exist are not available in developing countries, and well-established antifungal drugs that would cure disease are not reaching people that need them,” Professor Denning added. 

The experts from various disciplines of medicine, veterinary medicine, agriculture, food and pharmaceutical industry were present at the two-day event. The conference was followed by a day of workshops at AKU’s Centre for Innovation in Medical Education. 

The conference’s objectives to improve the diagnosis and treatment of fungal infections are in line with global efforts to achieve infectious disease targets under goal 3 of the Sustainable Development Goals: ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. 

The new book Practical Guide and Atlas of the Diagnosis of Fungal Infections has been edited by Professor Afia Zafar alongside co-editors Dr Kausar Jabeen and Dr Joveria Farooqi.

AKU graduates urged to seize opportunities to innovate

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

In his address to Aga Khan University’s 2017 convocation, chief guest Sindh Governor, Mohammad Zubair, extended his personal congratulations to the 360-strong graduating class.

He praised parents and faculty for their contribution in the graduands’ achievements calling them “great players” in building the character and future prospects of today’s students. 

In his welcome address, the AKU President, Firoz Rasul, recognized the determination, passion and talent of the students as he urged them to remember the importance of innovation in overcoming tomorrow’s challenges. 

He highlighted how an innovative mindset required a willingness to explore new perspectives and to engage with others to find alternative ways to solve problems. 

“The innovator is above all a seeker. She feels in her bones that there is another and better way. But she also knows she does not possess all the answers. So she is driven to search for knowledge, to question the prevailing wisdom, to explore the world with her eyes wide open.”

In the quest for knowledge, there is no greater resource available than a mindset that values pluralism and diversity, which enables one to pool together the benefits of different traditions, novel perspectives and undervalued opinions to deliver meaningful innovations, the AKU President added. 

The convocation was an especially memorable day for MBBS student Atiya Hameedullah as she joined her father in becoming alumni from the University. Atiya’s father, Dr Hameed Ullah completed his residency in anaesthesiology from AKU in 1996. 

Speaking on the day, Atiya said: “It is such an honor to be graduating from AKU today, 26 years after both my parents graduated as doctors. Words cannot do justice to the sacrifices they have made to get me to where I stand today so I shall just say this: ‘Ammi and Abbi, this one’s for you. Thank you.” 

Another proud parent, Kashif Malik, a gastroenterologist at Shaikh Zayed Hospital, Lahore, was delighted to see his daughter, Ramsha Kashif, an MBBS graduate, follow in his footsteps by becoming a doctor. 

A delighted Ramsha said: “My father has made such a tremendous effort to support me through these five wonderful years at AKU. His dedication to patients was my key inspiration to begin this journey and I really hope that one day I am able to give this profession the same level of commitment that he does.” 

The Convocation 2017 saw the School of Nursing and Midwifery graduate 129 nurses, 118 with undergraduate and 11 with graduate degrees. The Medical College awarded 40 masters and 91 bachelor’s degrees, as well as three advanced diplomas and 11 diplomas in dental hygiene. 

The AKU also awarded 37 master’s degrees in education and 12 Master of Arts in Muslim Cultures. The Medical College’s 2017 Best Graduate Award was presented to Dr Mujtaba Mubashir who achieved the highest aggregate score in the certifying examinations through the five-year programme leading to the MBBS degree. 

Dr Mubashir also received the Medical College’s Gold Medal, only the 9th to be awarded to a student who achieves the top scores in at least three of the four certifying examinations, including the final examination. 

Amyna Ismail received the 2017 Best Graduate Award from the School of Nursing and Midwifery. This award is presented to the student who achieves the highest CGPA among the graduating classes in the BScN and Post-RN BScN programmes and who is also selected for the Nursing Practice Award. 

The Nursing Practice Award is given to the graduating student whose clinical and community practice reflected a client-centered approach, distinctive critical thinking, problem solving abilities and ethical decision making.

Monday, November 20, 2017

National Health Vision 2016-2025 discussed at AKU conference

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The worsening of key indicators related to female health, education and social development is a key issue holding back Pakistan’s ability to meet global targets under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), according to experts.

Pakistan has incorporated 169 targets under the SDGs into long-term planning frameworks such as Vision 2025 and the National Health Vision 2016-2025. 

New insights on Pakistan’s progress in achieving these policy objectives were discussed by federal and provincial government officials, researchers and civil society experts at a conference Pakistan’s Challenges of Health and Nutrition in the context of Sustainable Development Goals: issues and progress at Aga Khan University on November 18. 

