polls
Lessons from NA-151
Although political observers have been reading too much into this by-election, there are 
indications in it about the direction that politics in this country could possibly take
By Farah Zia
NA-151 has been made to appear as a barometer to judge Pakistan’s politics; to discuss political alignments and possible realignments; to measure one institution’s strength versus the other. It is being sold as a sign of what lies in store in the forthcoming elections. A closely-contested election, all sides are drawing conflicting conclusions from it with an ease that defies common sense.

The disappointment in dreams
As the London Olympics 2012 begins, there seems no hope of Pakistan winning any medal. Why?
By Kamila Hyat
So, quite what has Pakistan got to look forward to as the London Games of 2012 begin? What dreams flicker beneath the light of the giant Olympic flame?
If the truth is to be told, there are no hopes at all. Since 1992 at Barcelona, where Pakistan picked up a somewhat unexpected field hockey bronze, the delegation from the country has returned empty-handed from each of the games held over the last two decades: the national flag has never been raised during this period above the podium of winners, and the strains of the country’s national anthem have not rung out around stadiums. 

Yeh Woh
Shah’s dune
By Masud Alam
He donned black garments and went into seclusion. When he came out he bathed and sat down one last time with his fakirs. He covered himself with a sheet and asked fakirs to sing and play music. They did so without break for three days. When they stopped, they found the Shah of Bhitt dead.
The fakirs are still singing and playing at Bhitt Shah, less than an hour’s drive from Hyderabad. It is said they haven’t missed a night in 260 years since Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai, Sufi poet, musician and the patron-saint of Sindh, passed away. They believe they owe it to the Shah: it’s his poetry they sing, his composition they train their voices to, and his invention — Tamboora — they play. They perform for him, not for visitors.

issue
Growing polio challenges
Propaganda by religious elements, misconception about the vaccination drive and growing corruption make polio-free Pakistan a distant dream
By Mushtaq Yusufzai
The nationwide campaign involving over 300,000 personnel against polio has become so controversial that even educated parents in urban areas like Peshawar and Mardan are refusing their children to be administered polio drops. 
Around 19,000 parents in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) refused to vaccinate their children during a recent three-day National Immunization Days (NIDs) campaign. It is shameful, as the number of refusals went up from 11,000 of last year to 19,000, despite the hiring of highly-paid union council communication officers (UCCO), hundreds of social mobilisers and district support officers for KPK. 

Neighbourly offensives
Cross-border attacks raise the temperature on Pak-Afghan border as patience seems to be wearing thin in both Islamabad and Kabul
By Rahimullah Yusufzai 
The relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan have often been uneasy and uncertain, but recent incidents at certain points on their long and porous Durand Line border have contributed to the bitterness in the relationship. 
The Afghan government has threatened to report to the United Nations Security Council against shelling by Pakistani security forces on its villages along the Durand Line in which civilians were killed, injured and displaced. It warned that the attacks could adversely affect ties between the two neighbouring countries.

Drop by drop
From vehicle branding to radio and television advertising, the campaign against polio 
has gone a notch up
By Naila Inayat
One can’t really escape star cricketer Shahid Afridi on the congested, muddied roads of Lahore, on rickshaws, cars, buses, wall posters, billboards, hoardings — and in newspaper adverts, radio and television. 
This time the cause is not his sport: he is advocating wiping out polio from Pakistan. “Pakistan and Afghanistan are two countries where polio cases are reported in huge numbers. I met with families of those affected, children who were crippled — because either they never got polio drops or even if they did it wasn’t on time,” Afridi talks about his new role as an ambassador of a polio champion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

polls
Lessons from NA-151
Although political observers have been reading too much into this by-election, there are 
indications in it about the direction that politics in this country could possibly take
By Farah Zia

NA-151 has been made to appear as a barometer to judge Pakistan’s politics; to discuss political alignments and possible realignments; to measure one institution’s strength versus the other. It is being sold as a sign of what lies in store in the forthcoming elections. A closely-contested election, all sides are drawing conflicting conclusions from it with an ease that defies common sense.

In a quirky way, the results that were openly accepted by the contestants are privately being mourned by the winning side and celebrated by the losers.

Some see a plot in the getting together of all anti-PPP forces, a replay of the establishment’s IJI-like design, while others see it as purely accidental. Whatever the dynamics of this particular election, the potential alliance between the PML-N and PTI in the next general election has not ceased to excite people’s imagination ever since.

