To Young Doctors Association in the Name of Healthcare

Source: lhrtimes.com

Source: lhrtimes.com

There is something about the protest of the Young Doctors Association that I really liked this time for a change. They must have been at it before, but I did not notice that. They have been setting up medical camps outside government hospitals where they are deputed. I think this is a brilliant way to protest because it does not in any way cause inconvenience to the public.

Like many in Punjab, I found their OPD strikes rather inappropriate with all the problems that it created for patients. Despite the fact that I acknowledge that it is the responsibility of the Punjab government. And yes I do recall news, true or false, of patients dying due to the absence of medical staff.

When that happens, I don’t care if it’s the government’s fault or the doctors’ fault. I say fuck them both.

First, the protests were about the payroll of doctors and later about providing better medical facilities, if I am not wrong. All perfectly legitimate and justified demands. But whether you support it or not, one thing is for sure. It pretty much failed to garner public support.

This is where I guess the Young Doctors Association seems to have learned something, as evident by their medical camp protests. Given the importance of the cause of better healthcare facilities, I think these doctors fully require public support to make it effective. This is why the way they protest, rally and get their voices heard is of utmost importance.

I believe their cause of pursuing better healthcare in Punjab is phenomenal and probably the most important of all the issues I can think of. However, in my humble and flawed opinion, they lose their strength and credibility, not to mention sabotage their own efforts, by choosing protest methods that disturb the already troubled patients in government hospitals. This is why I like the medical camp idea.

Apparently, the Young Doctors Association is pretty proactive when it comes to communication with the media, which proves that they want their campaign to be recognized publicly. This further enhances the importance of the methods of protests they choose. Because every time they do that, they are making a PR statement.

The medical camp idea is brilliant since their work is their greatest asset. It is also the medium through which they interact with the public and they can use their professional skills as the greatest form of protest. I know protests are impulsive and emotional things, but this is something the hot-headed leadership of the association needs to think about with a cool mind. Not saying if there is anything wrong with sit-in protests and rallies.

The Punjab government had been trumpeting a lot of propaganda against them and it worked because the general public found little reason to support their cause at the time. The government even used pretty brutal measures against the doctors but very few people objected to that from outside the doctor’s own group. At least in Punjab.

As a matter of fact, the earlier protests of the Young Doctors Association, when they were at their severest, created a triple conflict of Doctors v Punjab Government v the People. All three were working against each other and probably the greatest advantage of that went to the Punjab government which apparently had no issues with fighting either of the opponents, given their seriousness towards healthcare issues.

There is another reason why there are not enough protests in Punjab, and even anywhere in Pakistan, because healthcare is not an issue of priority for the people. People simply do not assign enough importance to it. I hardly remember anyone staging a serious protest due to the lack of healthcare facilities in my lifetime at least.

Our political parties spend billions of rupees on reconstructing roads and fly-over bridges to satisfy voters, when they should actually be spending a good amount of that money on hospitals and better facilities. Furthermore, there is really no one to lead the people to the cause of better healthcare, probably because it does not involve any special benefits.

Another positive about the latest protest campaigns is that its objective is better health facilities in general hospitals, offering the public an incentive to back it. Because I believe the objective should be to turn the equation from Doctors v People v Punjab Government to Doctors and People v Punjab Government. That should be the aim of any such campaigns.

People are selfish, you see. They are more concerned about their own convenience than any doctor’s salary. Since the public generally consider doctors profiteers any way. I am not implying that it is a fact, but that’s how the poor public sees just about any business they deal with.

Imagine what can be accomplished if the people stand with the doctors for demanding better healthcare facilities. It will certainly force the government to take some action.

But it’s how you do it that matters.

On How To Treat Unvaccinated Children

Source: AFP/Express Tribune

Source: AFP/Express Tribune

The past day saw one of the most ridiculous government decrees that I have ever come across in my life. But of course where it could have taken place than in the domain of the most dynamic and dexterous ruler of the world, the Khadim-e-Aala, Mr. Shahbaz Sharif. As it could not have gone without his dreaded blessing.

The DCO Lahore announced that any child that goes without a necessary vaccination will not be issued a birth certificate and will not be granted admission to a school. I have never heard anything more ridiculous in my life. It’s just amazing the things they are coming up with these days.

I don’t know who really came up with this fantastic idea in the first place. I actually find it more bannable than any blasphemous novel or a video sharing website.

Depriving unvaccinated children of school admission is just like denying a starving child a meal just because their parents didn’t feed them. Actually, you can’t even explain it with analogies. It’s so plain ridiculous, it probably has no equal. It’s simply brilliant.

