century of reminiscences
It’s that time
of the year
Dengue threat in Lahore has caught the authorities unprepared and unguarded
Almost two hundred dengue cases have been recently reported in Lahore, in a second and more intense wave this year. The epidemic is expected to continue through September and October, monsoon months which are most conducive to mosquito breeding. The threat is higher in northern Lahore and walled city where water pools, leaking pipes and congested areas serve as safe havens for mosquito vectors. Threatened areas include Chungi Amar Sadhu, Samanabad, Dharampura, Misri Shah, Kot Khawaja Saeed, Shadbagh, China Scheme, Engineering University and Gulshan-e-Ravi are the main clusters of dengue virus and other areas of northern Lahore.
However, dengue cases appeared throughout the year which means that the dengue virus is adapting and that mosquitoes are growing insecticide-resistant. Previously affected dengue patients are at an increased risk of contracting the more deadly Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever and Dengue Shock Syndrome.
The virus is transmitted to humans by specific mosquito specie which bites during morning hours. The mosquito transmits disease by biting an infected person and then biting someone else. The incubation period is 3 to 14 days. Symptoms of a classic dengue case usually include fever, head and joint ache, nausea, skin rash and bleeding from nose, gums or under the skin.
The Communicable Disease Control (CDC) Cell of the Health Department declared that 40 dengue fever positive patients were admitted this season in Lahore, three were in Mayo Hospital, 11 in Jinnah Hospital, 1 in Institute of Public Health, 5 in Services Hospital, three in Rescue 1122, 2 in Sir Ganga Ram Hospital and at least 15 more in private hospitals. At least one person was reported dead.
One problem impeding data collection is that many patients go to private hospital or family physicians, resulting in under-estimates of patient numbers. Many clinics are not registered or lack the equipment for treatment. Also, the diagnosis is sometimes ambiguous because the symptoms vary in intensity and the test (ELISA) is expensive. Health department claims the test is done for free, however, its outreach is very limited. A dengue test costs some Rs1175 when done privately.
However, by careful estimates, thousands have been tested positive for the virus in both public and private health facilities and dengue has claimed dozens of lives. A brief visit to any emergency will show how widespread the outbreak is. Either the health authorities want to ward off any pressure they might face in times of an epidemic or they desire to prevent any public fear and frenzy.
However, Lahore’s EDO, Dr Umer Farooq Baloch denied that there is an epidemic in the province and called for Health department, Wasa, Solid Waste Management, Horticulture Authority and the community to fight dengue collectively. He added that the Health Department has so far circulated 600,000 pamphlets among the citizens to educate them about dengue.
Punjab Health Secretary Muhammad Jehanzeb Khan has assigned health directors in ten towns across Lahore to supervise preventive arrangements for dengue fever, checking mosquito growth and sending a monitoring report daily. Banners to enhance dengue awareness are also being displayed in several Ramazan bazaars.
The Mayo Hospital administration has a 40-bed strong ward and emergency centre exclusively for dengue patients, blood testing facilities and mosquito nets. Director Emergency Dr. Sabir Ali has been appointed focal person for coordinating with the Health department.
Dr. Raza Hassan of Children’s Hospital said that two or three dengue cases have been reported there so far with no fatalities. “We have diagnostic kits and platelet kits plus special counters, rooms and beds have been set up.”
The City District Government has yet to carry out fumigation, fogging and spray in different areas to eliminate the threat. The main focus is fumigation in the affected areas which has a limited impact on mosquito control pertaining to the dilution of spray, wind and timing which can cause the mosquitoes to simply disperse and return later. The best spraying hours are two hours before sunset and sunrise when a mosquito bite is most likely. To kill the mosquitoes and the larvae, four cycles of fumigation should be done in the same area for four consecutive weeks. He added that doing routine fogging is not advisable because this might make the community complacent.
Second phase of anti-mosquitoes spray would begin on August 26. Health Department had also sought cooperation of the Town Municipal Administrations (TMAs) to drain waste and rain water. Indiscriminate fumigation may also be ineffective in combating the virus because mosquitoes can form resistance to insecticide.
The mosquito-killing effect is transitory, variable in its efficiency as the aerosol may not penetrate indoors to micro-habitats where adult mosquitoes are sequestered, and the procedure is costly and operationally difficult. Regular monitoring of the vectors’ vulnerability to insecticides is essential to switch to a more suitable alternative when required. Hence, active monitoring and surveillance of the natural mosquito population should escort control efforts to establish effectiveness. Small, mosquito-eating fish have also been used to reduce mosquitoes.