The PPP’s list of grievances was endless though, curiously, the results did not quite match the depth of that victimhood. One is not sure about the campaign but the strategy was preemptive — so that if the results appeared bad it could say the party was such a huge ‘victim’. It claims to have started with a disadvantage; the one that made this election necessary — the disqualification and ouster of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. But the contesting son was tainted too; in the Hajj scandal. The younger brother was involved in the ephedrine scandal.

And yet none of the opposition parties dared contest in its own name. They all chose to join hands to defeat the Gilanis.

But that’s not where the PPP’s list ends. It points at the anti-incumbency factor, all the development work in Multan and around notwithstanding. A day before the election, the PPP was complaining that the acting chief election commissioner and the Punjab government were trying to influence the by-polls. The stakes, it claimed, were high because Gilani’s success would mean a verdict against the apex court. It even implied that the chief justice delayed the oath of the new election commissioner by a day to let the polls day pass. It said CM Shahbaz Sharif was in Khanewal to monitor the election.

And, of course, the new election rules in a by-election which is the continuation of 2008 polls was its other complaint. “Fixation of tents outside the polling stations, bar on transportation of voters, ban on issuance of voter slips” were some of the details, it said, that hit its voters hard.

Likewise, the opposing side would have complaints of its own.

As for independent monitors of NA-151 like Fafen, both sides flouted the new election rules with impunity and tried to facilitate their voters as much as they could. It may have been natural for the defeating candidate Shaukat Bosan to concede that the polls were by and large free and that he accepted the results.

Although, as said earlier, political observers have been reading too much into this by-election, there are certain questions that are directly linked with the NA-151 by-polls and indicate the direction that politics in this country could possibly take. For instance: the possibilities of a PTI-PML-N alliance, the PPP’s prospects in South Punjab, the reality or otherwise of the Seraiki sentiment and, most importantly, the role of establishment in the coming elections.

Political pundits rule out a PTI-PML-N pre-electoral alliance for a variety of reasons. Imran Khan, the symbol of change, is weary of the two parties taking turns and wants to go into the elections with this clear message. Others think it will be logistically impossible for them because of the choice of candidates which is more or less done by now; there will have to be a huge realignment of candidates and both parties will find it difficult to find new candidates.

Makes sense!

As for drawing some conclusions about the PPP’s prospects in South Punjab from this one, the party has the potential to capitalise on the Seraiki sentiment. In NA-151, this sentiment did not come into play because there was one Seraiki pitched against the other.

At the ideological level, this sentiment touches all Seraiki people and Gilani (YRG) has emerged as a leader of the Seraiki province. He is believed to have been punished on political grounds and its claims of being a victim party sells well with the people. With its share of gaddi nasheens and Jamshed Dastis of the world, the PPP is well-equipped to win majority of the 40 or so National Assembly seats in South Punjab.

So, finally, if the establishment was not instrumental in getting the PPP’s opponents together in NA-151, will it do so in the coming general elections? The role of the establishment, whether overstated or not, shall remain in Pakistan’s polity. There is an urge within the establishment to retain this role though, on the face of it, the political parties do not look strong enough to take it up yet.

But the important question that has been raised in the wake of this by-election is: if the establishment is ready for another PPP victory? Cynics are ready to give it to the establishment: the PPP, they say, has done nothing to annoy it; it gave Kayani three years extension; the military runs the foreign policy, the Nato supply routes as well as trade with India and so on.

To conclude, if the establishment does not have a problem with the PPP, its relationship with all other parties is, at best, a theoretical exercise. The analytical silver lining could thus be — the next elections will be fair. At least that’s one useful lesson from NA-151.

 

 

 

The disappointment in dreams
As the London Olympics 2012 begins, there seems no hope of Pakistan winning any medal. Why?
By Kamila Hyat

So, quite what has Pakistan got to look forward to as the London Games of 2012 begin? What dreams flicker beneath the light of the giant Olympic flame?

If the truth is to be told, there are no hopes at all. Since 1992 at Barcelona, where Pakistan picked up a somewhat unexpected field hockey bronze, the delegation from the country has returned empty-handed from each of the games held over the last two decades: the national flag has never been raised during this period above the podium of winners, and the strains of the country’s national anthem have not rung out around stadiums.

