crime
Parent's issue
Poor security arrangements at infant nurseries and absence of adoption laws are responsible for the growing incidence of abduction of infants from hospitals
By Aoun Sahi

In the last three years more than ten newborn babies have been reportedly abducted from Sir Ganga Ram Hospital nursery alone while cases of infant abduction have also been reported from General Hospital, Jinnah Hospital and some private clinics in Lahore.

MOOD STREET
The wisdom in reserving judgement
By Sarah Sikandar

Nostalgia is one of the most common human emotions. But I must confess I am probably devoid of it. Assets, as some people like to call them, memories hardly ever render me the supple touch that poets and writers often talk of. While it haunts some it brings a smile to most.

Town Talk

Group Show of paintings at Minhas Art Gallery of Government College University Lahore till June 8. The work of following artists are on display: Anna Molka, Colin David, Zulqarnain Hyder, Dr Ajaz Anwar, Mian Ejazul Hassan, Dr Shahida Manzoor, Kehkashan Jafri, Mashkoor Raza, Dr Musarrat Hassan, Shahnawaz Zaidi, Anila Zulfiqar, Erfanullah Babar, Salman Farooqi, Sumera Jawad, Sadia Rai, Ayesha Sidiqui, Munazza Rashid and Mrs Minhas. Exhibition open for all. Visiting hours: 10am to 4pm daily. Sunday closed.

security
Big Brother is watching us
Surveillance cameras continue to proliferate around the city in an age when we all place a premium on security
By Jazib Zahir

In George Orwell's vision of a dystopia depicted in the novel '1984', ordinary citizens are monitored by means of ubiquitous telescreens. The screens allow the Thought Police to ensure that potential dissidents are flagged well before they can stir up any trouble. These devices are thus a primary mechanism for sustaining the totalitarian state of Oceania.

Prevention better than cure
Boiled water, home-cooked fresh food and clean environment can save people from gastroenteritis to a great extent
  By Zarmeena Mubashir

The rampant rise in the number of gastroenteritis patients in the city is alarming. The increase in gastroenteritis is attributed to polluted water, old rusty water pipes and consumption of unhygienic food. Lack of resources in the hospitals has further aggravated the problem. The majority of affectees are from 'katchi abadis', and slums. Gastroenteritis broke out a year ago but the situation is the same if not worse.

RESPONSES TO LAST WEEK'S

QUESTION

TOP

10

Top ten ugly buildings in Lahore

1. Income Tax Office

2. AG Office

3. LTR Office

4. Design Block of National College of Arts

 


crime
Parent's issue

In the last three years more than ten newborn babies have been reportedly abducted from Sir Ganga Ram Hospital nursery alone while cases of infant abduction have also been reported from General Hospital, Jinnah Hospital and some private clinics in Lahore.

The latest incident took place in Social Security Hospital Multan Road on May 17. An impostor in the guise of a doctor came to the newly born child's parents and disappeared with the child in the name of vaccination. The poor parents have given application against this cruel act to the police. More than a week has passed but they have not seen their child again.

The incident clearly depicts poor state of security of newborn babies in public hospitals, though Punjab Health Minister Chaudhry Iqbal claims that all hospitals have enough security arrangements for nurseries. "Protection of an infant is not the duty of hospital management alone. Parents and attendant of mother are also equally responsible. They should not allow any stranger to come into their room nor develop friendship with strangers during their stay in hospital," he says. According to him some of the infant abductors have revealed during investigation that first they develop friendship with attendant of the infant's mother which helps them take away the child easily. The health minister tells TNS that every hospital has close liaison with the nearest police station to avoid such incidents.

Sir Ganga Ram Hospital's Medical Superintendent Dr Mubashar Attique says that some 15 days ago they caught two women, Sakeena and Riffat, in connection with these abductions from hospital. Dr Mubashar says he has directed the security department of the hospital to be more vigilant after the incident. "The hospital has 43 security personnel including a good number of women." He says during his tenure only one incident of infant abduction occurred. "I am not sure about enquiry into previous child abduction cases as these did not take place during my tenure," he adds.

The hospital administration later handed over both women to Race Course women police station. "During the initial interrogation, Sakeena and Riffat told us that they live in Tajpura and work for a woman who offers them money for abducting babies," SHO women police station Azra Perveen tells TNS. She says police is trying to interrogate the women about their other accomplices.

