‘Breathing smoke’: Ex-minister wants more than administrative measures to address Lahore’s hazardous pollution

‘Breathing smoke’: Ex-minister wants more than administrative measures to address Lahore’s hazardous pollution
Students wear face masks as they walk to school amid dense smog in Lahore on November 24, 2023. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 24 November 2023
Follow

‘Breathing smoke’: Ex-minister wants more than administrative measures to address Lahore’s hazardous pollution

‘Breathing smoke’: Ex-minister wants more than administrative measures to address Lahore’s hazardous pollution
  • Senator Sherry Rehman says lockdowns and school closures are insufficient to address the enduring environmental crisis
  • She asks provincial authorities to take decisive action on the basis of the National Clean Air Policy adopted last year

ISLAMABAD: Senator Sherry Rehman, Pakistan’s former climate change minister, expressed concern on Friday about Lahore’s air pollution, saying it had reached a point where residents were “breathing smoke,” though the authorities were still relying on administrative measures such as lockdowns and school closures that were insufficient to address the crisis.

Earlier in the day, Lahore topped the list of most polluted cities in the world once again, with its Air Quality Index (AQI) level hovering around 490.

The AQI is a standardized tool measuring air pollutants like particulate matter and ozone, serving as a crucial barometer for public health. An AQI over 300 is considered “hazardous,” meaning the air poses serious health risks to all residents, not just vulnerable groups.

“Lahore continues to reign as the world’s most polluted city today, holding the top spot on the air quality index,” Rehman said in a social media post. “This extreme level of pollution, far exceeding the safe limit of 300, means that Lahore’s citizens are essentially breathing in smoke, posing a significant threat to their health and well-being.”

Located in the Punjab region of Pakistan, Lahore faces severe air pollution during winter as farmers burn crop stubble, contributing to smog compounded by emissions from low-grade diesel.

The pervasive smog forced schools in the province at the outset of this month to notify parents via text message to provide their children with face masks.

The province’s interim chief minister, Mohsin Naqvi, also announced four holidays in an effort to address the problem, as the Lahore High Court instructed the provincial authorities to declare “smog emergency” to tackle its underlying causes and mitigate impact.

Rehman pointed out that a National Clean Air Policy had been in place since last year, adding that the provincial authorities should take decisive action based on it instead of announcing lockdowns and closures.

“While school closures and lockdowns may provide temporary relief, they are not sustainable solutions,” she added. “Instead, concrete measures must be taken to address the root causes of Lahore’s air pollution crisis, ensuring a healthier and cleaner environment for its residents.”

The Punjab provincial authorities have stated that the government is actively penalizing farmers who burn crop residue and is closely monitoring the situation.

Pakistani officials also attribute Lahore’s smog to environmental conditions in nearby New Delhi, India.


Pakistan to establish safe city project for security of Chinese workers in its northwest

Pakistan to establish safe city project for security of Chinese workers in its northwest
Updated 10 sec ago
Follow

Pakistan to establish safe city project for security of Chinese workers in its northwest

Pakistan to establish safe city project for security of Chinese workers in its northwest
  • The development comes two months after five Chinese workers, Pakistani driver were killed in suicide attack on their vehicle
  • The assault near the Dasu hydropower project was the third major one in a little over a week on Chinese interests in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Mohsin Naqvi has formed a committee to prepare a plan for the establishment of Dasu-Chilas Safe City Project to ensure foolproof security of Chinese nationals working in the country’s northwest, the Pakistani interior ministry said on Saturday.
The decision was made at a meeting Naqvi presided over in Islamabad to review security of the Chinese and other foreigners. the newly formed committee will present its recommendations in 15 days.
The development came two months after five Chinese nationals and their Pakistani driver were killed in a suicide attack while they were on their way to the Dasu hydropower project in Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
The hydropower project falls under the ambit of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a flagship project of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, for which it has pledged more than $65 billion for road, rail and other infrastructure developments in Pakistan.
“The prime minister has instructed that Daso-Chilas safe city be established. It will be established according to modern requirements like the project’s establishment in Islamabad and Lahore,” Naqvi was quoted as saying by his ministry.
“The aim of safe city is not just to install cameras, but it would be a system equipped with modern technology and artificial intelligence tools. Through this project, the surveillance and security of this area will be ensured.”
The committee, which includes Islamabad police chief, Hazara regional police officer and a Water & Power Development Authority (WAPDA) representative, will jointly prepare a comprehensive plan in this regard, according to the Pakistani interior ministry.
Chinese projects and interests have increasingly come under attack in recent years. The Dasu assault in March was the third major one in a little over a week on Chinese interests in Pakistan.
It followed a Mar. 20 attack on a strategic port used by China in the southwestern province of Balochistan, where Beijing has poured billions of dollars into infrastructure projects, and a Mar. 25 assault on a naval air base, also in the southwest. Both attacks were claimed by the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), the most prominent of several separatist groups in Balochistan.
Dasu, the site of a major dam, has been attacked in the past, with a bus blast in 2021 killing 13 people, nine Chinese among them, although no group claimed responsibility, like the Mar. 26 bombing.
On Thursday, Pakistan’s top economic body approved $2.5 million in compensation for families of Chinese workers who were killed in the Mar. 26 Dasu attack.