Indeed Pakistan has not won a gold medal in any sport since its victory, again in hockey, at Los Angeles in 1984. The occasional successes of the past in other sports — a wrestling bronze at Rome in 1960, a boxing bronze at Seoul in 1988 — have never come its way again. And of course, Pakistan alongside India no longer rules the hockey field as it once did; picking up a medal of one colour or the other in every Olympic competition it took part in between 1956 and 1984. This time round even a hockey medal is unlikely — while sports officials at home themselves concede there is no real hope in the other sports Pakistan’s 39-member delegation is competing in, including shooting, swimming and athletics. The calibre lies way too far below the world’s best.

Why is this so? Let us compare Pakistan’s performance with that of a few other countries. These nations have populations far smaller than Pakistan’s 175 million people, and certainly do not rank as rich or developed nations. Indeed, in socio-economic terms, some, like Ethiopia, rank well below Pakistan. But that war-torn country, with a population of just 84,734, 262 people claimed seven medals, in Beijing in 2008, including four golds, all in long-distance running events. Men and women runners shared the honours.

The small, Caribbean island of Jamaica, with a population of 2,652,689 has of course established itself as a sprinting power, collecting 11 medals in Beijing, including six golds, all in track events. The depth of its extraordinary talent can be gauged from the fact that Usain Bolt, the world 100-metre record holder with a remarkable time of 9.58 seconds was beaten at the intensely contested Jamaican Olympic trials by Yohan Blake, the current 100-metre world champion.

Other nations have performed still more remarkable feats. Kenya with a population about one-fourth the size of Pakistan claimed 14 medals in Beijing, all in athletics, continuing a tradition that began in the 1960s. Cuba, with a still smaller population of only 11,241,161 collected 24 medals in a range of sports including wrestling, cycling, athletics, judo and shooting. Javier Sotomayor, perhaps the best known athlete that country has produced, astonishingly still holds the world high jump record of 2.45 metres set in 1993 — the longest standing men’s record in that event.

So, quite why does Pakistan lag so far behind these countries? Some, like Cuba, may have emulated the Eastern Europeans in promoting sport; others have depended largely on natural talent — sometimes pushed on by local level coaches who saw potential in villages and hamlets.

There can be little doubt talent exists at home too. We only need to see the volley-ball skills of weekend players in parks, the distances covered daily by children in mountain areas as they race each other to school or the martial arts potentials of youngsters in many places. The boxing and football talent for which Lyari was once known has vanished amidst the violence that has over-taken the area while the much discriminated against Hazaras of Quetta have been given little opportunity to develop their exceptional gymnastic abilities.

Despite this, despite extraordinary odds, talent has shone through — as in the case of Maria Toor Pakay from South Waziristan who backed by her father broke with the harsh traditions of her region to develop her abilities as a squash player now vying for world ranking.

There can be no doubt potential exists; so does the hunger to succeed. As in Kenya or Jamaica, sport after all offers a means to rise above poverty. We need to find ways to develop ability, and in fact regain the ground we have lost over the decades. The failure of sports federations to develop their events needs to be investigated. Lack of funding is a factor; we need to find patronage for sports. But petty politics and indifference within sporting bodies are also major problems, with too many officials interested only in finding for themselves a way to gain a place aboard a plane headed overseas — even if this comes at the cost of a berth for an athlete in need of experience and exposure.

A great deal then needs to be thought about. Sporting success, perhaps most of all at the Olympics with the huge audiences it attracts, is after all not just about collecting medals. It is about giving nations a sense of pride, building hope within them and giving children role models to emulate. We certainly need such models; we need to lure youngsters away from worlds of violence or waste towards something more meaningful. This is why sport is in many ways of immense significance to us — as a means to build a nation that can rise to new heights — literally and metaphorically — and gain standing in a world where Pakistan today is associated too often only with extremism and all the evils that rise from it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yeh Woh
Shah’s dune
By Masud Alam

He donned black garments and went into seclusion. When he came out he bathed and sat down one last time with his fakirs. He covered himself with a sheet and asked fakirs to sing and play music. They did so without break for three days. When they stopped, they found the Shah of Bhitt dead.

The fakirs are still singing and playing at Bhitt Shah, less than an hour’s drive from Hyderabad. It is said they haven’t missed a night in 260 years since Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai, Sufi poet, musician and the patron-saint of Sindh, passed away. They believe they owe it to the Shah: it’s his poetry they sing, his composition they train their voices to, and his invention — Tamboora — they play. They perform for him, not for visitors.

