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Horror, Horror! Who is the cruelest person in the world?

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By Farkhanda Qaiser

Children paying homage to the young martyrs

Children paying homage to the young martyrs

I cannot describe the gut-wrenching massacre at the Army Public School, Peshawar nor can I make a politically or historically correct analysis about the losses suffered by Pakistan in the war against terror. I can only express my feelings as a common Pakistani citizen. In the past few days, I have gone from shock to horror to grief and then again to shock (as more pictures of the gruesome inhumane act were released on the electronic media).

Peace is the ONLY way forward

Peace is the ONLY way forward

All around me, I see people losing composure. Whether it is news reporters covering the ghastly incident or anchors on Television programs; little school going children or their parents, everyone is in tears! Ever since 2001, there have been above 14000 terrorist attacks in Pakistan in which almost 50,000 innocent people lost their lives but why has this reaction not come earlier? Why did we not shed tears on the merciless killings of Hazara Shias or those of Ahmadis or Christians? Or even of mosque-going Muslims? Or of Pakistani army and military forces? Why did we not realize at that point that we were dealing with monsters and not humans? I know why. Because we are a nation whose conscious is fast asleep and we need loud drum beating to wake up. Simple alarm bells are not enough for us. When the first terrorist attack was justified on the basis of sectarianism or superior knowledge of ‘Islam,’ that is when alarm bells should have gone off in our minds that something is not right. That is when we should have tried to put a stop to this senseless mindset. But we didn’t. We kept on waiting because the ‘terror’ had not yet reached our doorstep. We waited and that is why we have been brought to this black day of 16th December 2014.

When even schools are not safe

When even schools are not safe

That day teenage school going students lost their carefree attitude forever. Their school became a shooting spot where they were the hunted ones. However that is not why all of us are in mourning. No, we are too selfish for that. The reason our parents cry is because they feel that it could have been their ‘own’ kids. The reason why you and I cry is because we feel that it could easily have been ‘us’ instead of ‘them’. It could have been my friends whose dead bodies piled up on me would act as a shield for me. It could have been my favorite teacher who was burnt alive in front of me. It could have been your principal who preferred to die rather than save her own self. It could have been you hid under a bench and fearing the approaching black boots. Yes that is why we all bemoan. Because now we feel the ‘terror’ has truly reached our threshold.

We are terrified and we feel helpless. There is nothing we can do, our politicians are too corrupt and self-centered, we lament. Our borders are too porous to contain the foreign terrorists, we grumble. This is not our war, it has been enforced on us, we protest. We lament and grumble and protest. We point the accusatory finger at others. But did we realize that the remaining four fingers were pointing at our own selves? Oh, this is sure to raise a few eyebrows. How are we to blame, you ask.

We are to blame because we have failed to identify our enemy and even if identified, have taken too soft a stance on him. ‘He’ is the cruelest person in the world. He can finish nations like a rot eats wood. And if we fail to stop him now, then indeed he will finish us too. Every last one of us! Well, I know that Pakistan was created on 27th Ramazan and that it is only the second state after Madina that was acquired in the name of Islam. But even this ‘holy’ background will not save us. Because remember that

Khuda nay aaj tak us qoum ki haalat nahin badli jo qoum khud apni haalat na badlay

(God has never changed the fortunes of a nation that failed to turn the tide itself.)

This is one fact that we need to accept with all our hearts and minds. We will definitely and surely perish if we don’t stop this deadly enemy! So WAKE UP Pakistanis! This is the time for immediate action. We don’t have ‘7 days’ for an action plan.