Fatima Jinnah Medical College, Lahore held a seminar for Dengue-awareness on August 16, in which Principal Dr. Rakhshanda Rehman suggested:
“Platelets should be injected only when the patient starts bleeding.” She said that 163 million people have been tested positive for dengue worldwide. Dr Zarfishan Tahir, also on the same seminar, said that at bacteriologist laboratory, IPH so far one thousand tests have been conducted out of which 68 percent were confirmed positive. She informed that IPH is providing diagnostic facilities free of cost to public as well as private sector.
The Health department needs to be more transparent and collect data more accurately regarding dengue cases. The civil society, NGOs and pressure groups need to exert organised pressure on the Health department. If effective policies are not implemented, hospitals will be swarmed with patients without adequate medical supplies. Lahore is also under pressure of patients from other cities. In Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, for instance, patients from Pindi Bhattian, Mianwali and Bhalwal were also present.
Dengue has no vaccine. Removing standing freshwater, not storing it in open containers, covering it with lids, scrubbing edges of containers to dislodge eggs, using mosquito nets and repellents and remaining fully covered will help in preventing dengue. People in Faisalabad have formed an organisation to tackle dengue collectively Lahorites should follow in their footsteps.
By Salman Rashid
On August 3, travelling to Jhang with a couple of friends, I dropped my wallet at a petrol station on Sadhar Bypass outside Faisalabad. I did not realise my loss until twelve hours later when I was not sure where it could possibly have occurred. Besides two ATM cards (I do not use credit cards) and my national identity card, it contained some money, the exact amount of which I did not know.
Two days later I received a note by courier attached to which was a copy of my identity card. The address was of Sangam Filling Station and it gave the phone number of a certain Zain as well as the information about where I could collect my property. I called and asked if the cards were all there and the man, who sounded very young, affirmed. “And the money as well,” he added.
There could not have been more than Rs1500, I said. No, said Zain, there was considerably more than that. The next day I drove to Faisalabad. If I may say it myself, I virtually attacked Syed Zain ul Abedin. This was not done. Why and how could he ever think of spending money to send me a letter by courier and then also return my wallet with all the money in it?
Twenty-five year-old Zain told me the story. The wallet was found outside the shop on the premises by the man who brought them their drinking water. (The ground water being brackish, they had a man deliver container filled from a nearby tube well.) This man, whose name I did not ask, gave the wallet to Maratab Ali, one of the staff at the filling station. In turn, Ali gave it to Zain who manages the station.
Now, anyone who delivers drinking water cannot be rich and should logically have been swayed by Rs5000 found with no one to claim it. If not he, Maratab Ali could have considered splitting between himself and the waterman on the condition that he kept his mouth shut. But he did not. Instead, he handed it over to Zain. When I said the wallet contained only Rs1500, Zain could safely have removed the rest and returned to me what I thought the wallet contained.
Strangely enough, none of these three scenarios occurred. Zain ul Abedin who is a graduate in economics comes from a very religious family. But we know others who never tire of proclaiming aloud for all and sundry to hear of their piety; who mount the prayer mat for press photographers so that images of them with their hands raised up in orison are splattered across newsprint have far lower integrity.
We know of these people for whom religion rests on the tips of forked tongues who plunder whatever comes their way. We know they would stoop to steal what the waterman, Maratab Ali and Zain ul Abedin so conscientiously returned to its rightful owner. What these three men have is integrity — integrity that is so terribly, terribly in short supply in the world today. These three men have souls that are not corrupted by lust for lucre for we have known men to be swayed by far less than what my wallet contained that day. The souls of these three good men are complete.
Having heard the story of how the wallet returned to me through three different hands, I could not but return again and again to the subject of Why and How. Zain ul Abedin had this to say: “This is a circle of goodness. The circle must never be broken; it must forever remain complete. Goodness will only beget goodness. When the circle breaks, the world will come to an end.”
He believed this to be true. As for me, I do not know if the world will end or not when someone steals Rs5000 from me. What I do know is that 59 years of life have made me as hard core a cynic as cynic can be. And when I lose all hope, some like this trio come along to revive it.
*Exhibition of paintings by Ayesha Siddiqui from Aug 23-31 at Alhamra Arts Council, The Mall.
*Tafakkur Literary Forum at Faiz Ghar on Wed, Aug 24 at 3:30pm.
*Eid Shopping Festival at Mughal-e-Azam Hall on Aug 28 to start at 10:00am.
*Head Bands Exhibition today at Maisonette Luxury Apartments at 10:00am
*One day Film/Documentary Making Workshop today at Heaven Hotel, DHA at 02:00pm.