There aren’t any visitors here anyway. It’s past midnight and the fakirs have just started their nightly routine. They sit in a half circle in the corridor, directly opposite the door behind which the Shah lies buried. Their singing style is unique, employing liberal use of falsetto — voice that is an octave higher and sounds like a woman’s — like Bee Gees.

Their only audience at the moment are two groups of females lying on the polished floor. And they are preparing to sleep. One group is made up of adult women talking in hushed voices. The other is of young girls. They are seven in number and all aged under 16. The Seven Queens of Abdul Latif. There’s Marvi, Momal, Noori, that is Sohni, this is Sarath and Lila, and oh … in the place of Sassi, there’s a little Punnun. The boy is around 10. Probably, the only brother of six sisters. They have all put an arm under their heads for pillow, and lie flat on their backs with their eyes closed.

But they are not asleep yet. Fakirs’ raag dips into lower notes and their fingers caress the strings of Tamboora ever so faintly, as if to lull the kids into sleep despite bright lights shining above, and the noise from the outer courtyard. The girl sleeping next to the boy turns on her side and puts a protective arm on his shoulder. Without opening his eyes, he shrugs her hand away.

Outside the main building, the graveyard at the back provides a quiet and unlit place for men to sleep, and the expansive courtyard at the front is alive with music of a different kind, and buzzing with the excitement of scores of people. They are gathered in front of a stage equipped with sound amplifiers and meant for visiting artistes. The crowd is thrilled to have here tonight Sanam Marvi, the singing sensation they’d gladly pay five thousand rupees to listen live. And here she is, out of sheer chance. She was passing by Bhit Shah, decided to stop at the shrine for a prayer, and ended up on the stage.

She is wearing no make-up and is dressed like a housewife offering namaaz: a simple lawn suit with a full sized dupatta covering her head and front of her body. But even without the production house-glamour, she is music to the crowd’s ear and poetry to its heart. There is awe in the eyes of men as they watch her perform just a few feet from them. Some are taking pictures with their mobile phone cameras. A few have climbed the stage to shower money on her, which will be gathered and given to the singer as a token of appreciation by her fans.

The fakirs can’t take money for performing. Well they can, as Allan Fakir, Saeen Zahoor and several others have done and are doing, just that Shah’s fakirs — the descendants of those who played music and sang poetry of love and passion for three days as a send-off for the Shah — cannot. In the corridor the women have fallen quiet and the children are asleep, one arm folded under the head and rest of the limbs scattered all over.

The fakirs have their eyes closed as they try to concentrate on what they are doing. The outside music is loud. Suddenly the tabla beat goes wild. The sound technician opens the fader on tabla microphones to maximum. They are probably dancing outside but fakirs can hardly hear themselves. They stop playing and singing and open their eyes at the same time. They look at each other, and with a resigned gesture, after only a moment’s pause, go back to doing what they must not stop.

[email protected]

 

 

 


issue
Growing polio challenges
Propaganda by religious elements, misconception about the vaccination drive and growing corruption make polio-free Pakistan a distant dream
By Mushtaq Yusufzai

The nationwide campaign involving over 300,000 personnel against polio has become so controversial that even educated parents in urban areas like Peshawar and Mardan are refusing their children to be administered polio drops.

Around 19,000 parents in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) refused to vaccinate their children during a recent three-day National Immunization Days (NIDs) campaign. It is shameful, as the number of refusals went up from 11,000 of last year to 19,000, despite the hiring of highly-paid union council communication officers (UCCO), hundreds of social mobilisers and district support officers for KPK.

These highly-paid people were supposed to persuade parents to vaccinate their offsprings against polio, but it proved a failure as those selected for the purpose lacked the skills required for the job.

“Instead of selecting people on the basis of their education, they should have recruited locals based on their experience and skill to mobilise parents,” a senior member of a foreign-funded project says.

Dr Jan Baz Afridi, deputy director Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI), says some parents termed polio drops an un-Islamic practice while others felt it was a conspiracy of the West to infertile Pakistani men. And in the tribal areas, the Taliban linked it to the drone attacks.

Despite attempts made by the international donors, Pakistani authorities failed to vaccinate more than 240,000 children in the tribal agencies of North Waziristan and South Waziristan and other parts of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata). In North Waziristan and South Waziristan, the regional Taliban groups had imposed a ban on anti-polio immunisation campaign as a mark of protest against the US drone attacks.