I mean, are they really serious? While a part of me does not even take this order seriously, are they really going to treat children who are not given a vaccination in that manner? Are they really going to keep them out of schools? And not issue birth certificates? They didn’t even know anything such as vaccines existed when they were babies. It’s the parents’ fault, if at all.

Furthermore, while there is no doubt that children must be vaccinated unless there is a valid scientific reason not to such as allergies, not every unvaccinated child is infected. Also, being unvaccinated does not make you infectious, just less vulnerable to virus attacks. Correct me if I am wrong please. Some people are under the impression that unvaccinated children can infect their children. Well, it depends.

If a child does survive skipping vaccinations somehow, then I guess improving access to healthcare is the best way to move forward, instead of adding to the country’s already apalling rate of literacy. Again, I am not really taking their “threat” too seriously, but you never know with people like these at the helm.

They can spend billions of rupees on fly-overs and unnecessary road reconstruction, but would not spend even half that money on the hospitals of the province. The budget for healthcare is simply not a priority for the government. Despite the repeated protests from an association of doctors employed in the government hospitals. It’s not that building roads is not important, but other things are too.

But what kind of regulations are these, and someone running the government should know better than to allow their enforcement. How infinitely stupid some of our civil servants are, especially with their licenses to fuck the lives of people beyond redemption. They look down upon people and consider themselves demigods of intelligence, but I can tell you, you can’t serve people like that.

But since they are so disconnected with reality that they don’t even seem to have common sense, you can hardly expect anything but such nonsense from them. It really should not be surprising.

River Ravi - Source: Express Tribune

River Ravi – Source: Express Tribune

Let us just hope the unvaccinated children do not get thrown in the river Ravi in the years to come. However, it sounds an apt way to dispose them off since they don’t deserve birth certificates and school anyway.

It could even prove to be a blessing in disguise, as it could be the first real step towards resolving the overpopulation crisis in Pakistan.

A Question About Torture and Justice

Source: AP/Mahesh Kumar A.

Source: AP/Mahesh Kumar A.

The December 2012 case of gang rape and (attempted) murder of a young woman in Delhi has come forth as one of the most hideous crimes on an individual level in recent history. The crime involved absolutely unspeakable torture in which the rapists used an iron rod to penetrate the woman, resulting in subsequent organ damage and her unfortunate demise a couple of weeks later.

India is completely outraged by this incident and people have taken to the streets to protest against it and rightfully so. As a matter of fact, the protests have been extraordinary and inspiring because this incident has shaken the whole world, not just the Indian nation.

However, let me dare say that I have noticed a lot of genuine urge to inflict torture, apart from the genuine anger at this crime. I mean really apart from the reactions that stem out of genuine frustration that are understandable.

Of course, I don’t even want to go on discussing the Talibanesque Indian (Far) Right, but not just the public figures.  Even though I tried to stop myself from thinking this way at a time like this, I could not help but find this behavior a little disturbing in terms of the relation between torture and justice at times.

But then again, I am not sure if I am clear about this myself. I mean they have a point. Isn’t that letting them off the hook too easily?

Now let me be clear on this that a part of me wants some sort of torture to be inflicted on the perpetrators as well. You know, like castration and life imprisonment. I don’t want to give the impression that I am at a higher moral ground and am free of violent urges at all, being a low animal. Castration is sort of cruel but intellectual, because it prevents procreation, at least from that individual.

But then again even when I ask this question to myself, I don’t find a clear answer. Especially when it comes to action. As much as I agree with severe punishments, I am not really sure if torture, or maybe even death should be a part of it. Just not as convinced.

What is justice, then? Torture for torture? Murder for murder? Eye for an eye? I know it’s not about compensating the loss at all, if anything at all. What about castration? That seems a mild punishment, or is it? That’s torture, surely. What about public hangings? That surely sounds perfect for deterring the crime. Besides, why worry about the cruelty of the punishment? Only those thinking about committing such a horrid crime would be facing the music. And they deserve it.

Source: India Today

Source: India Today

Go ahead with it by all means but then please never criticize the Taliban ever for their “brutalities”. Because the last time I checked, these are the sort of things that the Taliban do. And yes, they have hanged people too. They don’t just behead people in the good old fashioned “Middle Eastern” manner. But can you really stop such urges from emerging? Tempting.

In a way, it makes perfectly good sense to kill any such perpetrator at the spot, in defense at least. Such as an instance of using a licensed firearm to shoot down someone intruding into your house. At least, within the moral system followed by the rapists, I think they would not be too shocked if someone comes out to kill them, or even brutally torture them. You know, driving steel rods up their asses or burning them at stake.