*One Day Practical Workshop Program in Developing Journalism today at Alhamra Arts Council, Qaddafi Stadium at 1:00pm.
*Join Dr. Shahzad Qaiser every Thursday as he speaks on thoughts of Iqbal, Khwaja Ghulam Farid and Baba Husayn Shah on Religion & Metaphysics at Hast-o-Neest Centre for Traditional Art & Culture.
Dates are selling like hot cakes but the price is too high
By Aoun Sahi
Ramzan is a special month — especially for the dozens of fruit vendors on Lake Road in Lahore.
Their business observes a significant surge during this month. Dates, which they otherwise do not sell, go like hot cakes. “I sell more than 50 kilogrammes of dates everyday during Ramzan”, says Muhammad Asif, 35-years old fruit vendor while trying to convince a customer to buy ‘his best dates’ at Rs200 per kilogramme.
He has allotted the best place of his donkey cart to dates, and the rest of the space is occupied by bananas, peaches and other seasonal fruit. He sways a hand fan consistently to keep the flies away but in vain.
This Ramzan, however, he is unable to sell the produce to customers at Rs200 per kg. At most they are willing to pay Rs140 per kg. “It’s inflation and the big merchants of dates who have let the price go so high,” Asif regrets.
His costumer is not convinced though. “Whoever must be blamed, I don’t care; the truth is we are facing severe price hike during Ramzan. Prices of dates have increased from Rs.80 to Rs.150 per kg — even the middle class people cannot afford it”.
Apparently, there is nobody to check the prices and make it rational. “Fruit sellers set the price at their own whims. The irony is that we have to buy dates in Ramzan,” she says.
Dates, an essential diet item in this holy month, are rich in carbohydrates, minerals and vitamins.
According to the traders in Lahore dates sell five times more in the month of Ramzan. “Prices of dates also double before the start of Ramzan”, Muhammad Idrees, a leading merchant at fruit market, Ravi Link Road Lahore, tells TNS. “Iranian dates price increased from Rs80 per kg to Rs200 per kg in open market before Ramzan,” he says, adding: “there is no official mechanism to fix the prices of dates like all other fruits. It is decided by the traders in an open bid in fruit market,” he explains.
Majority of Lahoris use local dates grown mainly in Sindh and Balochistan provinces. The most popular date varieties in Lahore market, according to Idrees, are Aseel of Sindh, Begam Jangi of Balochistan and Dhakki of Dera Ismail Khan. Harvest season of dates in Pakistan starts from the first week of August and continues to the last week of September. “If it were not the month of Ramzan, the prices of local dates would decrease significantly — as it is the harvest season. The prices have decreased a lot from what they were in the first week of Ramzan but the benefits have not reached the customers yet,” Idrees tells TNS that the price of best quality local dates was around Rs.15,000 per 100 kg at the start of this month while the price has decreased to Rs8,000 per 100 kg in the fruit market.
He warns that prices of both local and imported dates would increase a lot during Ramzan next year as traders have already started stocking them for the next season — “The harvest season of local dates will start after 15th Ramzan and those who have the space to store the fruit have been keeping it to gain maximum profits next year”.
Zakaria Saeed, deputy administrator Badami Bagh Market Committee, the official authority to keep check on the mechanism of pricing of fruits and vegetables in main fruit market and ensure that customers get them at reasonable prices, admits that the authority has totally failed to achieve its goals. “No official is ready to implement the rules and regulations. They only issue daily rate list to please the government while not even a single seller sells fruits and vegetables on the official rates. The authorities get their share from both big merchants and small traders and stay mum,” he explains; further that price hike apart, unhygienic and substandard dates are flooding city markets which is a greater cause for concern as they can cause hepatitis and other diseases. “We need a check and balance system in place for market committees as well,”t he says.
Pakistan is the fifth largest producer of dates in the world; around 535,000 tonnes of dates a year. Out of this only 86,000 tonnes are exported, the rest are consumed locally or go waste. The lack of processing and packaging facilities at par with international standards restrict the export of most of dates in Pakistan. Per acre yield of dates has not increased in Pakistan since 1996 whereas it has increased by 166 per cent in the other date growing areas of the world. United States, United Kingdom, India, Bangladesh, Germany, Australia and Canada are principal buyers of Pakistani dates. The country fetched Rs4.098 billion from dates exports during fiscal 2010-11.