Hafiz Gul Bahadur, who is the Taliban chief in North Waziristan, banned anti-polio vaccination campaign on June 16 until drone strikes are halted. Around 160,000 children couldn’t be vaccinated there due to the ban.

“Until the drone attacks are stopped, our ban on polio campaign would continue in Waziristan. The drones proved more lethal and dangerous for people than polio,” Ahmadullah Ahmadi, a spokesman for Hafiz Gul Bahadur, tells TNS.

Similar is the case in the neighbouring South Waziristan Agency where local Taliban, led by Maulvi Nazeer, banned the campaign, depriving 80,000 children of anti-polio drops. The Taliban argued they had taken the decision in the larger interest of the tribespeople, particularly children.

The government had set a target of 1.06 million children in Fata to be vaccinated during the three-day campaign but it dropped to 754,000. Besides North Waziristan and South Waziristan, where one polio case each has been reported this year so far, the government was unable to reach out to hundreds of children in parts of Khyber, Orakzai, Kurram, Mohmand and Bajaur tribal regions due to poor security measures and lack of writ of the state.

The situation in Khyber Agency is said to be the worst as out of 23 polio cases reported this year in Pakistan, nine were detected in Khyber Agency. There were also reports that the government had started back-door negotiations with the Taliban leaders through senior clerics and officials of the political administration.

There are various factors which hampered this noble mission against the viral disease in the country, including malicious propaganda against the immunisation campaign from religious elements, misconceptions associated with the vaccination drive and growing corruption within the institutions involved in the campaign. And then there is poor surveillance, assessment and monitoring system.

Pakistan is currently among the three unfortunate countries where polio virus still exists — the two others are war-ravaged Afghanistan and Nigeria.

The doctors and health workers engaged in polio immunisation are now seriously worried about the anti-polio drive. They feel the fake campaign launched by Dr Shakeel Afridi in Abbottabad to help CIA track down Osama bin Laden has made their job more difficult and controversial.

Pakistani officials say since Dr Shakeel Afridi has never been part of WHO or Unicef, therefore the WHO and Unicef should have cleared their position on this issue in time. “The story of Dr Shakeel appeared in the Guardian in June 2011 about his running of fake polio campaign, but the WHO and Unicef remained silent for almost a year, which was damaging for the fight against polio,” a senior official associated with polio eradication programme tells TNS.

Also, the influx of foreigners is another reason behind poor immunisation.

Dr Mohammad Rafiq, Unicef’s focal person for Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Fata, is of the opinion that polio is still a big problem in Pakistan. “If one polio case is diagnosed that means the virus is existing in 200 other houses of the neighbourhood,” he tells TNS.

caption

Still a long way to go.

 

 

 

 

Neighbourly offensives
Cross-border attacks raise the temperature on Pak-Afghan border as patience seems to be wearing thin in both Islamabad and Kabul
By Rahimullah Yusufzai

The relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan have often been uneasy and uncertain, but recent incidents at certain points on their long and porous Durand Line border have contributed to the bitterness in the relationship.

The Afghan government has threatened to report to the United Nations Security Council against shelling by Pakistani security forces on its villages along the Durand Line in which civilians were killed, injured and displaced. It warned that the attacks could adversely affect ties between the two neighbouring countries.

On its part, Islamabad has repeatedly complained about the cross-border attacks in its territory by militants based in Afghanistan and demanded action against them. Officials have hinted that relations between Pakistan and Nato could again plunge into a crisis if these attacks weren’t immediately controlled.

When new Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf paid his first visit to Afghanistan on July 19, Pakistani officials said he would raise the issue of the attacks by Pakistani militants operating from across the border in the Afghan provinces of Kunar and Nuristan. The Afghan government officials also said they would take up the issue of the shelling and rocketing by Pakistan’s security forces into Kunar province with the visiting Prime Minister.

The two sides, as promised, raised the two issues and the matter was discussed in talks between Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf and President Hamid Karzai, but the cross-border attacks from Afghanistan’s territory and the shelling from Pakistan’s areas continued. It is obvious that whatever assurances were given in the bilateral talks and also during the trilateral summit between the Afghan and Pakistani leaders and British Prime Minister David Cameroon in Kabul weren’t acted upon on the ground along the Pak-Afghan border.

As the Afghan government had threatened to approach the UN Security Council if bilateral talks with Pakistan failed to bring a halt to the shelling into Afghanistan’s Kunar province, it now remains to be seen if Kabul would act on the threat. If that happens, the already distrustful Pak-Afghan relations would be further harmed.

