‘We may have left our homes but our heart and soul are still in Pakistan’

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Pakistan Kidney Centre. (Photo courtesy: Hospital Management)
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The Diabetes Centre. (Photo courtesy: Hospital Management)
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Dr. Asjad Hameed. (Photo courtesy: Hospital Management)
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Dr. Farook R A Farooki. (Photo courtesy: Hospital Management)
Updated 28 December 2018

‘We may have left our homes but our heart and soul are still in Pakistan’

  • Expatriates residing in the GCC look to pay back by contributing to the country’s health care sector
  • Have played a crucial role in promoting quality facilities over the years

DUBAI: Dr. Farook Rasheed A Farooki was 29 years old when he left his home in Muzaffarabad- Kashmir to settle for a life as a young doctor in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
That was 45 years ago.
Soon, with his hardwork and excellent reputation, he became a naturalized citizen of the Kingdom. However, he says, his love for Pakistan always kept him grounded.
He finally decided to take the leap when, along with other like-minded Pakistanis, he established a charity hospital for kidney patients and named it as the Pakistan Kidney Center.
“In 1969, I came to Jeddah to look for a better life and got a job in the Ministry of Health. I worked there for eight years and then started my own clinic as a family physician. I worked very hard in my adopted country. And in return , I got a lot of respect and love. I was able to give a good life to my family,” the 76--year-old father of two said.
But that was not enough for him. “I always felt that I have a loan to pay to my motherland, where I was born and where I was educated.”
Eventually, he and his friend, Dr. Khaleelur Rehman, decided to establish two charity health projects in Pakistan — the Pakistan Kidney Center and Heath Mobile Units. 
This was essential as Pakistan ranks eight in kidney diseases causing 20,000 deaths every year. Additionally, Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is rapidly growing in Pakistan, too.
“There are very few facilities available in our country, especially on the mountainous region. Patients have to travel a long way to major cities which add to the cost of their treatment. So we decided to build our center on the Silk Route’s main highway from Islamabad to Abbotabad, which is called Muslimabad,” he said.
The Pakistan Kidney Center was established in April 2015. With 14 machines, the facility provides 35 dialysis sessions on a daily basis.
“We successfully started our OPD with 14 dialysis machines [which works in two shifts] to take care of around 40 of patient every day. We maintain the highest standards. All machines are busy round the clock, so much so that we are now considering to start the third shift of dialysis,” Dr. Farooki said.
He added that the construction and operational costs of the facility cost him nearly Rs200 million. “Around Rs75 million was gathered through personal donations of board members and rest came from friends and philanthropists in KSA. Our current running cost is Rs2 to 2.5 million per month, out of which 25 to 30 percent is generated by center revenue. Rest comes from donations,” he said.
He has set his sights on launching a Mobile Health Unit next. “In the mountainous parts of Pakistan, there are no hospitals, no OPD facilities, or even trained medical staff. Hence, the only way to provide medical care they deserve is to reach them with Mobile OPDs on a regular basis,” he said, adding that “our mobile units travel to far-flung areas holding camps, providing medicine, and creating awareness about the prevention of diseases.”
His impending age and logistic challenges haven’t discouraged Dr. Farooki from serving his motherland. “I knew it won’t be easy. But nothing can stop me to help my people. Allah has given me the opportunity to serve my homeland. And I will do it with the best of my abilities till my last breath,” he said.
Dr. Farooki is not alone. Several other Pakistani expatriates in the Gulf voiced similar aspirations. Dr. Asjad Hameed, a famous diabetologist in the the UAE, is another such example.
Early this year, Dr. Hameed and his friends realized their six-year long dream by establishing a world-class diabetes hospital near Islamabad which they named The Diabetes Center.
Dr. Hameed, 51, has been working on curbing the nationwide epidemic of diabetes in Pakistan for more than a decade. Pakistan is one of the top ranked in the list of countries with diabetes where one out of five people suffers from the disease.
Dr. Hameed’s journey began in November 2011, when he decided to take the plunge. During a winter morning walk along the corniche, he shared his idea of establishing a hospital in Pakistan with two of his close friends.
Since then, there has been no looking back. “I initiated the project six years ago with my life’s savings of Dh300,000. We first launched a site clinic in Islamabad in 2012, where more than a 100 patients visited per day. And in April 2018, our world-class hospital became operational,” the father of three said, adding that “till date, we have spent Dhs 25 million on the hospital and are treating 200 patients per day.”
“We [Pakistani Gulf expatriates] are not only the highest in providing remittances to the country, we also serve our country in many ways. Contributing to the health sector is one such example. There are many known and many unsung heroes from the gulf countries who are serving Pakistan in several ways,” Dr. Hameed said.
“Though providing quality health services to all Pakistanis is the government’s job, we as responsible citizens cannot sit back and see our brothers and sisters suffering. We may have left our homes for the better future. But our heart and soul is still there. We will continue to do whatever we can. Keeping our people healthy is certainly one of such responsibilities that we owe to our country,” he said.
According to a report by the World Health Organization (WHO) issued in 2017, Pakistan spent 0.5 to 0.8 percent of its GDP on health care for the past 10 years while the WHO benchmark of health expenditure is at least 6 percent of the GDP to provide basic and lifesaving services.