Motorist who killed two pro-Palestine protesters in Islamabad identified as army officer — police

Motorist who killed two pro-Palestine protesters in Islamabad identified as army officer — police
Updated 25 May 2024
Follow

Motorist who killed two pro-Palestine protesters in Islamabad identified as army officer — police

Motorist who killed two pro-Palestine protesters in Islamabad identified as army officer — police
  • Protesters encamped at Islamabad’s D-Chowk for several days to raise awareness about the Gaza war
  • Earlier this week, a speeding car lost control and ran over several demonstrators, killing two of them

ISLAMABAD: The driver of a car, which ran over and killed two pro-Palestine protesters in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad this week, has been identified as an army officer and handed over to the military police, the Islamabad police said on Saturday.
The protesters have set up their camps at D-Chowk in the Pakistani capital for the past several days. On Monday, a speeding car ran over a few demonstrators, killing two of them and injuring four others.
The driver of the car had sped away from the scene, but was arrested by the police shortly afterwards.
“The driver who crushed two people to death [on Jinnah Avenue] was arrested from the scene and identified as an army officer,” Taqi Jawad, an Islamabad police spokesman, told Arab News.
“He was nominated in the FIR [police report] and later handed over to the military police for further legal action.”
While the protesters condemned the incident, they said this week it would not dampen their spirits and they would continue to urge the government to do more about Israeli military actions in Palestine.
“We feel that the State of Pakistan and the Government of Pakistan should do far more than it has been doing till now,” Humaira Masihuddin, a lawyer, told Arab News on Tuesday.
Pakistan does not recognize Israel and supports an independent Palestinian state based on pre-1967 borders, with Jerusalem as its capital. In recent months, the South Asian country has repeatedly raised the issue of Israel’s war in Gaza at the United Nations through its permanent representative.
Rabail Shahid, a student, criticized the government for failing to provide security to the protesters in Islamabad.
“This incident happened here, I cannot even imagine, and [that too] in the Red Zone, in this Red Zone, which is a highly, strictly secured area,” she said.


Pakistan welcomes ICJ ruling on Gaza, reaffirms support to Palestinians

Pakistan welcomes ICJ ruling on Gaza, reaffirms support to Palestinians
Updated 25 May 2024
Follow

Pakistan welcomes ICJ ruling on Gaza, reaffirms support to Palestinians

Pakistan welcomes ICJ ruling on Gaza, reaffirms support to Palestinians
  • The ICJ decision added to the pressure on an increasingly isolated Israel, coming just days after Norway, Ireland and Spain announced they will recognize Palestine as a state
  • The case against Israel was initiated by South Africa in December 2023, where it labeled Israel’s actions in Gaza Strip as ‘genocidal’ and said they intended to destroy Palestinians

