Pakistan’s main health body warns of Congo fever risk ahead of Eid Al-Adha

Pakistan’s main health body warns of Congo fever risk ahead of Eid Al-Adha
Livestock vendors and customers walk amid sacrificial camels at a cattle market ahead of the Muslim festival of Eid Al-Adha in Lahore on June 25, 2023. (AFP/File)
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Updated 23 May 2024
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Pakistan’s main health body warns of Congo fever risk ahead of Eid Al-Adha

Pakistan’s main health body warns of Congo fever risk ahead of Eid Al-Adha
  • Congo fever is viral hemorrhagic disease transmitted to humans through contact with infected animals
  • NIH also urges timely and appropriate measures to ensure protection from heatstroke and typhoid fever

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s primary health body has issued an advisory for the prevention of Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever (CCHF), a press release said on Thursday, in light of the upcoming Muslim festival of Eid Al-Adha that could be a breeding ground for the tick-borne virus.

CCHF is a viral hemorrhagic disease transmitted to humans through contact with infected animals, mainly through handling livestock or their blood, tissue, or excrement. It can also be transmitted from human to human through direct contact with the blood or bodily fluids of an infected person. The disease has a high fatality rate, and there is currently no vaccine or specific treatment for it. 

“During Eid Al-Adha, there is an unusual increase in the movement of animals from all provinces and increased contact between the general public and animals, raising the risk of the spread of Congo fever,” the National Institute of Health (NIH) said on Wednesday, advising people to wear light-colored clothing to easily detect ticks on fabric and avoid areas where ticks were prevalent.

The NIH also urged timely and appropriate measures to ensure protection from heatstroke and typhoid fever.

Pakistan has been experiencing severe climatic changes due to global warming in recent years which has led to heat waves, untimely rains and droughts.

A sunstroke is a form of hyperthermia and medical emergency during which the body temperature is elevated and can be fatal if not promptly treated, the health body said, adding that profuse or no sweating, dry skin, headaches, chills, slurred speech and dizziness were common signs of heatstroke.

Emphasizing precautionary measures during extreme heat, the health advisory advised people to avoid direct sunlight, drink plenty of water and use an umbrella or hat when outdoors. 

On May 21, authorities had urged people to stay indoors as the country was hit by an extreme heat wave that threatens to bring dangerously high temperatures and yet another round of glacial-driven floods. Pakistan’s most populous province, Punjab, shut all schools for a week because of the heat, affecting an estimated 18 million students.

The country’s chief meteorologist has warned that the heat wave would “intensify” from today, May 23, onwards.

Regarding typhoid fever, a bacterial infection that can prove to be life-threatening if not treated properly, the NIH said Pakistan was among countries with the highest burden of typhoid fever due to a lack of safe drinking water, inadequate sanitation, and poor hygiene practices. 

The statement stressed the importance of following hygiene practices, using clean water and avoiding street food. The disease has been reported from various parts of the country since 2016, especially during the monsoon and summer seasons, the health advisory said.


Azm-e-Istehkam not a ‘large-scale military operation,’ clarifies PM Sharif amid growing criticism

Azm-e-Istehkam not a ‘large-scale military operation,’ clarifies PM Sharif amid growing criticism
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Azm-e-Istehkam not a ‘large-scale military operation,’ clarifies PM Sharif amid growing criticism

Azm-e-Istehkam not a ‘large-scale military operation,’ clarifies PM Sharif amid growing criticism
  • PM Sharif says new military operation to instill new spirit and drive in implementation of National Action Plan
  • Calls on stakeholders to appreciate “positive step,” demands end to “unnecessary debate” over the issue 

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif this week clarified that the government’s new anti-terrorism operation will not be a large-scale military operation that would cause people to be displaced, amid growing opposition by Pakistani political parties who accuse authorities of not taking them into confidence on the matter. 

Pakistan’s top national security forum on Saturday announced the Operation Azm-e-Istehkam, or Resolve for Stability, campaign after a meeting of the Central Apex Committee on the National Action Plan (NAP) that was attended by senior military leaders and top government officials from all provinces, including the PTI-backed Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Ali Amin Gandapur.