Hussain Habib, superintendent of police (SP) Security Lahore tells TNS that so far no hospital management or health department authorities have contacted or consulted police for providing security to nurseries in hospitals from where these children have been abducted. "In fact internal security of hospital is not the duty of police but hospital administration," he tells TNS. He admits that Ganga Ram is not the only hospital in the city from where infants have been abducted. Similar incidents of infant abduction have been reported from nurseries of General Hospital, Jinnah Hospital and some private hospitals.

Hussain thinks that every case has different reasons but another police official does not agree with him. "In almost all public sector hospitals infant nurseries are very vulnerable from security point of view," he tells TNS on condition of anonymity. The other and even more important reason according to him is non-existence of adoption laws in Pakistan. "In 90 percent cases infants abducted are male. They are sold to issueless couples or to those who only have girls and are desperate to have a male child in the family. It happens because legally one cannot adopt a child in Pakistan," he tells TNS.

Lawyers confirm that there exist no proper adoption laws in Pakistan. According to Mian Naveed Aslam, advocate high court, it is because Islam does not recognise adoption as a formal and legal relationship and in Pakistan no law contrary to teachings of Islam can be approved. Islam encourages helping orphans but that does not entail taking a child into your family as your son or daughter. "Islam recognises relationships on the basis of birth. For example if someone adopts a girl and has a son of his own, the two children will not be brother and sister. Similarly, even when a man adopts a girl as a daughter he remains a na-mehram for the girl," he says.

According to Mian Aslam though an application under Section 25 of The Guardians and Wards Act, 1890 can be moved before the court for the transfer of custody of the child. "The child's natural parents are required to make a statement before the court that they have no problem with the proposed transfer of custody. Mostly the basis given is the welfare of the child, which is usually measured in terms of financial standings of the respective parents," he says.

But the child still cannot be considered as legal heir of the couple who has adopted him because Islam does not attach any legal relevance to such a relationship, says the lawyer. However, during his lifetime, a person can give up to one-third of his property to anyone he likes, including the child that he has taken care of. "If he fails to do so and dies, the adopted child will have no share in any of his property," the lawyer tells TNS. He thinks that having no proper adoption laws is one of the main reasons of theft or abduction of infants because issueless couples while adopting a child legally prefer to do so secretly "so that in future there is no one to claim that the child belongs to him/her," he adds.

There are reported incidents that support the claim. In April 2001 a new born from Holy Family Hospital Rawalpindi was abducted. The name of the mother was Zainab Bibi. The abduction was carried out cleverly as the imposter, dressed and posing as a nurse, had asked mother to take the baby for vaccination. Within a week the police, after involvement of military intelligence, recovered the newborn baby from a well-off but issueless couple and arrested them on charges of stealing the baby. They told police that they were handed over the baby by a private clinic in Rawalpindi. Later, a female staff of that clinic confessed that she kidnapped the child from hospital.

The organisations working for the welfare of 'lost children' also confirm that child adoption is a very tough and complex process. Muhammad Faisal, an Edhi representative in Lahore tells TNS that they never give baby to a couple before they are completely satisfied. "There are certain very strict rules, like the couple should be rich enough to feed a child and they should be married for at least 10 years," he tells TNS. They also keep in touch with family after the adoption to ensure the child is being properly cared for.

If after some time the original parents of the child are found, the situation becomes very complex, he tells TNS. "In fact it is up to the original parents if they want their child to remain with the couple who has adopted it or not. If not, then after fulfilling certain legal and medical requirements they can take their child back," he tells TNS.


MOOD STREET
The wisdom in reserving judgement

Nostalgia is one of the most common human emotions. But I must confess I am probably devoid of it. Assets, as some people like to call them, memories hardly ever render me the supple touch that poets and writers often talk of. While it haunts some it brings a smile to most.

It's not that people in their early twenties are not supposed to have any memories. Not at all. Once the mind starts remembering, the simultaneous process of this phenomenon begins. I hear my friends talk of their childhood as if that was the best time in their lives while they hardly remember the bad things. Very few people I know talk of their childhood without their faces glowing and eyes sparking. I absolutely fail to identify with them.