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Saturday welcomed additional provisional measures by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordering Israel to immediately halt its military offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, reaffirming its support for the Palestinians’ right to self-determination.
The ICJ decision on Friday added to the pressure on an increasingly isolated Israel, coming just days after Norway, Ireland and Spain said they would recognize a Palestinian state, and the chief prosecutor of a separate international court sought arrest warrants for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The case against Israel was initiated by South Africa in December 2023, where it labeled Israel’s actions in the Gaza Strip as “genocidal,” asserting that they intended to destroy the Palestinian people in ways specified under the 1948 Genocide Convention.
On Saturday, Pakistan’s foreign office said Islamabad supported the application filed by South Africa before the ICJ against Israel under the 1948 Genocide Convention, in follow up to which the ICJ announced additional provisional measures for Rafah.
“Pakistan demands immediate and unconditional implementation of the latest orders of the ICJ... We call on the UN Security Council to play its role in ending Israel’s ongoing brutal military campaign across Gaza; allowing unhindered flow of humanitarian assistance; taking effective measures to protect civilians in Gaza; and holding Israel accountable for its crimes,” the foreign office said in a statement.
“Pakistan reaffirms its unwavering support for the inalienable right to self-determination of the Palestinians for a viable, secure, contiguous and sovereign State of Palestine on the basis of the pre-1967 borders and with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital.”
Israel besieged the Gaza Strip and launched airstrikes following a surprise attack by Hamas on October 7, prompted by the deteriorating conditions of the Palestinian people living under the Israeli occupation.
To date, the Palestinian death toll has reached about 36,000, predominantly women and children, as Netanyahu’s administration continues its military campaign that has demolished hundreds of residential neighborhoods along with hospitals and educational institutions.
Pakistan does not recognize the state of Israel and calls for an independent Palestinian state based on “internationally agreed parameters” and the pre-1967 borders with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital.
In recent months, the South Asian country has repeatedly raised the issue of Israel’s war on Gaza, launched last October, at the United Nations through its permanent representative, Ambassador Munir Akram.
“As required by the latest ruling of ICJ, Israeli occupation authorities should keep the Rafah crossing open for unhindered provision of humanitarian assistance, and ensure unimpeded access to the Gaza Strip of any commission of inquiry, fact-finding mission or other investigative body mandated by the United Nations to investigate allegations of genocide,” the foreign office added.


Pakistani star Sajal Aly wants latest drama to raise awareness on family planning, women’s health

Pakistani star Sajal Aly wants latest drama to raise awareness on family planning, women’s health
Updated 25 May 2024
Follow

Pakistani star Sajal Aly wants latest drama to raise awareness on family planning, women’s health

Pakistani star Sajal Aly wants latest drama to raise awareness on family planning, women’s health
  • ‘Zard Patton Ka Bunn’ revolves around the themes of population control, women education and health
  • The drama went on air this month, stars Aly alongside Hamza Sohail, Samiya Mumtaz and Rehan Sheikh

LAHORE: Pakistani actor Sajal Aly, who is currently starring in drama serial ‘Zard Patton Ka Bunn,’ has said that it is important to talk about population growth, need for family planning, and women’s education and health in Pakistan, hoping that the audiences would understand the “message” in her latest television show.
Set against a rural background, the first episode of the drama, which highlights the significance of family planning and its impact on women and their health, went on air on May 12. It is a co-production of Pakistani entertainment channel Hum TV and Kashf Foundation, a Pakistani microfinance company that provides financial services to women from low-income areas.
Apart from Aly, Zard Patton Ka Bunn stars Hamza Sohail, Samiya Mumtaz and Rehan Sheikh in key roles. Two episodes into it, the drama, which airs every Sunday at 8pm, has hinted at multiple story tracks that will be unfolding in the upcoming episodes. It was written by Mustafa Afridi and directed by Saife Hasan.
Aly plays the role of Meenu in the drama who tries to challenge the status quo in a rather conservative society she is part of. Meenu, an advocate for women’s education, has a supportive father, while most men around her wish to cut her feathers.


