A New Low for the Pakistani State Every Day

Source: rferl.org

Just when you thought that the Pakistani state could not stoop any lower, it surprised you with its latest achievement. Although you really shouldn’t be surprised and probably many were not when they learned about the arrest of human rights activist Gulalai Ismail. Gulalai is a young Pashtun woman who has been vocal about women’s digital rights and free speech and has been recognized for her contribution abroad as well.

The cause for Gulalai’s arrest was her support for the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) led by Manzoor Pashteen, who has largely been dubbed as a traitor by the Pakistani state establishment. Gulalai was arrested immediately on her arrival in Islamabad from her tour and her name was put on the Exit Control List, a blacklist supposed to prevent citizens from traveling outside Pakistan. While she has been released on interim bail, the case against her by the FIA stands as her home in Swabi was also raided for her arrest.

Gulalai is a well-respected figure not just in Pakistan but globally for her work in human rights. Founder of NGO Aware Girls, focused on women’s rights and leadership, she has received the Chirac Prize for conflict prevention in France and there was no wonder it wasn’t long before Amnesty International was calling for her release.

It only goes to show the impunity of the Pakistani state and their sheer disregard of not even sparing human rights activists of an international repute. You can only imagine how the authorities must be treating more obscure political dissenters and human rights activists. You can accuse people like Malala and Gulalai of privilege as compared to their fellow citizens, even though that would be unfair, but figures like them become symbols of resistance when the struggle of the common man goes unnoticed.

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The way the Pashtun population has been treated in recent years, especially since the recent Swat and Waziristan operations and the APS incident, has been a disgrace, to say the least. They are particularly discriminated against at military check posts and the way the Punjabi establishment has been painting non-violent grassroots leaders like Manzoor Pashteen as terrorists in their public broadcasts has been simply unacceptable. Such an ad has been airing of late and the embarrassed Punjab government was forced to pull it off.

The Pakistani state must seriously reconsider the way it treats its citizens and must put an end to its long history of undemocratic authoritarianism if it wants democracy to flourish. That clearly has not been the goal of the civil and military bureaucratic establishment in the country.

Pakistan must keep in mind before lecturing other countries on human rights.

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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.