Pakistani rupee hits new all-time low against greenback

Updated 11 sec ago

Pakistani rupee hits new all-time low against greenback

  • US dollar closed at Rs176.20 on Monday despite clearance of Saudi deposits
  • Pakistani currency has lost 15.7 percent of its value since May this year

KARACHI: Pakistan’s national currency continued to lose its value against the US dollar and hit a new all-time low as the greenback closed at Rs176.20 on Monday. 
The rupee has lost its value by 15.7 percent, or more than Rs24, since May this year, when the dollar was trading at around Rs152. 
While analysts believe the rupee is weakening against the greenback due to a high demand for imports and an expectation of higher import bills for November 2021, currency dealers say the reasons for rupee’s depreciation were not clear, despite a decline in oil prices and the clearance of a Saudi financial package.
Pakistan and Saudi Arabia on Monday formally signed an agreement under which the Saudi Fund for Development (SFD) will deposit $3 billion in the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP). 
In October, SFD announced a financial package of $4.2 billion to help the South Asian nation as it struggled with depleting foreign reserves. The package includes suppling $1.2 billion worth of oil to Pakistan on credit. 
“The demand of dollar for imports is exerting pressure on Pakistani rupee besides it is expected that November import bill will be higher as well,” said Samiullah Tariq, research director at the Pakistan Kuwait Investment Company (PKIC). 
Tariq said the flow of Saudi dollars into Pakistan would improve market sentiment despite an expected high demand for dollar for imports. 
“The Saudi deposits will improve the sentiment of the market,” he said. “The deposit will increase the import coverage of the country for three months.” 
But Zafar Paracha, general secretary of the Exchange Companies Association of Pakistan (ECAP), said analysts were unable to comprehend why the dollar was appreciating in the interbank market, despite the clearance of the Saudi deposit facility and around 10 percent decline in oil prices. 
On Monday, the rupee appreciated in the open market and the US dollar traded at Rs177.80 for selling and Rs177.30 for buying. The greenback traded at Rs179 for selling and Rs178 for buying the previous day.  
“There is more supply of dollar than the demand in the open market,” Paracha said, explaining the rupee’s appreciation. 
Pakistan’s equity market jubilated over the clearance of the Saudi deposit facility, with the benchmark KSE 100 index gaining 1215.89 points on Monday. 
“Stocks closed record higher after reports that federal cabinet approved terms of $4.2 billion Saudi package,” Ahsan Mehanti, chief executive of Arif Habib Corporation said. “Strong economic outlook ahead of release of IMF tranche and surging exports, remittances and global crude oil prices played a catalyst role in the bullish close.” 