It's not that I don't have anything to be nostalgic about. I had the most normal childhood. It wasn't a nightmare Cinderella childhood nor was it like Dennis the menace -- always saying the stupidest things and getting away with it. I have had my share of thrashings and bullies. It resembles more with the one Wordsworth wrote about or the myriad of advertisements that promise the 'best' for our children (with the poor kids mostly running). I have had first hand experiences of tree jumping and pillow fights -- but I hardly ever think about them, at least not deliberately.

And yet, sitting amongst people recollecting the golden period of their lives, I must participate in the nostalgic conversation with no real involvement, I must confess.

Like normal kids I made friends in every new school I joined. And perhaps like normal kids, the moment I left that school I would miss neither school nor friends. After finishing college I hear former class-fellows thinking of good old days, of how stressful college days were. Somehow, the moment you leave college it becomes the best place in the world. As for me, I would never want to return to the anxiety of looming deadlines and term papers. The only reason I would want to go back to college is because it provided the best excuse for not attending family functions and milads.

My recently graduate psychologist friend insists something is wrong with me. It is not possible not to have good memories. Most people think the same way. But I am sure there are others like me. I just think we have different ways of making ourselves realise that the life we left behind was somewhat better than what we have now. The idea of a 'responsibility free' life is utopian for every one. Just a way of justifying our weaknesses and making ourselves even more miserable, I guess.

Proud of my ability to remember faces and names, it's only the phone numbers that my mind seems to have no space for. Unfortunately, people I remember most are not those closest to me but those who've been, well, not too nice to me.

And I conveniently forget those who may have been rubbed the wrong side because of me. I have harmed, at a very small level of course. I still remember the teacher who told me to leave the class because I asked her a question in Urdu or the friend who thought I should sit at the back seat because I distract her by talking a lot or the cousin who said I don't know the difference between LCD and a normal TV. I remember people and things they say. My mind somehow never lets go of the faces and the small petty details I associate with them.

Remembering these people never makes me angry except for not thinking of a good reply then. It is actually good. They help me differentiate between how and why I should never open my mouth to belittle anyone.


Town Talk

Group Show of paintings at Minhas Art Gallery of Government College University Lahore till June 8. The work of following artists are on display: Anna Molka, Colin David, Zulqarnain Hyder, Dr Ajaz Anwar, Mian Ejazul Hassan, Dr Shahida Manzoor, Kehkashan Jafri, Mashkoor Raza, Dr Musarrat Hassan, Shahnawaz Zaidi, Anila Zulfiqar, Erfanullah Babar, Salman Farooqi, Sumera Jawad, Sadia Rai, Ayesha Sidiqui, Munazza Rashid and Mrs Minhas. Exhibition open for all. Visiting hours: 10am to 4pm daily. Sunday closed.

 

Photo Exhibition of Young Afghani Photographers on tour in South Asia till May 28 at Annemarie-Schimmel-Haus.

 

Exhibition of the works of the first degree students of Beaconhouse National University is opening today at Alhamra Arts Council, The Mall. Textile Design and Visual Communication Design departments will display their works.

 

Student Exhibition at BNU: Annual exhibition by the Fine Art and Jewellery Design departments of BNU opening tomorrow at 6pm. It will continue till May 31, Thursday. These will be works of second and third year students.

 

Martin Lings Memorial Film Festival at Aiwan-e-Iqbal Complex. Today is the last day. The film is 'Ghazzali: The Alchemist of Happiness'. Fee: Rs 150, for students Rs 50.

 

Puppet Show for children every Sunday at Alhamra, The Mall at 11am.


security
Big Brother is watching us

In George Orwell's vision of a dystopia depicted in the novel '1984', ordinary citizens are monitored by means of ubiquitous telescreens. The screens allow the Thought Police to ensure that potential dissidents are flagged well before they can stir up any trouble. These devices are thus a primary mechanism for sustaining the totalitarian state of Oceania.

While such screens are confined to literary realms, surveillance is a growing trend in our city from the signs that warn us of 'the eye of the camera' to the lenses winking at us in banks, markets and petrol pumps. This is a truly global phenomenon with one report claiming that there is a camera for every fourteen people in the United Kingdom. This can be interpreted as the tangible response of a world that lives in fear of the increasingly sophisticated faces of crime and terrorism, and seeks to pre-empt felons or at least extract corroborating evidence to pursue them effectively.

