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.