However, the PTI and Jamiat Ulama-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), two key political parties in the militancy-hit Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province, have rejected the military operation. Leaders of both parties have called on the government to take lawmakers into confidence about the new operation. 

In a statement released by his office on Monday night, Sharif said Operation Azm-e-Istehkam is being “misunderstood” and compared to previous military operations such as Operation Zarb-e-Azb and Operation Rah-e-Nijat. He said militants in these operations were killed for creating “no-go areas” in the country and for challenging the writ of the state, adding that they caused massive displacement of the population. 

“There are currently no such no-go areas in the country as the ability of terrorist organizations to carry out large-scale organized operations inside Pakistan has been decisively defeated by past armed operations,” Sharif was quoted as saying. 

“Therefore, no large-scale military operation which would require population displacement is being contemplated,” he added. 

The statement clarified that Operation Azm-e-Istekam is a multi-domain, multi-agency and national vision to bring about sustainable peace and stability in the country. 

“Its objective is to instill a new spirit and drive in the ongoing implementation of the revised National Action Plan, which was launched after a national consensus in the political arena,” the statement added. 

The PMO said the operation would mobilize military operations that have already been launched against militants and aim to eliminate them out of the country for good. It said this would ensure a secure environment for the country’s economic progress and prosperity. 

Sharif said everyone should welcome this “positive step” by the government, saying it had been taken with collective wisdom and after forming a political consensus among various stakeholders. He called for putting an end to “unnecessary debate” on the issue. 

Speaking to a private news channel on Sunday, Defense Minister Khawaja Asif said a consensus was reached on the new military operation between all stakeholders during the apex committee’s meeting last week. He said the decision to launch Operation Azm-e-Istehkam had not been “finalized.”

“It will go through the process,” Asif said. “It will go to the cabinet [for approval] then it will be presented in the house and the house will be briefed on it.”

Pakistan has witnessed a surge in militant attacks in recent months, many of them claimed by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which pledges allegiance to, and gets its name from, the Afghan Taliban, but is not directly a part of the group that now rules Afghanistan. Its stated aim is to impose Islamic religious law in Pakistan, as the Taliban have done in Afghanistan.

Islamabad blames the recent uptick in attacks on Afghanistan, saying TTP leaders have taken refuge there and run camps to train militants to launch attacks inside Pakistan. Kabul says rising violence in Pakistan is a domestic issue for Islamabad and it does not allow militants to operate on its territory.


PM Sharif reiterates Pakistan’s resolve to eradicate polio in meeting with Bill Gates 

PM Sharif reiterates Pakistan’s resolve to eradicate polio in meeting with Bill Gates 
Updated 24 June 2024
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PM Sharif reiterates Pakistan’s resolve to eradicate polio in meeting with Bill Gates 

PM Sharif reiterates Pakistan’s resolve to eradicate polio in meeting with Bill Gates 
  • Says will utilize all state resources to protect polio workers taking part in vaccine campaigns
  • Pakistan reported fifth polio case of this year in the southwestern city of Quetta

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif reiterated his government’s resolve to eradicate polio in Pakistan in a meeting with philanthropist Bill Gates, the PM Office said on Monday, assuring the utilization of all state resources to protect polio workers carrying out vaccine campaigns.
Pakistan reported its fifth polio case this June. The infectious disease has been eliminated in developed nations but persists in parts of India, Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan. At least 11 policemen have been killed this year while on security duty during vaccination campaigns which are frequently targeted by militants. 
“The prime minister briefed on a strong and focused strategy to address the rising threat of polio virus infections and the necessary steps to completely eradicate the disease from Pakistan,” the PM Office said in a press release on Monday. “He reiterated the government’s firm commitment to polio eradication, stressing that it is a top priority.”
The statement said the prime minister would personally oversee national efforts being carried out for the eradication of polio.
“Mr Gates also expressed confidence that with continuous vaccination and the government’s strong commitment, there would be significant progress in the polio eradication campaign,” the PM Office added. “Both parties agreed to continue working together not only on polio eradication but also on strengthening the health system across all provinces.”
PM Sharif also accompanied Gates to the National Emergencies Operations Center (NEOC) which monitors the polio eradication campaign.
Many Pakistanis, particularly those residing in the conservative tribal areas, consider the polio vaccination a Western campaign aimed at sterilizing the country’s population. In 2012, the local Taliban had ordered a ban on immunization against polio in some tribal districts. Dozens of polio workers have been killed in the country in the line of duty.