No more Intolerance

No more Intolerance

   Our enemy is within us. He is the ‘mindset’ who believes that only he is practicing the right brand of Islam and the remaining people are infidels. He doesn’t stop here. He justifies killing people because they were not following his version of ‘Shariah.’ However we need to realize that this mindset did not occur over night. It evolved slowly. It started from the time when we became intolerant of people who were different from us whether in political or religious views. I see it every day when youngsters like me indulge in meaningless arguments on social media viciously attacking the opponents. I see it when every minor, harmless act is brutally subjected to scrutiny and questioned whether it’s Islamic or not. People ask what use is burning candles or keeping vigils when hundreds have died. Oh please, stop being so narrow minded! If you express your feelings about a tragedy by keeping a Facebook status or by turning your profile picture black, then so be it. If I express myself through a blog then why can’t I? If someone else tries to remember the innocent martyrs by lighting candles then what’s wrong with it? Islam is a religion for all times and all regions of the world. Do not limit it with your boxed thinking. And the best way to serve Islam is to learn about it so that you don’t besmirch it with your ignorance. So if you really want to do something to end terrorism in Pakistan then start by increasing knowledge about Islam. Read Quran and Hadith. Learn about the life events of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his companions. Only then would you realize the true values of our religion.

Another dimension of our defective thinking which has made us an intolerant nation is being judgmental about others. We are constantly judging people around us and passing our ‘expert’ opinion about whether they’d end up in paradise or hellfire. Please change this attitude now before it brings more destruction for us. Only Allah knows our ultimate resting place. There have been many incidences mentioned in Ahadith where extremely pious men were sent to hellfire because of some bad habit or other. Or apparently devious people were sent to paradise due to some hidden good attribute. Know this that we are not ‘all-knowing.’ We don’t know the intentions and all the life circumstances of ANY person (even if it’s someone very close to us). So if we don’t know this then we can’t pass the right judgment about anyone. Besides, it would be so much better to spend this energy and time trying to make ourselves better humans. Trust me; there is so much that needs to be done in this aspect that we would not have any time left for scrutinizing others’ actions!

Say no to hate speech

Say no to hate speech

While we change our mindset, we also need to be mindful of suspicious activities taking place around us. This was explained quite eloquently by the Interior Minister today. Finally our government has acknowledged that we are in a state of war. And no war can be won without the support of its citizens. If we become the eyes and ears of our law enforcement forces then no terrorist stands a chance against us. We should discourage and report hate speech wherever it’s being preached. We should monitor our neighborhoods and most importantly we should ask our leaders to openly condemn the enemy. There is no space left for soft mouthing. All terrorists need to be dealt with force. Enough is enough! Accountability is the best way to ensure justice in a society. Every individual must be held accountable for his deeds especially these monsters who claim to be righteous!

enough

However, even if the overall situation of the country appears dismal and hopeless, don’t lose hope. We have the best example from the young victims of the Peshawar attack. One such young boy with bullet wounds on his face said,

“Is umar me goli kha li hai. Ab kabhi goli se nahin darun ga.”

(I have been shot with bullets at this age. Now I will never be afraid of bullets!)

Other boys showed the determination to join Pakistan army and rid their country of all terrorists. If these traumatized adolescents have not lost hope then we have no excuse to be hopeless. Hard times befall all nations but only strong nations rise out of the ashes. Are we a strong nation?

 The author is a medical student.

 

 

 

 

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The Doctors’ strike: Sifting the myth from the facts

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By Farkhanda Qaiser

When I heard a common man cursing the doctors and endorsing the brutal acts of the Punjab police against these saviors of life, I skipped a beat. I’m not a member of YDA neither am I yet a doctor. I’m simply a medical student who was at first intrigued by the entire issue and then alarmed when the Punjab government started the crackdown of doctors as if they were criminals.

I turned to the media channels to get the true story but was highly disappointed at the sensationalized and politicized version that greatly masked the true demands of the doctors. In the meanwhile, I kept getting text messages from my seniors that were diametrically opposite to the news updates on media. If media said that doctors are bowing down to the pressure of the government and returning to the hospitals, the text messages immediately denied these false claims. I was highly perturbed by the situation so I switched on my ‘Shahbaz Sharif’ laptop and logged onto facebook. And VIOLA…! The young doctors and their supporters had spammed every group and page condemning the actions of the Punjab government and reporting about the critical condition of the doctors who had been tortured in the police crackdown. And this is what made me turn my head. Ever since the crackdown, I had been dogging the news channels and listening to the rowdy talk shows but never once had I heard about the doctors being brutally beaten up. Why were the facts being manipulated by the media? Could I no longer trust the ‘Azad Media’ of Pakistan to deliver me the news as it really is rather than presenting a partial picture? Thus I began my own search for the truth. And there were astounding revelations along the way. I’d like to share them with my readers.