The researchers emphasised that Pakistan’s girls continue to be less likely to receive a full course of vaccinations than boys of the same age. Even though the latest data shows a narrowing of the gender gap in immunization, the persistence of this inequality for three decades means that young girls and women are more vulnerable to preventable illnesses. 

Alarmingly, there has been an overall decline in demand for treatment of diarrhea and pneumonia for both sexes over the past three decades with the extent of the drop being much larger for females. This means that female children are also less likely to receive treatment for these diseases than in the past, the experts pointed out. 

“A lack of attention to female health and education both reflects and perpetuates a feudal, patriarchal mindset in society. This limits the ability of Pakistani women to participate in the national development process and has cross-cutting and far-reaching impacts on our social progress,” Dr Zulfiqar A Bhutta, founding director of the Centre of Excellence in Women and Child Health at AKU, remarked. 

In presentations on Pakistan’s efforts to combat child malnutrition, speakers noted that the country had not made encouraging progress. Even though the proportion of children who are underweight has declined slowly, one in three young children continue to have low weight for their age. 

When it comes to stunting, low height for one’s age, experts noted that the situation has worsened between 2001 and 2011 with the proportion of children suffering from this chronic form of malnutrition rising from 37 per cent to 44 per cent. 

Micronutrient deficiencies also remain prevalent with nearly half of women of reproductive and children under the age of five suffering from anemia (a shortage of iron in the body). The proportion of children with severe and moderate vitamin A deficiency has also risen since 2001. 

The speakers at the event noted that achieving progress in the health and nutrition indicators laid down in the SDGs required a multi-sectoral approach with a focus on the underlying determinants of health such as poverty, education, food security, water and sanitation, and population growth. 

“We now have the data that tells us where we need targeted interventions in nutrition and healthcare. Since the SDG targets are interconnected policymakers should remember to look at the inter-linkages between issues. You cannot achieve gains in adolescent health without looking at gender equality and you cannot tackle the challenge of diarrhea without access to clean water and sanitation,” Dr Bhutta added. 

Barrister Pir Mujeeb-ul-Haq, Sindh convener of the Parliamentary Task Force on the Sustainable Development Goals delivered the opening address at the conference. 

The other prominent officials at the event included Dr Assad Hafeez, Director-General of Health at the Federal Ministry of Health Services and Regulation and Dr Zafar Mirza, convener of the World Health Organization’s Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean Taskforce on SDGs.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

AKU-EB recognise SSC, HSSC high achievers

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services) 

The Aga Khan University Examination Board celebrated 172 high achievers from across Pakistan for their outstanding performance in the Secondary School Certificate (SSC) and Higher Secondary School Certificate (HSSC) examinations in Karachi on November 16. 

As many as 216 awards were given out to students for high scores in individual subjects, top positions overall and in subject groups for SSC and HSSC both. 

Munnawar Hamid, Board of Trustees, AKU, praised the students for their hard work and told them that they were now prepared for the challenges to come. 

"As you enter a new chapter in your life, the critical thinking and problem solving skills you have learned have not only prepared you for your academic journey, but also helped you to understand how to navigate the challenges in the future," he said. 

The AKU-EB conducted its annual SSC and HSSC examinations in 30 exam centers across 26 cities in Pakistan this May. 

The AKU-EB exam centers across the country were monitored using state of the art technology to ensure that no cheating took place. A comprehensive e-marking process was then utilised to assess all exams fairly, with results announced on July 20. 

21.5% of SSC and 17.4% of HSSC students secured an A-1 Grade, with an overall pass rate of 92.51%. For the fourth year in a row, girls topped both SSC and HSSC examinations, securing the top three positions. 

“Studying under the AKU-EB system infused a sense of curiosity and a thirst for knowledge. The application-based approach helped me in my everyday life,” the HSSC first position holder, Mariam Sajjad from Aga Khan Higher Secondary School, Karimabad, Karachi, remarked. 

In addition, Mariam Sajjad secured first position in Pre-Medical subject group and is also a high achiever in Biology, Physics and Urdu Compulsory, taking home five awards. 

Previously she had also secured top position in SSC in 2015, as well as in Science group and obtained three subject awards. The awards also celebrated AKU-EB’s Bridge Scholars. 

The scholarship, funded by the Fancy Foundation, covers two years of HSSC education for Karachi students selected on merit and need based criteria. 