Pakistani grain exporters seek government permission to export 3.9 million tons surplus wheat

Pakistani grain exporters seek government permission to export 3.9 million tons surplus wheat
Updated 24 June 2024
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Pakistani grain exporters seek government permission to export 3.9 million tons surplus wheat

Pakistani grain exporters seek government permission to export 3.9 million tons surplus wheat
  • Pakistan’s wheat production during 2023-24 stood at 31.4 million tons compared to 28.2 million tons last year
  • National Food Security and Research Ministry official says no decision had yet been taken to allow wheat export

KARACHI: Exporters have sought permission from the government this week to export surplus wheat to neighboring and Gulf countries to stabilize local markets following a bumper crop in Pakistan.

Pakistan’s wheat production during 2023-24 stood at 31.4 million tons compared to 28.2 million tons last year, posting a growth of 11.6 percent. According to official data, the country has over 36 million tons of wheat stock including carry-forward stock. The local consumption of wheat is estimated to be around 32.2 million tons this year. 

“We have sought permission to export a million tons in the first phase including half a million tons un-milled and half a million tons in the form of by-products,” Muzammil Chappal, Chairman of the Cereal Association of Pakistan (CAP), told Arab News on Monday.

“Our members are ready to commence exports of wheat products through land and sea routes immediately and ensure no shortage locally.”

The CAP chairman, who also wrote a letter to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in this regard earlier this month, said due to surplus production, Pakistan had the capacity to export 250,000 tons of flour and fine flour each and 500,000 tons of wheat.

“Currently, there are 3.92 million tons of surplus wheat in the country and that is why the farmers are not getting good prices,” Chappal said, adding that the move would help stabilize the local wheat market and also alleviate the suffering of farmers due to a high yield and low prices. 

Chappal said exporters were engaged in talks with the government, highlighting that exporting surplus wheat would give a chance to farmers to sell at good prices and also earn foreign exchange for the country. He listed all Middle Eastern countries including the United Arab Emirates as potential markets for Pakistani wheat.
 
An official of the National Food Security and Research Ministry said no decision had yet been taken to allow wheat exports as a committee formed by the government was still assessing wheat stock levels in the country.
 
“No decision has been taken to allow the export of wheat from Pakistan,” he said. “A committee has been formed to assess the stock situation of the country.” 
 
The South Asian nation has not allowed exports of wheat from Pakistan since the financial year 2019-2020 due to domestic supply concerns to ensure stable supply as wheat is crucial for national food security.
 
Earlier in May, peasant unions in Pakistan had strongly protested against the wheat crisis, which they say has been deliberately created by the former caretaker prime minister Anwaarul Haq Kakr and some bureaucrats.

Pakistani farmers had announced a nationwide protest over the wheat import crisis, demanding the government stop wheat imports that had flooded the market at a time when they expected bumper crops.

They had said the import of wheat in the second half of 2023 and the first three months of this year had resulted in excess amounts of the commodity in the country, leading to reduced prices. 

Later, PM Sharif also took notice of the matter and formed a committee under the Ministry of National Food Security and Research to address farmer grievances.
 
Official data shows that Pakistan spent over $1 billion to import 3.5 million tons of wheat during the July-May period of the current fiscal year.
 
Wheat has a 9 percent share in agriculture and 2.2 percent of the GDP is harvested in Pakistan from April to June, with peak vegetation development occurring between late March and early February. 