Pakistan’s concerns regarding the tense situation on its western border increased when a cross-border attack into Pakistan’s Kurram Agency was launched on July 25. Pakistani security officials said around two dozen militants took part in the attack on the military’s Nawazish Post in Kurram Agency and caused injuries to two soldiers. They added that Pakistani troops retaliated and forced the intruding militants to retreat to their sanctuaries in Afghanistan.

Though some reports said the attack was launched by Afghan soldiers, the Pakistan military officials, who requested anonymity, insisted that militants were involved in it. There have been no reports in the past that Pakistani militants had found sanctuaries in Afghan territory bordering Kurram Agency. If true, this was the first time that the militants attacked Pakistan’s security posts in Kurram Agency, which has borders with Afghanistan’s Paktia, Khost and Nangarhar provinces. It could mean that Pakistani Taliban militants had also set up bases in these Afghan provinces.

Earlier, Pakistani Taliban fighters based in Kunar and Nuristan provinces in eastern Afghanistan were launching the cross-border attacks in Pakistan’s Lower, Dir, Upper Dir and Chitral districts and the tribal region of Bajaur. The opening of the new frontline targetting Kurram Agency would only add to the tension on the border and cause further distrust in the Pak-Afghan relationship.

Earlier, Pakistani authorities had alleged that some 60 Afghan soldiers entered Kurram Agency sparking clashes and killing two tribesmen. Afghan government denied that it soldiers entered Pakistani territory. It said its soldiers chased down attackers in Shahr-u-Nau area in Paktia province who crossed over to Pakistan.

Though several cross-border attacks from Afghanistan had taken place last year also in Lower Dir, Upper Dir, Chitral and Bajaur and killed more than 100 Pakistan Army and Frontier Corps soldiers, Levies and police personnel and pro-government members of the tribal lashkars, the situation didn’t deteriorate to the extent to cause further bitterness in the relations between Islamabad and Kabul. Pakistan did complain and asked Afghanistan and the Nato military commanders to help stop the attacks.

The situation this year is different and could spiral out of control. The border incidents in the past few months have raised the temperature and patience seems to be wearing thin in both Islamabad and Kabul. The verbal sparring has become intense and both Afghanistan and Pakistan summoned each other’s ambassador in the two capitals to lodge formal protest over the border incidents.

Islamabad took the step when 17 Pakistan Army soldiers were killed in a cross-border attack in Upper Dir district bordering Afghanistan. The Afghan government soon afterwards complained that mortar rounds fired by Pakistani security forces had hit border villages in Kunar province and caused human and material losses to the Afghan villagers.

Pakistan has been rejecting the Afghan claims and also complaining that the Karzai government and the US-led Nato forces had failed to take action against the Pakistani militants linked to the TTP hiding in Afghanistan and using the Afghan territory to launch attacks in Pakistan’s border areas.

Pakistan’s civil and military officials had to discuss the issue and reports emerged that Pakistani security forces in the border areas would be reinforced to cope with the growing challenge posed by the Pakistani militants who fled to Afghanistan after the military operations in Swat and rest of Malakand division in 2009 and also in Bajaur and Mohmand tribal agencies.

Estimates vary but it is believed up to 1,000 Pakistani Taliban, mostly from Malakand division led by Maulana Fazlullah and those from Bajaur and Mohmand agencies headed by Maulana Faqir Mohammad and Abdul Wali alias Omar Khalid, respectively, were now based in Afghanistan.

The issue also figured high on the Afghan government agenda and was debated in both the upper and lower houses of parliament in Afghanistan. Afghan lawmakers condemned Pakistan for committing aggression and killing and injuring Afghan nationals. In a recent session of the Meshrano Jirga, Afghanistan’s Upper House of Parliament, in Kabul, Pakistani leaders were referred to as Hitler, Stalin, Chengez Khan and Halaku Khan of this age and blamed as the killers of the Afghan people. The members of parliament termed as fraud the peace jirgas being held between Afghanistan and Pakistan and flayed the Nato and the Afghan government for failing to put an end to Pakistani aggression. The strong words used by the Afghan MPs showed the depth of hatred and anger     towards Pakistan.

The criticism of the US and its Nato allies for failing to take note of the cross-border shelling from Pakistan finally had an impact when the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan criticised Pakistan for the attacks. The ISAF condemnation closely followed a warning from Kabul that shelling and rocket attacks in future could significantly harm relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan. It was obvious that the US-led Nato was siding with Kabul in the matter and putting pressure on Islamabad to stop the shelling even if it was in retaliation to the cross-border attacks on its posts in Pakistan.