But would you do that in cold blood? Especially when you do not share the lawless jungle morality of the rapists. This is an important question. But at the same time, I would like to appreciate the fact that the demands for death sentence on behalf of the people are mor or less justified because it is a commonly accepted penalty in the Indian Penal Code for murder. But of  course the matter is much more complex than that.

But I am not sure if it is appropriate to torture those men in more or less a similar manner or much mildly for their crime. And if we do penalize them strictly, would that really deter such crimes? Or perhaps if milder penalties are ensured to be imposed, without violating any human rights? Would that deter the crime still by simply ensuring effective enforcement?

But yes, the question becomes rather meaningless when rapists are hardly ever convicted at all, let alone penalized. And when the rate of rape is as appalling as it is in our part of the world and the society turning a complete blind eye to it. Because not only do we traditionally blame everything about rape on women, but in conservative circles create an environment where there are greater barriers to consensual sex than there are to rape.

I understand that the degree of this particular offense is simply too much and the charge is murder and sexual torture in this case, more than just the milder definition of rape, so probably a stricter punishment is justified in this case. Especially considering the physical and mental implications. Not to mention the mess the traditional patriarchal Indian society creates for rape victims if they survive.

But a stricter punishment is surely justified in this case. I am sure even the most liberal of commentators, politicians and judges would be at least forced to consider it. I mean, think about the precious lost life, and what her life could have been. Besides, think of the cruelty with which these criminals acted. Do they deserve mercy? A stricter punishment sounds more like justice.

But is it? I am not sure. I don’t want to make any secret of my confusion over here, but the more I think about it, the more I feel that probably torturing the criminals back is not really the answer. Or probably I would have an answer straight away. Because a part of me feels as if we probably love to see people tortured a bit too much as a species.

I don’t really support capital punishment but I cannot help but ignore the pressure in this case. I do know that capital punishment is the accepted norm in the sub-continent and so I guess I would not mind hanging these criminals.

I mean I expect very few to be upset about it when they even want to deny them defense in the court. But then there is the thought of letting these criminals go too easy. And what if they are at it again?

I am just lucky and relieved that I am not in the position to bear the responsibility of determining penalties on criminals.

I know that does not make me a good human being, let alone a better one.

But I envy the ones with convictions

The Perseverance of the Hazara

Source: Pakistan Youth Alliance Facebook Page

Irfan Ali – Source: Pakistan Youth Alliance Facebook Page

The January 10 Alamdar Road bombings in Quetta targeting the Hazara and Shia community has worked somewhat like the last straw for both these troubled people and our troubled nation. The Hazara community held a sit-in protest for three days with the corpses of the victim on the road. Similar sit-in protests were also held in other major Pakistani cities in solidarity. The protests triggered the Prime Minister to fly over to Quetta and confirm Governor’s rule in Baluchistan, dismissing the Raisani regime.

Even though I am not sure what good would the Governor’s rule do and if the community could feel safer with increased military security, it is encouraging to see that the protest had its effect. It was surely not a wasted exercise but I am not sure if I agreed with every demand of theirs. But I do hope it works whatever they are. I mean at least words were not falling on deaf years this time around, as has largely been the case with Shia killings in Pakistan in general.

Vigil for Irfan - Source: Shiraz Hassan

Vigil for Irfan Ali in Islamabad – Source: Shiraz Hassan

Sadly for Pakistani twitterati and human rights groups, peace activist Irfan Ali ( @khudiali ) also lost his life in the incident. He was one of the most energetic activists around in Pakistan and was the face of the struggle of the Hazara in many ways.  I am sure that he will be missed greatly by those on the forefront of fighting for the rights of the community and it is simply heartbreaking to even think of all the precious lives lost in this incident. All we can do is just write words on blogs and on twitter.

Even Irfan’s last tweets are reflective of how painful the situation is on ground in Quetta for the Hazara community.

 

I met a couple of my friends in the Hazara community who were also actively staging the protests. What I loved about not only them but almost all the members of the Hazara community in the Islamabad protests was that they were smiling and were in high spirits despite all what was happening to them. They were welcoming everyone with open arms. It is not easy to do that when you are going through hell and staring death in the face.

But apart from any one particular sit-in, the entire Hazara community has remained remarkably calm and peaceful. Given the viciousness of the people of this region, their peaceful behavior has restored some of my long lost faith in humanity. Even though all people like me can offer is moral support, I really hope that the people killing them stop doing it. Because I don’t really see the Pakistani government taking any action against them whatsoever.

All the rest of the communities in Pakistan need to break our silence about it. While we can all hope that the madness of the targeted killing of the Shia community in general and Hazara in particular comes to an end, simply increasing the military security will do no good. Baluchistan is already virtually under military control, so what they need to do is take proactive action against terrorist groups such as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan.

If they are serious to stop this genocide, that is.