Pakistan mob sets fire to police station over alleged Quran desecration 

Updated 29 November 2021

Pakistan mob sets fire to police station over alleged Quran desecration 

  • Crowd of up to 5,000 people surrounded police station in Charsadda town on Sunday night
  • On Monday morning, 2,000 people remained outside police station burning uniforms of officers

PESHAWAR: Thousands of people mobbed a Pakistani police station, setting fire to it and nearby checkposts after demanding that officers hand over a man accused of burning the Quran, police said Monday.
The crowd of up to 5,000 people surrounded the police station in Charsadda town in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on Sunday night, also setting fire to more than 30 cars.
On Monday morning, around 2,000 people remained outside the police station burning uniforms of officers.
"The mob stormed the police station asking to hand over the man to them so they could burn him alive like he burnt the Holy Quran," district police chief, Asif Bahadur told AFP.
The identity and religion of the accused has not been disclosed by police, Bahadur said.
"The motive behind burning the copy of the Holy Quran is still unknown but we are investigating."
Blasphemy is a hugely sensitive issue in Muslim-majority Pakistan, where even unproven allegations can stir mobs and violence.
Rights groups say the legislation is often hijacked for personal vendettas, with minorities largely the target.
A Christian couple was lynched then burnt in a kiln in Punjab in 2014 after being falsely accused of desecrating the Quran. A former Punjab governor Salman Taseer was gunned down by his bodyguard, Mumtaz Qadri, in Islamabad in 2011 over his call for reforms of the blasphemy law.
Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman and a labourer from central Punjab province, was convicted of blasphemy in 2010 and was on death row until her acquittal in 2018, which prompted days of violent demonstrations by hardliners. She and her family later fled the country for Canada.
The country has frequently been paralysed in recent years by anti-blasphemy protests waged by the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan party, often linked to the publishing of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) by a French satirical magazine. 


Islamabad, Saudi Arabia sign agreement on $3 billion deposit in Pakistani central bank

Updated 29 November 2021

Islamabad, Saudi Arabia sign agreement on $3 billion deposit in Pakistani central bank

  • State Bank of Pakistan says funds will help support country’s foreign currency reserves
  • In October, Saudi Fund for Development announced financial package of $4.2 billion for Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, represented by the Saudi Fund for Development (SFD), on Monday formally signed an agreement under which SFD will deposit $3 billion in the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP). 
In October, SFD announced a financial package of $4.2 billion to help the South Asian nation as it struggled with depleting foreign reserves. The amount includes suppling $1.2 billion worth of oil to Pakistan on credit. 
A deposit agreement was signed in Karachi by SFD Chief Executive Officer Sultan Bin AbdulRahman Al-Marshad and SBP Governor Dr. Reza Baqir, the SBP said in a statement on Monday.


“The deposit amount under the agreement shall become part of SBP’s Foreign Exchange Reserves. It will help support Pakistan’s foreign currency reserves and contribute toward resolving the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the statement said. 
Pakistan and Saudi Arabia enjoy deep-rooted strategic ties. Around 2.5 million Pakistani expats are living in the kingdom, and are the biggest single source of foreign remittances to the South Asian nation. 
Saudi Arabia also supported Pakistan in 2019 with $3 billion deposits and a $1.2 billion deferred oil payments facility. 
“The deposit agreement reflects the strong and special relationship and will augment economic ties between the two brotherly countries,” the SBP said.


At Pakistan Pavilion at Expo Dubai, a night to promote tolerance, inclusivity

Updated 29 November 2021

At Pakistan Pavilion at Expo Dubai, a night to promote tolerance, inclusivity

  • Acclaimed motivational speaker Muniba Mazari shares Jubilee Stage with singer and actor Meesha Shafi
  • Speakers urge people to cherish individuals who are differently-abled, unique in their own way

DUBAI: The Pakistan Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai on Sunday organized an evening of music and inspiration where speakers and musicians highlighted and celebrated tolerance, inclusivity and equality.
Exhibitors from almost 200 countries, including Pakistan, are participating, with many countries and companies looking to the expo — the first major global event open to visitors since the coronavirus pandemic — to boost trade and investment.
The Pakistan pavilion was officially inaugurated by President Dr. Arif Alvi on October 9. The Expo itself commenced on October 1 and will last till March 31, 2022. 
On Sunday, acclaimed motivational speaker Muniba Mazari shared the Jubilee Stage, one of the main event platforms at the exhibition, with singer and actor Meesha Shafi at an evening themed ‘Pakistan — Connected through Diversity.’ 
Speaking to the audience, Mazari said the world celebrated sameness and labelled those who were ‘different,’ which needed to change. 
“What about the people who don’t look alike? Those who look different, unique and want to see the world as they want to see it, people who think out of the box, those people are labelled crippled, handicapped, disabled,” she said. “Tonight, let us change this narrative and replace these negative labels with positive words like courageous and resilient.” 