In Lahore dates are hardly seen at fruit selling shops after Ramzan. But, there are some shops which keep it throughout the year. One such shop is at Nabha Road next to AG office. “Dates are not only used for breaking fast, many people consider them good in illness. It is also used in sweets, confectionery, chocolates, baking products, preservatives, salads, sauces, and breakfast cereals,” says Adbul Ghafoor, 45, owner of the shop. “Many people who come to Pakistan after offering Umra also buy dates from us. They mix these dates with those they bring from Saudi Arabia and give to their relatives and friends as a gift from Saudi Arabia,” he says.
A 102 year-old lady talks about the days when as an activist she worked selflessly for a higher cause — Pakistan
By Saim Ejaz
“Eemandaaree say sab kuch Khuda aur Pakistan kay liay karna” (with honesty, carry out each task for the sake of God and Pakistan), was the message of a fragile woman of a hundred and two. Her physical stature may have been small but the words that came out of her mouth had a lot more weight and meaning than any politician or influential speaker could ever have on a group of youngsters relatively low on patriotic fever at that point of time. For us the eyes that had observed the creation of this homeland were spell-binding and deserved a mention in one of the issues of the TNS.
Seldom do we witness a group of teenagers ending up in the company of an elderly woman. Maybe a few might. But there can only be a very rare instance when a teenage outing turns into a patriotic meeting with a hundred and two year old lady who has not only taken part in the Pakistan movement by working with the father of the nation Quaid-e-Azam but who also lost a brother in the violence that encompassed the freedom movement.
Personally, I was less than enthusiastic for the stopover but was compelled by my friends to visit the old lady. It is difficult to imagine what a century old fellow human being might look like but the fact that she was still breathing tempted me to at least have a glance now that we had stopped outside her house. There was a woman of a delicate physique with white wrinkly skin that confirmed her age.
Her narrative may have been incoherent and lacked a sense of chronology but it hit home precisely and effectively. She began with a story of how the Muslim women of her time worked tirelessly with the men while wearing the veil or burqa. Their work was regarded as equally important as they had primary access to the unaware Muslim populace that was being oppressed by the government of that time.
The elections of 1945-46 in the view of a historian were a simple clean sweep of the Muslim seats by Muslim League due to the overwhelming popularity of the call of Jinnah for the emancipation of the Muslim nation but through the eyes of a worker they were more than that. Forcing people out of their homes to cast their votes in favour of a change demanded commitment, “Ham poochtay thay kay kisko vote daalo gay. Pakistan ko daalo gay?” (We used to inquire whether the people will vote for us or not?). Interestingly, she did not feel the need to hide a bit of deviant practices that were carried out unofficially by the Muslim workers. She claimed to have witnessed a few of her fellows helping themselves filling up ballots with bogus votes to help the cause of Pakistan. Subtly she implied that the means were insignificant to the greater purpose that lay ahead when people’s lives were at stake. Maybe for her two wrongs did make a right when the cost of being right was more and more Muslim lives.
Her caretaker, Iram, then directed her to the story of her brother who was a member of the Indian National Congress. Her upbeat voice was filled with sorrow and a couple of tears trickled down her cheeks. According to her, he was tricked by his Hindu comrades into coming along with them. Later on her family found out that he was murdered with knives and thrown into a pile of Hindu bodies. At that moment I gazed at my friends who had lost track of time which came to me as a pleasant surprise because these included a couple of my friends who would eventually end up in a foreign universities. This woman was marketing the cause of Pakistan and too well to attract them into directing their aims of life in line with the benefits of this land. Hopefully, she succeeded!
Moreover, we were told that she had worked with Quaid-e-Azam and Fatima Jinnah a number of times. It was important to note that she did not have a high position within the ranks of the movement but carried out her work as a simple activist. She made it clear that her focus was to keep working for the cause of independence without the need of being acknowledged. The acknowledgement of her efforts, in her view, was the creation of Pakistan itself. This goes to show that the achievement of a higher purpose or aim needs the hard work of such altruistic people.
It all didn’t end here. Even though her old age compelled her to lose track of her narratives Iram helped her through them. A cat cuddled round her forearm while she played with it and kissed it. She had witnessed victory and defeat as well as happiness and sorrow. Coincidentally, it was the eve of 14th of August and I am sure she had lost track of the atrocities that were committed in today’s Pakistan but her solution was universal and it comprised of only one word, ‘eemandaaree’ (honesty). The problems that we face today need not be mentioned because we are all aware of them more or less. Accordingly, what is more important is for us to focus on the need to change and maybe the lady of a hundred and two did make us ponder as by the moment we were in the car American rock bands had replaced the famous vital signs song, ‘Hum hain Pakistani!’