The chief guest, Ms Ameena Saiyid OBE, managing director Oxford University Press, Pakistan said, "The quality of education that you have been fortunate to receive is being offered in areas where it is needed most. It is helping to change the landscape of education across the country, and is one of the most impactful ways through which social transformation in Pakistan can be guaranteed." 

"Regardless of whether you are a High Achiever or not, the fact that you have concluded your secondary education under a Board that emphasises fairness and transparency as part of its mandate is remarkable,” Dr Shehzad Jeeva, Director, AKU-EB, added.

Monday, November 13, 2017

ESUP's new logo unveiled

Pakistan News & Features Services

The English Speaking Union of Pakistan (ESUP), which has become more proactive and vibrant than ever before since Aziz Memon has taken over as its President, added another feather to its cap by unveiling a new logo on November 13.

It coincided with the visit of Mian Raza Rabbani, Chairman, Senate of Pakistan, as a large number of the ESUP members turned up at the Beach Luxury Hotel for another successful meeting. 

Elin Burns, the British Deputy High Commissioner in Karachi, was also present on the occasion. 

Aziz Memon, President, ESUP, in his welcome address, observed that the colour of the logo has been changed from red to blue in line with the organization’s objectives of promoting goodwill and peace. 

The guest speaker, Mian Raza Rabbani, also touched about the subject of the new logo of the ESUP which he described as an impressive one.

It may be recalled that the ESUP was founded in 1961 with the objective to develop friendship and goodwill between the English-Speaking people of Pakistan and other countries, by actively encouraging communication, discussion and debate through the medium of the English language. 

The ESUP hosted the meeting of the ESU international Council in 1997. The English-Speaking Union is an educational charity which was founded on June 28, 1918 on the initiative of an English writer and journalist, Sir Evelyn Wrench. 

It received a Royal Charter, with Queen Elizabeth II as the royal patron. Princess Anne, The Princess Royal, has been President since 2013, having taken over from her father Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh who served from 1952 to 2012. 

Headquartered at Dartmouth House, Mayfair, London, its many activities are coordinated by the Director-General. 

The seventeen-member Board of Governors meets four times a year. During its long history, the ESU has played an important part in fostering cultural links between people of different nationalities. 

The original ties between Great Britain, the United States of America and Commonwealth countries have, in recent decades, been extended to most countries throughout the world. It is an independent, non-political body, operating with the support of many distinguished public figures. Corporate members support the ESU's activities through sponsorship of individual awards and events

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Rotary Club of Karachi Darakhshan to hold free medical health camp on Nov 19

Pakistan News & Features Services

A free Medical Health camp will be organized by Rotary Club of Karachi Darakhshan with the collaboration of Rotary International’s Pakistan Polio Plus Committee at Jodia Bazar, Karachi, on November 19. 

An awareness session about polio vaccination will be organized during the camp whose objective includes offering primary health services to the area people. 

Free medicines will be provided to the patients and they may be advised to follow up with their local doctors. 

Rotary Club of Karachi Darakhshan has acknowledged the encouragement from all those individuals and companies soliciting support to them in organizing the camp. They have also appreciated and acknowledged the response from their volunteers. 

Last but not the least they also recognized with immense gratitude the spirit of the physicians and para-medical personnel having volunteered support by offering their services to the one-day event.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Aziz Memon calls on Abdul Aziz Memon

Pakistan News & Features Services

Two of the top leaders of the Memon community, Aziz Memon and Abdul Aziz Memon, had a meeting in Karachi on November 10, vowing to work with even greater zeal in future in order to accomplish the mutual cherished goals.

Aziz Memon, President of the United Memon Jamat of Pakistan, called on Abdul Aziz Memon, President, All Pakistan Memon Federation, at the Memon Federation House and both of them, being key members of the World Memon Organization, expressed the eagerness to expedite the intensity of social services. 

Aziz Memon, having become a legend in his own lifetime for being generous in the aspects of giving and sharing, lavishly praised Abdul Aziz Memon, on verge of completing his fourth term as President of the All Pakistan Memon Federation, for having worked tirelessly for the cause of the community in particular and the people of Pakistan in general.

Being one of those philanthropists having made Pakistan proud with his notable humanitarian services, Aziz Memon wished the 66-year-old Abdul Aziz Memon, a former parliamentarian, the very best of luck in the next year’s general elections.

Aziz Memon, a renowned entrepreneur, has also been the Chairman of the Cutchi Memon Markazi Jamat.

He was conferred the most prestigious Pride of Performance award by the President of Pakistan on March 23, 2011 in recognition of his community and humanitarian services particularly in health sector. 