One destination where most of us are likely to find ourselves confronting an overhead camera is our local bank. Most seem to have a dozen or more devices strategically located around the premises focusing on critical spots like ATMs, the tellers' counters and the parking lot. An official of Bank Alfalah explains that the cameras must be located within the standard field of vision since their presence is largely meant to be a psychological deterrent to perpetrators. But if the cameras are so easy to pinpoint, won't a shrewd robber attempt to eliminate them? Apparently, any form of tampering with these cameras triggers an alarm that draws a swift police response.

It's not just vaults and piles of cash that require digital protection. "We have put up several surveillance cameras in our equipment room," explains Farooq, an engineer at a multinational company. This was primarily a response to instance of theft of small but valuable items like cartridges and disks. But it was also deemed necessary since employees of several companies worked on the same equipment and at times of system failure, it was critical to know who may have last had his fingers on the terminal. "Installing the cameras has both helped eliminate theft and made the employees more conscientious of their actions," Farooq says proudly.

Doesn't having a camera studying our every move translate into a tense work environment devoid of trust? "It's not that we don't trust our employees," insists Abdul Karim, who was responsible for deploying cameras in the office in which he works as a member of the administration. "We only study the camera footage when we know there has been an issue that needs to be followed up. Often the employees actually benefit from the presence of the cameras since it helps us locate misplaced cell-phones and other valuables that may otherwise have been lost forever," he argues.

Most of the cameras we are likely to encounter on a daily basis in Lahore are quite primitive devices. Few have the ability to zoom or pan and virtually none are armed with the software intelligence needed to identify troublemakers by physical features or raise an alarm in response to an anomaly. A former employee of NADRA explains that while sophisticated devices incorporating facial recognition and tracking capabilities are present in sensitive zones in developed countries, the concept has not yet taken off in Pakistan. He describes how NADRA has some expertise in facial recognition software that was once demonstrated by a computer conveying verbal greetings to visiting diplomats upon identifying them based on images fed into its database. But at this point, public and commercial applications are not on the horizon due to budget constraints on the part of interested parties and lack of technical expertise on the part of the potential operators.

Not to say that Pakistan is completely lacking in surveillance sophistication. Kashif, an employee of Wateen Telecom, describes a security product he will soon be launching in the market. It involves being able to fix security cameras at points of interest around your house and having the ability to access the live and stored feed from any computer in the world, or to use an idealistic scenario, even over your cell phone while lounging on a boat in the sea. As long as consumers are willing to dig into their pockets, private corporations are willing to employ advanced technology to make them feel safer.

Coming full circle, we must once again question if a society where the eye of the camera reigns supreme will snowball into an Orwellian kingdom. While developed nations boast a much higher camera density than Pakistan, the hardware is also bound by legislation that has evolved to strike the delicate balance between security and breach of privacy. The technology has not yet matured in Pakistan but in anticipation it is necessary that a regulatory body be charged with the task of ensuring that the camera feed is only used in everyone's collective best interest.


Prevention better than cure

  By Zarmeena Mubashir

The rampant rise in the number of gastroenteritis patients in the city is alarming. The increase in gastroenteritis is attributed to polluted water, old rusty water pipes and consumption of unhygienic food. Lack of resources in the hospitals has further aggravated the problem. The majority of affectees are from 'katchi abadis', and slums. Gastroenteritis broke out a year ago but the situation is the same if not worse.

Signs and symptoms of gastroenteritis vary among individuals. Nausea, vomiting, exhaustion, fever, abdominal cramps and audible rumbling of the stomach are common symptoms of bacterial infection. Emergency wards of nearly all the hospitals are flooded with patients suffering from diarrhoea, abdominal cramps and vomiting.

Hussain, Ahmed and Nasreen, gastroenteritis patients at Services Hospital last week said the chief minister on his visit to the hospital, reportedly announced Rs 100,000 each to the patients as compensation but there is no money in sight. The residents of Samanabad complain that government pays little or no attention to broken streets and roads which are breeding grounds of mosquitoes.

Government hospitals are receiving 100 gastroenteritis patients daily on average. General practitioners and gastroenterologists hold contaminated food and water as the main cause.

Hospitals throughout the city are swarmed by gastroenteritis patients of all age groups. Children constitute about half of the victims. Patients are dissatisfied with the available medical facilities as the prices of medicines are exorbitant.

Dr. Imran, a private medical practitioner, defines gastroenteritis as an epidemic, and an inflammation of the intestines. "It is contracted by Eculi bacteria, contaminated water, and hand to mouth contact," he says.