Controversy grows over Pakistan’s new anti-terrorism operation

Controversy grows over Pakistan’s new anti-terrorism operation
Updated 24 June 2024
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Controversy grows over Pakistan’s new anti-terrorism operation

Controversy grows over Pakistan’s new anti-terrorism operation
  • Key Imran Khan aide says campaign cannot be approved without discussion with stakeholders
  • PTI-backed opposition has rejected the operation saying it was not discussed in parliament

KARACHI: Controversy grew on Monday over a new anti-terrorism operation announced by the federal government as the chief minister of Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province said the campaign could not be approved without a discussion with stakeholders. 

Pakistan’s top national security forum on Saturday announced the Operation Azm-e-Istehkam, or Resolve for Stability, campaign after a meeting of the Central Apex Committee on the National Action Plan (NAP) that was attended by senior military leaders and top government officials from all provinces, including PTI-backed Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Ali Amin Gandapur.

However, the PTI-backed opposition has rejected the operation, saying it was not discussed in parliament.

“This operation cannot take place without discussions,” Gandapur told media outside Adiala Jail where PTI founder Imran Khan has been incarcerated since last year. 

“There is no clarity in this operation. What is the plan? We will obviously engage in talks when the Inter-Service Public Relations issues an official plan detailing where and how the operation will be carried out and when the plan sketch comes to light.”

Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman, the leader of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (F), also rejected the operation. 

“They announced Operation Azm-e-Istehkam but this is an Operation Adm-e-Istekham (Absence of resolve) that will make Pakistan more weak,” Rehman said.

Pakistan has witnessed a surge in militant attacks in recent months, many of them claimed by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which pledges allegiance to, and gets its name from, the Afghan Taliban, but is not directly a part of the group that now rules Afghanistan. Its stated aim is to impose Islamic religious law in Pakistan, as the Taliban have done in Afghanistan.

Islamabad blames the recent uptick in attacks on Afghanistan, saying TTP leaders have taken refuge there and run camps to train militants to launch attacks inside Pakistan. Kabul says rising violence in Pakistan is a domestic issue for Islamabad and it does not allow militants to operate on its territory.

The announcement of Azm-e-Istehkam has also come on the heels of a top Chinese official raising concerns that Pakistan’s security challenges were undermining investor confidence.


Pakistani journalist gets prestigious Journalists of Courage Impact Award

Pakistani journalist gets prestigious Journalists of Courage Impact Award
Updated 24 June 2024
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Pakistani journalist gets prestigious Journalists of Courage Impact Award

Pakistani journalist gets prestigious Journalists of Courage Impact Award
  • Kamal Siddiqui is the first Pakistani to receive the biennial award
  • Siddiqui has previously served as editor of The Express Tribune

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani journalist Kamal Siddiqi on Monday received the prestigious Journalists of Courage Impact Award at the East-West Center (EWC) International Media Conference in Manila, the organization announced on its website. 

The former director news at Aaj TV is the first Pakistani to receive the biennial award, which honors journalists who have “displayed exceptional commitment to quality reporting and freedom of the press, often under harrowing circumstances.”

The six other recipients include Sincha Dimara, news editor at Inside PNG, Tom Grundym, editor-in-chief and founder of Hong Kong Free Press, Alan Miller, founder of the News Literacy Project in Washington DC, Soe Myint, editor-in-chief and managing director at Mizzima Media Group in Yangon, Myanmar, John Nery, columnist and editorial consultant at Rappler in Manila and Ana Marie Pamintuan, editor-in-chief at The Philippine Star.

In February when the award was first announced, Siddiqi said in a statement on X that he was “humbled” at getting the award.

Siddiqi is currently working at the Media Development Investment Fund as a senior program officer focusing on South Asia. He was previously the director at the Center for Excellence in Journalism at the Institute of Business Administration.

He has also served as editor of The Express Tribune, and president of the EWC’s alumni association in Karachi. Siddiqui is also a fellow of the Center for Democratic Development and Rule of Law at Stanford University and a senior non-resident fellow with the Atlantic Council, according to the EWC.