Abdul Aziz Memon, who was elected as the Secretary General of the UBL Labour Employees Federation of Pakistan in 1979 before being elected as the President of the All Pakistan Memon Federation in 1980, has also been an active politician having joined the Pakistan Peoples Party in 1969. 

He had won the National Assembly seat in the 1993 general elections. He was later appointed as Chairman of the Labour Task Force of Pakistan with the status of Minister of State. 

He has also established his own charitable trust for the welfare of masses in the memory of his loving parents for extending the financial and material assistance to needy families to help them meet their domestic needs irrespective of their cast and creed.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Emerging heart, lung innovations improve treatment options

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The availability of new life-saving techniques in Pakistan promises quicker diagnosis and better treatment options for those suffering from chronic cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases, the experts reckoned at the National Health Sciences Research Symposium at the Aga Khan University (AKU). 

Hospitals in Karachi and Islamabad have recently introduced cardiac procedures such as TAVI, transcatheter aortic valve implantation, and EVAR, endovascular aneurysm repair, which were previously only available in leading hospitals in the developed world. 

Both procedures enable the treatment of late-stage patients whose delicate health and advanced symptoms meant that open heart surgery is too risky to pursue. Together, TAVI and EVAR represent a new way to treat complex heart and vascular disease, according to speakers at the three-day conference Heart and Lung: From Prevention to Regeneration. 

“TAVI and EVAR are minimally invasive procedures that require small incisions in the leg rather than opening up a patient’s chest. Pakistan now has a handful of trained specialists who can practice these advanced techniques. The challenge is to understand how to make these treatments more widely available in a cost-effective manner for all our patients,” Dr Osman Faheem, Assistant Professor of cardiology at AKU and an expert in the field of structural heart disease, remarked. 

Specialists in pulmonology, the study of the respiratory system, added that minimally invasive techniques such as video-assisted thoracic surgery and bronchoscopy have brought vast improvements in the quality of care offered to lung cancer patients in the country. 

Both procedures require only tiny cuts to the body and enable surgeons to detect and tackle tumours in a more precise, less painful way for the patient. Pulmonology specialists also discussed developments in how to treat lung cancer without surgery, through radiotherapy and medical regimes.
The results of new stem-cell based therapies for patients suffering from heart failure were also presented at the conference. 

While still at experimental stages, speakers noted that the placement of stem cells into damaged and diseased hearts offered a way to ‘regenerate’ and thereby regain lost function. Improvements in existing technology and diagnostic methodology were also explored. For instance, 3D echos and cardiac MRIs presented a much more detailed picture of the heart to all healthcare providers. 

When combined with 3D printers, they offer the ability to create accurate heart models which provide surgeons and physicians with the best information to tackle chronic and acute heart disease. 

The experts also pointed out the important role played by nurses, working in hospital and community settings, in the care for those suffering with cardiopulmonary diseases. 

In addition to understanding the physical, psychological and social needs through research, nurse practitioners are actively involved in areas such as cardiac rehabilitation and in advising patients on lifestyle changes that will boost their quality of life. 

These were some of the discussions at the event which saw specialists in cardiopulmonary medicine from around the world share cutting edge research and discuss the most effective ways to treat the threat posed by such diseases. 

Special sessions on a wide variety of topics spanning the fields of critical care, basic sciences, cardiothoracic surgery, family medicine and the humanities were also held at the conference. 

Speaking about the goals of the event, the Conference Chair, Professor Saulat Fatemi, said: “Our goal is to establish a range of collaborative projects at the University so that cutting edge research and clinical innovations from around the world can benefit Pakistani patients. To this end, we are setting up collaboration committees with our international speakers so that this conference has a long-term impact.” 

The conference’s objectives are in line with global efforts to achieve targets under goal 3 of the Sustainable Development Goals: ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. Target 3.4.1 of the goal calls for special efforts to reduce premature deaths caused by cardiovascular conditions by a third by 2030. 

The conference was preceded by a day of workshops at the University’s Centre for Innovation in Medical Education where participants gained advanced skills on state-of-the-art simulators. Over 500 participants were in attendance over the event.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Rotary Club of Karachi Darakhshan hosts DG Ovais Kohari befittingly

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Governor of Rotary International’s District 3271, Ovais Ahmed Kohari, paid an official visit to the Rotary Club of Karachi Darakhshan on November 1 and he was thoroughly impressed by the club’s proactive approach.