Doctors recommend immediate care if a patient passes stool 10 to 20 times accompanied by vomiting in an hour. O.R.S and water drips should be provided to prevent loss of minerals and salt imbalance in the patient.

It was learnt from the emergency ward of Services Hospital that they received around 400 cases of gastroenteritis daily but only 16 could be admitted due to lack of resources and medical staff.

"100 to 125 gastroenteritis patients walk in the emergency but we can admit only 10 cases which need immediate diagnosis. Cases with bacterial infection in which patients bleed, should be immediately given fluids and antibiotics," says Dr Rizwan Zafar of Jinnah Hospital. Primary objective of all gastroenterologists is to prevent dehydration, hence renal failure.

"Government has done a good thing by providing adequate fluids and reasonable antibiotics to the emergency. We appreciate the government for what it has done. The government also needs to provide required amount of fluids and medicines to the wards and most importantly the manpower is not sufficient to take care of the patients," says Dr Khurram Sehgal of Jinnah Hospital.

"No measures have been taken to combat water and sanitation problem. People are drinking contaminated water in the absence of any arrangement for filtration of water," says Rana Aftab Ahmed, MPA. He says the government is spending money on posh areas and neglecting katchi abadis such as Changa Manga, Manga Mandi, Shah di Khoi and Head Baloki which are the worst affected localities.

Township, Green town, Samanabad and areas which fall under the lower socio economic strata of the city desperately need government's attention. Poor sanitation, uncovered food and drinks served on roadsides by hawkers is a common cause of spread of this epidemic. Doctors are of the view that awareness amongst patients can control the spread of gastroenteritis. Undercooked, spicy food and dairy products are to be avoided by the patients.

"On average a patient with acute gastroenteritis should recover within 12 hours. Abundant intake of fluids, awareness amongst masses and hygienic living conditions are prerequisites of healthy living," says Dr. Johar Amin at Liver and Gastro Care opposite Fatima Memorial Hospital.

Nurses and attendants in most of the hospitals of the city are not able to deal with the increasing number of gastroenteritis patients. "Government should recruit more nurses. Only eight nurses are available from 8am to 2pm. From 2pm onwards only 2 nurses are on duty for around 50 patients," says Dr. Rizwan at medical unit III, Jinnah Hospital Lahore.

"We are satisfied with the doctors but government needs to do more, as when admitted to the wards, we face lack of medical aid and staff," says a patient at Omar Hospital.

The outbreak of gastroenteritis can be stopped before it spreads further through the mutual cooperation of provincial government and doctors. The adjoining and rural areas need emergency camps with beds and necessary medical facilities.

Punjab is the worst affected province, and Lahore, being the provincial capital should be able to set up a good example of hygiene by keeping roads clean, getting rid of encroachments and by providing proper sanitation and sewerage system. Awareness programmes should be arranged throughout the city to inform the masses about the ill-effects of taking contaminated food and water. Moreover, people should keep their surroundings clean.

There are dumping grounds of waste inside residential areas. It is important to remove them immediately. Factory waste and polluted water need to be separated from drinking water supplied in households. Plastic bags which block the drains need to be replaced with paper bags.

Doctors repeatedly emphasise upon washing hands and mouth thoroughly, especially before and after eating. In areas with poor sanitation only bottled or boiled water should be consumed. People should exercise caution in storing food that spoils easily, such as meat, salads and dairy products.

The best way to prevent gastroenteritis is to increase per capita breathing space in households. Those who travel to areas with poor sanitation should keep a bottle of boiled water with them.

Gastroenteritis can also be avoided by exercise, hygienic eating and drinking habits. The living conditions when clean and green keep the virus and bacteria from spreading.

If the above mentioned measures are taken, gastroenteritis can be avoided and the living conditions for common man can improve a great deal. Gastroenteritis is an epidemic which requires prevention, awareness and hygienic living conditions.


QUESTION

TOP

10

Top ten ugly buildings in Lahore

 

1. Income Tax Office

2. AG Office

3. LTR Office

4. Design Block of National College of Arts

5. Punjab Architecture Department

6. Punjab Public Library

7. Additions in Lahore Secretariate

8. LDA Complex

9. State Bank of Pakistan

10. Custom House

To enlist by popular vote the 'top ten' for next week, send in your emails on top ten

'Top ten ugly buildings in Lahore'.

Please email at [email protected]

 

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