Though a Pentagon spokesman George Little later said that the US was working with both Pakistan and Afghanistan to limit violence along the border, the statement by the US and Nato military commander, General John Allen, was meaningful when he said they would help stop the cross-border attacks into Pakistan if Islamabad took action against the Haqqani network in North Waziristan.

caption

Frenemies.

 

 

Drop by drop 
From vehicle branding to radio and television advertising, the campaign against polio 
has gone a notch up
By Naila Inayat

One can’t really escape star cricketer Shahid Afridi on the congested, muddied roads of Lahore, on rickshaws, cars, buses, wall posters, billboards, hoardings — and in newspaper adverts, radio and television.

This time the cause is not his sport: he is advocating wiping out polio from Pakistan. “Pakistan and Afghanistan are two countries where polio cases are reported in huge numbers. I met with families of those affected, children who were crippled — because either they never got polio drops or even if they did it wasn’t on time,” Afridi talks about his new role as an ambassador of a polio champion.

“As a national figure, it is my duty to spread the awareness message,” he says.

In 2011, Pashtuns made up about 75 per cent of polio cases reported in the country.

Afridi, who hails from Khyber Agency in the tribal belt, has been roped in by the Unicef, World Health Organisation (WHO) and Prime Minister’s Monitoring and Coordination Cell for Polio Eradication as a face of 2012 campaign.

“My campaign commercials have been recorded in Urdu and Pashto, so yes my USP (Universal Selling Point) is being well used. If the Pashtuns can’t comprehend the message in Urdu, they certainly will in Pashto,” he says.

Also a Goodwill Ambassador of the UN on Drugs and Crime, Afridi is pleased with how the campaign is taking shape. In the first six months of 2012, Pakistan had 22 confirmed polio cases in 13 districts, down from 58 in 24 districts during the same period in 2011.

“I’ve been getting positive feedback from all over Pakistan and especially the tribal belt,” Afridi says.

Michael Coleman, communications specialist, Polio Eradication Initiative, Unicef, elaborates on the 2012 campaign, “There have been five immunisation campaigns already this year, and there are three more scheduled for the end of the year. Unicef works closely with the government of Pakistan and other polio partners like the World Health Organisation to ensure Pakistanis are reached with correct information about the vaccine, the campaign and how to have their child vaccinated.”

Coleman believes it is not just about awareness. “Awareness is the first step. Really, it is about ensuring that all caregivers understand the risk of polio, the need for the vaccine and with both the awareness and information, decide to have their children under-five vaccinated,” he says.

“This then takes the form of a multi-pronged approach ranging from mass media (TV, radio etc), to celebrity endorsement, working with religious and medical communities, to interpersonal communication using people from the same areas to address queries on polio and its vaccine,” Coleman explains.

But Imran Zaki, marketing professional, Momentum Worldwide, critiques the campaign, saying, “There has to be an out-of-the-box treatment of the campaign. The traditional media (TV and radio) might not serve the purpose, as in the past when there was one state-run channel. Today, since there is a clutter of television channels, the message might get missed while surfing between talk shows.”

The problem lies in rural areas rather than the urban metropolis. The awareness message should reach the masses in the underdeveloped areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Zaki thinks that mobile advertising through text messages can be most-effective even in far-flung areas of KPK.

“Fata and KPK have always been a priority. There is currently a targeted communication strategy being developed to reach out to the diverse populations in the tribal areas. There are unique challenges facing families there, so we have to cater our communication work to meet these challenges,” Coleman says.

Interestingly, Unicef notes that refusals are actually quite few — one to two per cent, depending on the area. There are over a thousand social mobilisers targeting the highest risk districts in the country. They are normally from the communities which they serve and are available to provide reliable information, key messages and support on polio vaccination information. “This is normally proven to be the most effective form of communication, complimenting other efforts, including mass media,” Coleman says.

Mazhar Nisar, health education adviser, Prime Minister’s Monitoring and Coordination Cell for Polio Eradication, says a vacuum was created after the devolution under the 18th Amendment in 2009, and there was a need for an apex body that could overall monitor and coordinate the polio activities in all the provinces.

 

 



|Home|Daily Jang|The News|Sales & Advt|Contact Us|

 


BACK ISSUES