He was accompanied by his spouse and the first lady of the District, Aaliya Kohari, the District Secretary, Ali Hafeez Azmat, and the Assistant Governor, Zubair Hameed, all of whom were accorded red carpet upon arrival at the Royal Rodale Club which also happened to be the regular meeting place of RCK Darakhshan.

In his speech on the occasion DG Ovais Kohari acknowledged the contribution made by the members of RCK Darakhshan in the revival of Rotary in Pakistan. He particularly recognized Past District Governor Jahangir Moghul for having led Rotary with distinction in 2015-16.

PDG Jahangir Moghul, the first District Governor to be produced by RCK Darakhshan, which was chartered in November 2004, was also present in the ceremony.

DG Ovais Kohari vowed to utilize the experience as well as the expertise of the RCK Darakhshan leaders in order to achieve the mutual objective of promoting Rotary in Pakistan.

Syed Khalid Mahmood, Vice President, RCK Darakhshan, formally introduced the District Governor, recalling his long services to Rotary over the years.

A third-generation Rotarian, Governor Ovais Kohari had joined the Rotary family in 1993. He is the third District Governor to be hailing to the Rotary Club of Karachi Karsaz, following the footsteps of Tariq Allawala and Faiz Kidwai.

DG Ovais Kohari was also a Rotaractor in his youthful days and served as the District Rotaract Representative for the year 1985-86, getting the Best Rotaractor Award in 1986. In 2014 he was recognised as the Best Rotarian of the District.

In 2017, he received the Rotary Foundation Regional Award for a polio free world.

Peter Lucas, President, RCK Darakhshan, delivered the welcome address in which he touched upon the current projects as well as the club’s plans for the immediate future while Waqas Moghul, Secretary, RCK Darakhshan, presented the detailed activity report of the club’s recent past.

Asad Sadiq, board member of RCK Darakhshan, was the master of ceremony while Haider Jaferi, Past President of the club, presented the vote of thanks. The meeting had been invoked with the recitation of Holy Quran by Ashiq Hussain, another board member of the club.

Meanwhile RCK Darakhshan presented a cheque of Rs 50,000 to Brig Shaheen Moin, President, Path Education Society, as the contribution to Rahnuma Welfare School being run in Azam Basti.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was also signed on the occasion whereby it was mutually agreed to make Rahnuma Welfare School a permanent project of RCK Darakhshan.

Azra Ali, a veteran educationist and the Principal of one of the branches of The City School, also attended the ceremony as one of the honoured guests of the evening.

Before the start of the general body meeting, DG Ovais Kohari also had detailed sessions of the Board of Directors of RCK Darakhshan in which the matters of mutual interest were discussed.

International Conference on biomedical engineering held in Karachi

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Quite a few acclaimed experts of biomedical engineering enlightened the audience by sharing their experiences in the recently held conference in Karachi. 

The International Conference on Biomedical Engineering and Medical Sciences was organized by a private sector university with the collaboration of the Higher Education Commission (HEC) as a part of the 200th birth anniversary celebration of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, the great reformer and educationist. 

As many as 23 PhDs presented their paper on the occasion including four from the US, Canada, UK and Spain besides presentation of 43 posters. 

The Chairman of the Biomedical Engineering department of the host university, Prof Dr M A Haleem stated that thirst for knowledge has been a focus of mankind since the beginning of civilization. 

"Innovation and exploration of nature is also important in Islam and is the teaching of Prophet Hazrat Mohammad (PBUH)" Prof Haleem observed during his thought-provoking speech on the occasion. 

"We all know that knowledge only becomes valuable when it is disseminated and applied to benefits of humankind", Prof Haleem remarked and hoped that this conference will be a platform to gather and disseminate the latest knowledge in biomedical engineering. 

He pointed out that the growing field of biomedical Engineering is a field that applies engineering principals to explore biological system in health and disease. It has application in nano-medicine. Nano robotics are used to diagnose site of disease I human body and also to administer medicine at specific site. Synthetic tissues are used to replace diseased or degenerated parts. The knowledge of engineering, medicine and biological system are therefore equally important for a biomedical engineer. 

During the last 35 years, 11 of the Nobel prize-winners for medicine have had a background in chemistry, physics or engineering, he disclosed adding that Chemistry Prizes have been awarded for biomedical engineering related discoveries such as making artificial muscles, limbs and nerves (conductive polymers) and enabling tagging of proteins to observe disease processes such as cancer (green fluorescent protein). 

According to him, Physics Prizes related to biomedical engineering include key developments in medical imaging, sensors and ophthalmology, whilst graphene-based nano-materials offer opportunities for tissue engineering, molecular imaging and drug delivery applications while Medical imaging is also used for computing vision and making bionic eye.