“In our project [Zard Patton Ka Bunn], there are such heavy scenes, but the way in which Saife Hasan had me play those, it is very simple. And those day-to-day talks should take place because we [as a society] do not touch upon them,” Aly told Arab News at the official launch of the drama in Lahore on Friday.
“When we do [talk about such issues], it hurts people’s ego. I hope people like it and also understand the solution we have tried to provide through this story.”
Aly, along with the rest of the cast, attended the event in Lahore to raise awareness around women’s education, empowerment and maternal health as well as population growth and control.
“There is a dire need to shed light on these issues,” she said. “There is nothing better if we can talk about such issues, besides entertainment, and get to perform in such stories.”
Roshaneh Zafar, founder and managing director of Kashf Foundation, said media had a “huge” role in highlighting such issues.
“Media has a huge reach. If you want to bring change in the society, your reach will come from drawing rooms or the households,” Zafar said. “Our purpose really was to bring real-life stories of women on to the screen. A lot of research goes into every script that we develop.”
This is the foundation’s sixth TV project that strives for a “social change,” according to Zafar. Their previous projects have tackled themes of child abuse and human trafficking that rarely feature on screen.
“Zard Patton Ka Bunn is about the growing population, its impact on women and children, and the impact it has on people’s future. This is how it starts off but you have to make the story interesting at the same time too,” Zafar told Arab News.
“On one end, you want to educate [viewers] while on the other hand, you want to entertain them. There are other tracks too [in the drama].”
Speaking of the potential of such narratives and their impact on audiences, Zafar said the society did not talk much about these things. “When you bring them to the screen, it initiates a dialogue,” she explained.
Highlighting the role of men in empowering such narratives, Hamza Sohail, who plays the male lead in the drama, shared that he signed the project without “thinking twice.”
“I said yes to it with my eyes closed because I feel, being a man in our society, there is a huge responsibility on us in current times to advocate for such topics,” Sohail told Arab News on Saturday.
“Being a media person and being an artist where I have a platform where I can create awareness in my humble way, I think it’s very vital to make whatever contribution I can [make].”
Sohail plays the role of Dr. Naufil who, according to the actor, is a “man of principles.”
“He is someone who stands up for injustice and speaks against it. He speaks up against any wrongdoing or anything illicit. Eventually, you will see how his and Meenu’s paths meet and how they come across each other,” the actor said.
“Then, the real story begins. Then is when they come together to serve something that is being promoted in Zard Patton Ka Bunn.”


Pakistan plans to improve medical education framework, resolve issues of locals studying abroad

Pakistan plans to improve medical education framework, resolve issues of locals studying abroad
Updated 25 May 2024
Follow

Pakistan plans to improve medical education framework, resolve issues of locals studying abroad

Pakistan plans to improve medical education framework, resolve issues of locals studying abroad
  • The development came days after hundreds of Pakistani medical students returned from Kyrgyzstan following last week’s mob attacks
  • Kyrgyz medical schools have over the decades become popular among aspiring doctors, thanks to affordable fees and living expenses

ISLAMABAD: Deputy Prime Minister Ishaq Dar on Friday called for improving regulatory framework for medical education in Pakistan to make it at par with international standards and to resolve issues faced by Pakistani students studying abroad, Pakistani state media reported.
The decision was made at a meeting of a government committee on medical education in Islamabad, which was presided over by Dar. The committee reviewed medical education system, including fee structures, and identified key areas for improvement to align it with global standards.
The development came days after hundreds of Pakistani medical students returned from Kyrgyzstan following last week’s mob attacks on residences of foreign students studying in the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek over an earlier brawl between several Kyrgyz men and some Egyptian students.
Medical schools of Kyrgyzstan have over the last few decades become popular among aspiring doctors from India, Pakistan and some other Asian and Arab countries, in part thanks to relatively affordable fees and living expenses.
“The Deputy Prime Minister underlined the need to establish coordination mechanism between medical institutions and the public and private sector to ensure uniform high-quality education in all provinces,” the Radio Pakistan broadcaster reported.
“The meeting decided to constitute a sub-executive committee to review the existing TORs [terms of reference], synergize the regulatory bodies, streamline procedures for foreign students in Pakistan and uniformity in curricula.”
PM Shehbaz Sharif constituted the committee on medical education on May 20. The committee, which includes representatives of the medical community, education sector and government officials, was set up to reform medical education, improve health care standards and ensure highest quality of medical training for future generations of health care professionals.
“The sub-committee will prepare its report with the objective to ensure that medical graduates in Pakistan are equipped with the knowledge and skills required to meet contemporary health care challenges,” the report read.