Another new demand?!

I realized that the prime allegation against YDA is that ever since its inception in 2008, it has come out on the streets multiple times and used pressure tactics to get its demands accepted. People believed that similarly this time the YDA again had a new demand for which it was making the poor patients suffer. However this was no new demand and neither were there any casualties due to the strike.

Last year when the doctors ended their 37-day OPD strike, the Punjab government assured them that not only will their salaries be increased but a comprehensive service structure will also be devised. A special committee was then constituted consisting of all stakeholders for revising the service structure of doctors and paramedics of the health department. Then followed 23 meetings of this committee over the span of a year, in which YDA scaled down the financial impact of its demands from Rs. 423 billion a year to just Rs. 4 billion; all the incentives were to be given in phases during the next five years.

Moreover in February 2012, during suo moto proceedings of the Punjab Institute of Cardiology medicine scandal, a Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jilani and Justice Mian Saqib Nisar also directed the Punjab government to give a career-oriented service structure to doctors.  But throughout all this time, the Punjab government has stubbornly refused to keep its promises on the grounds of financial constraints. This is the feeblest excuse on earth because we all know how this same government spends billions of rupees on foreign tours and perks and benefits for its MPAs. Can’t these greedy politicians spare a mere Rs. 4 billion for a better healthcare system?

I suppose not.

OPD strike and casualties?

After having failed in all their attempts to get their rightful demands accepted, the YDA was left with no other choice but to resort to a lock-out in OPDs. This strike started on 18th June 2012; that’s when the media’s malicious campaign started. Images of patients crying were shown and doctors were dubbed as killers without even investigating into the facts. As anyone with the minimal knowledge about the healthcare system would know that closing OPDs cannot result into any deaths because patients coming to OPD, i.e., out-patient department are not critical. Moreover these patients were being treated in emergencies and indoors which were fully functional even during the strike. So in fact the workload of doctors had increased in the days of the strike. To understand further we must look into the duties of a House Officer (a doctor doing house job). He does a 30-hour ward day once a week, 12-hour emergency once or twice a week and the rest of the days are spent doing a 6-hour indoors duty. On the other hand, OPD duty hours are very less. Hence, while the media was crying itself hoarse saying that doctors are neglecting their duty, those same young doctors were sacrificing their day and night serving their patients!

Is the doctors’ strike justified?

Yet another question has arisen time and again in media regarding the ethical value of a strike by doctors and its precedents in other countries of the world. In the past 20 years there have been strikes by medical doctors in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Korea, Malta, New Zealand, Peru, Serbia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Romania, USA, UK, Zambia, and Zimbabwe to name but a few. The usual causes have been pay and working conditions of doctors. Some of these strikes have led to improvements in healthcare systems, whereas others have caused lasting damage due to delayed action by the respective governments.

On the face of it, it sounds very cruel that patients are being denied treatment for their ailments albeit minor. It reminds me that not long ago, lawyers of our country carried out similar protests and closed down courts adding to the sufferings of the poor clients. However the entire civil society and media supported the lawyers in their cause of supremacy of law and independence of judiciary because they believed that a short-term inconvenience such as a strike would be balanced against a long-term improvement of the system. Now drawing an analogy between the doctors and the lawyers’ situation, we see that the doctors are also trying to achieve a better healthcare system. This brings us directly to the demand of the YDA: the service structure.

What is a service structure?

What the demand of a better service structure mean is that there should be a proper code of conduct for the induction, promotions and transfer of doctors. In its absence and without the right connections, many doctors who start their service as BPS-17 officers also retire in the same grade. Some of them are transferred to district health facilities at the whims of a grade 16 section officer. In April this year, when 691 doctors were transferred to primary and secondary healthcare centers, YDA opposed the move saying that it is not against the transfer but it believes there must be some rules and regulations governing these transfers. Moreover YDA also campaigned for the appointment of Medical Officer directly in Grade 18; for the stipend of post graduate to be made equal to that of a Medical Officer and for bringing health professional allowance equal to basic pay.