Brain mapping studies are done to locate parts of the brain involved in memory formation, learning and many other important functions. 

Prof Haleem informed that the department established in 1996 was the first biomedical engineering department in Pakistan. Since its inception it has produced a number of MS during last few years and very soon it is going to start PhD program for which NOC is given by the HEC. 

In his speech on the occasion, Prof Dr Samir Iqbal, now a Professor at School of Medicine, UT Rio Grande Valley and previously Associate Professor at Electrical Engineering and Bioengineering, University of Texas at Arlington, disclosed that USA has developed a novel cancer cell detection method that will improve early diagnosis through a tool that tracks cellular behaviour in real time using nanotextured walls that mimic layers of body tissue. He said that determination of biomarkers can help in early diagnosis of many cancer types. 

Prof. Dr. Naweed I. Syed, Professor and Scientific Director at Cumming School of Medicine in University of Calgary, Canada talked about his research based on creating the neurochip and said he has made a way possible to know the communication between a tissue and an electronic device 

This discovery has started a flux of drug testing research for neurodegenerative diseases and disorders. A new set of clinical trials are in progress. 

He said that the electrical signaling in brain cells can be studied in detail with this technology. The brain cells of a patient suffering from epilepsy have been studied. The brain cell activity can be studied in powerful detail now. All the results and findings can then be stored in a database for further research 

Prof. Dr. Javier Poncela Gonzalez is Professor at ETSI Telecommunication, University of Malaga (UMA), campus de teatinos, Spain. His research focuses on analyzing the performance of protocols designed for the control of Medium Access in the underwater environment using Underwater Acoustic Wireless Sensor Networks (UW-ASNs). 

The sectors that can benefit most from this research are industries dealing with biomedical instrumentation, oil and gas, fisheries, UW instrumentation, armed forces, research and exploration bureaus, etc. 

Existing terrestrial Wireless Sensor Networks (WSN) Medium Access Control (MAC) protocol which mostly use radio waves for communications are unsuitable for underwater atmosphere and underwater sensor networks (UWSNs) using acoustic wireless networking finds application in the supporting tools for such applications. 

Dr Engr Muhammad Salman Haleem, currently working in Big Data Centre, School of Computing, Mathematics and Digital Technology, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK, recipient of prestigious EPSRC-DHPA (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council- Dorothy Hodgkin Postgraduate Award-UK) for pursuing his PhD and graduated from NED University of Engineering and Technology and Illinois Institute of Technology, USA for B.Engg.and M.S.E.E respectively, has developed the novel software tool for automatic determination of features associated with the retinal diseases. 

He said that automating steps in the retinal diagnostic process has the great potential to reduce the time eye clinicians need to look up at the images which can expect more patients to be screened and early treatment can be provided in a time-efficient manner. 

From among the national presenters, Prof. Dr. Bhawani Shankar Chowdhry, a distinguished National Professor and Dean, Faculty of Electrical, Electronics, Biomedical & Computer Engineering Mehran University of Engineering & Technology, Jamshoro, gave a keynote talk on 'Improving Biomedical Engineering Education to Brighten up Career Prospectus: A Multidimensional Approach.' 

Prof. Dr. Darakhshan Jabeen Haleem, former Dean Faculty of Science University of Karachi and among the top scientists of Pakistan, currently working as meritorious Professor of Neuroscience at Dr Panjwani Centre for Molecular Medicine and Drug Research (PCMD) presented an internationally patented work from her laboratory. 

She said that chronic pain conditions such as Osteoarthritis and low back pain are the prominent causes of disability across the world. 

Prof. Dr. Ather Inam is Professor and Chairman of Neurosurgery, Department of Surgery, Aga Khan University Hospital, PhD from Northwestern University Institute of Neuroscience, USA and FRCS from Canada and Ireland. He received Sitara-e-Imtiaz and Excellence Award in Neurosurgery Pakistan. 

He discussed various methods of synthesizing neural cell cultures. He described how to obtain and culture neural cells from rat embryos as well as embryonic chick embryos. 

Prof. Dr. Kamran Azim currently working as Dean at Muhammad Ali Jinnah University presented his work which performed at PCMD Karachi. He showed how genomics data can be applied for diagnosis and management in personalized medicine. 

Prof. Dr. Jawwad Shamsi emphasized about applications of advanced technologies from Computer Science in Biomedical Engineering. He demonstrated how the innovative applications from computer science (machine learning techniques and wearable devices can be used in medical sciences such as remote patient monitoring, assistance in disease diagnosis.

Dr Engr Zeeshan ul Haque developed the computational nerve model of the foot by determining the nerve conduction velocity in various myelinated nerve fibre of the foot. The developed functional model will be used in the future studies to investigate different functional outcomes of large fibre neuropathy. 

Dr Nabeel Anwar has presented his non-invasive neuro-stimulation techniques which possess unique possibility to alter neural activity in the brain. These techniques has established a causal relation between specific cortical areas and perceptual, motor and cognitive functions as well as to their ability to modulate these functions and in turn modulate cognitive behaviour.

Dr Riazuddin emphasized upon the use of genomics data available for various subtypes and use of bioinformatics approach to identify the mass signature associated with the specific subtype of Hepatitis C Virus (HCV). He said that those mass signatures when combined with the mass spectrometry data gives us the direct confirmation of the type of HCV. 

Prof. Dr. Nasir Raza, Dr. Huma Ikram, Dr. Noureen Samad and Dr. Darakhshan Saleem from various universities of Pakistan emphasized their work in developing biomedical tools for diagnostics and treatment of neurological diseases and psychiatric illnesses. Dr. Fazli Wahid, Dr. Shabeer Ahmed Mian, Dr. M. Ajmal, Dr. Tariq Javid, Engr. Wajih Abidispoke on functional bacterial cellulose-based nanocomposites, study of authoritative control of field assisted desorbed amino acids, nano-phosphors for biomedical and display applications, biomedical image processing using R, and neural plasticity and treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome with photic simulation respectively.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

UN charter stays at core of BD foreign policy: High Commissioner

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The High Comm¬issioner of Bangladesh, Tarik Ahsan, remarked that the UN Charter was at the core of Bangladesh’s foreign policy and his country’s constitution mainly focuses on the fundamental rights having been inspired by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“Bangladesh has also made its presence felt at the UN by involving itself in various activities while being a member of the Security Council from 1979 to 1980 and from 2000 to 2001 and otherwise. In fact, Bangladesh is a member of some 20 UN bodies, including UNICEF, UNESCO, International Labour Organization (ILO) and Comm¬ittee on Migrant Workers,” he observed during a talk on ‘Bangladesh and the United Nations’ organized by the English Speaking Union of Pakistan (ESUP) at the Beach Luxury Hotel, Karachi. 

“Apart from this, Bangladesh also plays an important role in world peace and development. In 2015, we had sent our own all-women peacekeeping unit to Haiti. Our peacekeepers have earned the country respect of many countries,” he stated. 

“Bangladesh considers disarmament a key to peace building. The country is party to core disarmament treaties and conventions, including the Comp-rehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Tre¬aty,” the High Commissioner added. 

During the question-answer session, Tarik Ahsan asserted that his country was not seeking assistance for managing Rohingya Muslim refugees fleeing Myanmar but desired them to be repatriated instead.

“Bangladesh already had 400,000 displaced Rohingya refugees and after the violence started on August 25, we got some 600,000 more bringing the total to around one million refugees. Whatever aid that we get for the Rohingya Muslim refugees will sooner or later dry up, too; so instead we want to build up international pressure on Myanmar to let them return home safely,” he said. 

“For this our Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed has put forth a five-point proposal for the United Nations General Assembly. Firstly, stop violence, second, to send a fact-finding mission to Myanmar, and third, for the UN to establish a safe zone inside Myanmar for the safe return of these people. The fourth point was for the international community to involve itself in their sustainable return and the fifth related to the implementation of the Kofi Annan Commission on Rakhine State,” he explained. 

“It is better to have someone in Bangladesh invite you and not go there without a reference,” he replied when asked by the difficulties being faced by the Pakistan nationals in getting visas of Bangladesh. 

“There are many people in Bangladesh, too, who want to visit Pakistan and have similar problems as they face the same kind of restrictions. Mutual understanding bet¬ween the two centres can help here,” he reckoned.

He conceded that although tourism was a promising sector in Bangladesh but it was still in a development phase. “Bangladesh is a populated country full of local tourists. There is little capacity for foreign tourists right now,” he opined.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Opportunity to advance East-West neuroscience collaborations

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Neuroscience research investigating the brain and how this ‘supercomputer’ controls every aspect of our body and behaviour, needs to be actively promoted and investigated in Pakistan and The Science Bridge initiative offers opportunities for local neuroscientists to participate in global efforts. 