The long-term benefits:

All these measures would eventually stop the massive brain drain that is occurring at present. Medical students who study from public sector colleges see no future in staying in Pakistan unless they have a strong ‘sifarish’ to back them for promotions year after year. Thus they opt for higher studies and subsequent jobs in US, UK, Australia, Canada and even Middle East. It’s not just a matter of higher pay rather it’s about job security. If even after studying assiduously all your life and completing your graduation with flying colors, you are still dependent on a BPS-16 section officer or a fake-degree holder politician for the continuity of your job, then you’re bound to spend sleepless nights fearing for the future of your family.

And if somehow a doctor cannot manage to go abroad then he turns to the private sector, which obviously is out-of-reach for the general public. Thus improving the service structure would also serve to retain the trained staff in public sector ensuring quality healthcare for all and sundry. Here I would like to clarify a point regarding private practice. Many common people seem to believe that YDA is being very greedy by asking the poor government for financial favours when in fact these young doctors earn thousands in their private practice. Well that is clearly not the case; because it takes decades and graying-hair experience to reach that Rs. 1000 per walk-in-patient-at-private-clinics state. And of course the young doctors haven’t yet reached that state. So they’re entirely dependent on the government to cater to them.

Therefore the government should stop its high-handed behavior with the most educated cream of the nation and focus instead on solving the problems at hand.

Also YDA should not be seen as a greedy insatiable body forever protesting only for its rights but rather as a body that envisions a Pakistan with better healthcare system. In the past, YDA has also given valuable suggestions to the government of Punjab, which if implemented could radically improve the public healthcare sector. One of these suggestions is a refer system between primary healthcare (found in rural areas), secondary healthcare (found at district level) and tertiary care hospitals in cities. This means that a patient with appendicitis doesn’t have to come all the way to Jinnah hospital for his treatment. Rather he can get himself checked at DHQ Gujrat or any other primary or secondary healthcare.

For improving medical facilities in far flung areas, YDA proposed that private medical colleges owned by MNAs of political parties could be directed to supervise district hospitals, which are in abysmal condition at present.

Support us Please!

In the end I would appeal to the civil society to please support the doctors in their cause and stop cursing the noble souls who spend their lifetimes serving the poor and ill; who have continued to serve them through thick and thin whether it be bomb blasts or earthquakes or floods; who have sacrificed their countless nights to answer the call of duty; who treat their patients without caring for their own health. Please reject the negative propaganda of the Punjab government that is spending millions on doing character assassination of doctors rather than fulfilling their demands.

I would also request the media to please stop sensationalizing this issue and present an unbiased view to the public. We have high hopes from the ‘Azad media’ some fractions of which are finally realizing who the real killer is. In the 3rd July show of ‘Aaj Kamran Khan k sath’ the anchorperson admitted that not a single death had occurred during the peaceful OPD strike of doctors in the first 12 days until the use of force by the Punjab police against the doctors on the eve of 1st July after which the doctors were threatened with arrests if they returned to hospitals and some of the doctors were brutally beaten up and arrested. Since then dozens of people have died due to lack of medical staff in hospitals and only the Punjab government is to be blamed for these deaths…! Moreover city42 unveiled how false FIRs had been lodged against a couple of doctors to attain judicial orders for their remand. Similarly many anchorpersons and column writers are also presenting impartial views. However there are still many who continue to shout at doctors and showcasing them as gluttonous and callous.

Over 20 years ago, a detailed ethical justification for doctors’ strike was published in the New Zealand Medical Journal. According to this article, “what is right should result in the greatest good for the greatest number of people.” If a strike would enable doctors to have better work conditions resulting in them being better rested and thus being able to do their job better then it is fully justified. Doctors sometimes must have the courage to do unpopular and difficult things for the greater good of the public.

And this is exactly what the YDA is doing and paying heavily for.