This was the discussion at the 3rd Annual Neuroscience Meeting themed Building Bridges through Neuroscience organised by the Aga Khan University and the Pakistan Society of Basic and Applied Neurosciences in collaboration with The Science Bridge initiative, the International Brain Research Organization, the Advance Educational Institute and Research Centre, and the Canada Pakistan Research and Development Council. 

Prof Mazahir T Hasan of the Achucarro Basque Center for Neuroscience described how The Science Bridge’s mission is to “promote sustainable scientific collaboration between cultures and nations to understand the working principle of the brain, a global effort to find treatments and, possibly, cures for different neurological and psychiatric conditions.” 

He spoke about a new and innovative concept, the Twin Institutes, that aims to link research institutes together, one in a Western country and another one in an Eastern country, around common goals in basic and applied neuroscience. 

“The importance of neuroscience research cannot be overemphasized,” Prof Syed Ather Enam of the Aga Khan University remarked. “There are more than 1,000 disorders of the brain and nervous system that need to be managed and more than 50 percent of all diseases affect the nervous system.” 

In 2007, the World Health Organization (WHO) had estimated that neurological disorders affect up to one billion people worldwide, irrespective of age, sex, education or income. 

During the meeting, the speakers discussed advances in basic understanding of the brain. In one example, Prof. Naweed Syed of the University of Calgary spoke about progress in understanding the communications between a living organism's brain cells and a computer chip. It raises the possibility of neurochip implants that could activate artificial limbs, help restore sight or speech after a stroke, or repair nerve cells in a wide range of brain disorders, from Parkinson’s disease to Alzheimer’s. 

In another discussion, Prof Joshua R Sanes from the Center for Brain Science, Harvard University, explained how the eye’s retina as complex as any other part of the brain but with several features that facilitate analysis can be used to understand the formation of synapses, the junction between two nerve cells. 

The experts at the conference also discussed the status of neuroscience in Pakistan and how to proceed further. They agreed that there is a need for public awareness about the importance of research in understanding basic brain functions and neurological and psychiatric conditions in ‘local’ South Asian populations. 

With collective international efforts and East-West collaborations, the experts expressed a hope that neuroscientists will eventually find innovative ways to treat and cure many neurological diseases.

AKU launch scholarship programme

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

 A total of 45 students from across Pakistan have come together to attend the Aga Khan University’s Challenge Scholarship Programme that aims to prepare young people for higher education.

The students, a mix of young women and men, come from 24 cities and towns across Pakistan, from Parachinar and Bhimber in the north all the way to Dera Ghazi Khan and Badin in the south. 

The Challenge Programme, a two-week residential ‘boot’ camp, gave students the opportunity to be coached by well-known professionals and academics; conducted community research, explored complex topics from critical thinking to gender and ethics while gaining valuable life skills including first aid training. 

They took part in sports and went through formal coaching for swimming; they also toured Karachi. A field trip to Rehri Goth, an old fishing village on the outskirts of Karachi exposed students to how community research can help understand lifestyles and advocate for solutions to local problems. 

Amtul Wadood from Chenab Nagar regarded the field trip as something that left a big impact on her. “Seeing people living in the conditions they were in (Rehri Goth) encouraged us to do something for them. It inspired me to try and make a difference in the world,” she said. 

Waseem Jamil, who came all the way from Parachinar, enjoyed the critical thinking seminar the most “because they encouraged you to ask questions, which I had never experienced before,” Nouman Tariq, from Bhimber, agrees: “the best part is that the sessions are interactive. We are having a dialogue and not just listening silently.” 

Other sessions during the programme included career guidance by academics and professionals, who while speaking about their own life experiences, inspired students to pursue their goals actively. 

One of the highlights of the programme was a dialogue with Pakistan’s first Oscar-winning filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, who has directed acclaimed documentaries such as ‘Saving Face’ and ‘A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness’. 

She spoke to the participants about her own experiences and how she pursued a career as a filmmaker and journalist. She told them to never be discouraged by setbacks, and that hurdles in life were meant to be overcome. 

The temperamental celebrity urged students to pursue their life goals through hard work, determination and strong ethics. She also praised the students and told them that they were the future of Pakistan. 

For many of the students, this has been a life-changing experience. It has given their confidence a great boost. 

This was certainly the case for Inam Ullah from Dera Ghazi Khan, who felt that he has become a new person after this experience. “Back at home my principal would always call me on stage to speak, but I used to shy away. After this experience I will go back home and tell my principal that I want to go speak on stage,” he excitedly said.