Muniba Mazari, an acclaimed motivational speaker, speaks on inclusivity and equality at an event organized by the Pakistan Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on November 28, 2021. (AN Photo courtesy Pakistan Pavilion)

Mazari, who is wheelchair bound since an accident crushed her backbone 13 years ago, said while recuperating in hospital for over two months, she made life-changing decisions to give back to society, started painting and adopted her son, Neil, who is now 10. 
“I decided to accept myself as I was and move on and move forward in life,” said Mazari, who delivers motivational talks around the country and beyond, and showcases her paintings globally. She was Pakistan’s first UN goodwill ambassador and named in Forbes 30 under 30, BBC’s Top 100 Women and many other global lists.
“Tonight, I am going to dedicate all these titles to all those people in the world who are unique and who are differently-abled,” she said. 
The event was also attended by young upcoming singer Maria Unera, who rocked the stage with her powerful voice while paying tribute to her mother whom she lost to cancer. 
Meesha Shafi delivered a surprise performance with Mazari and Unera as a closing to the event.
“Pakistan has a lot of reasons to be proud of at the Expo because the pavilion is very impressive,” Shafi said. “It was not just a show but there was an intention behind it and I was really glad to be part of it.” 

Singer and actor Meesha Shafi performs at an event organized by Pakistan Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on November 28, 2021. (AN Photo courtesy Pakistan Pavilion)

 


‘Impossible’ to stop Omicron variant from entering Pakistan – planning minister

Updated 29 November 2021

‘Impossible’ to stop Omicron variant from entering Pakistan – planning minister

  • Pakistan to increase testing in high risk areas, launch booster shot program for high-risk segments of population
  • Detection of Omicron has triggered global alarm as governments world over scrambled to impose new travel curbs

ISLAMABAD: Planning Minister Asad Umar, who also heads the national pandemic response body, the NCOC, said on Monday it was “impossible” for Pakistan to block the Omicron coronavirus variant from entering the country and the only protection against it was to increase vaccinations.
The detection of Omicron has triggered global alarm as governments around the world scrambled to impose new travel curbs and financial markets sold-off, fearing the variant could resist vaccinations and upend a nascent economic reopening after a two-year global pandemic.
In its statement, the WHO said it was working with technical experts to understand the potential impact of the variant on existing countermeasures against COVID-19, including vaccines.
Addressing a press conference alongside Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health, Dr Faisal Sultan, Umar stressed the need for citizens to get vaccinated, saying the government would take new measures to protect against the Omicron variant. These include increased testing in high risk areas, and the launch of a booster shot program for high-risk segments of the population such as the elderly and the immunocompromised.
On Saturday, Pakistan banned travel from six South African countries and Hong Kong following the emergence of the new coronavirus variant.
“We can take measures to delay the entry into Pakistan of this variant, we can reduce its numbers, but it will spread all around the world,” Umar said. “As we saw before, once a new variant comes, the world is so interconnected, there is so much travel, that it is impossible to stop it. So what is the solution, what is in our hands? The answer is vaccination.”
“This is a very dangerous variant but vaccination will still be effective against it,” the minister said. "So it is my appeal to Pakistanis, particularly those who've gotten one dose, to get the second dose.”
"This variant will come to Pakistan, and we have the next 2-3 weeks to reduce its threat,” Umar added.
The Omicron variant spread around the world last week, with new cases found in the Netherlands, Denmark and Australia even as more countries imposed travel restrictions to try to seal themselves off.
WHO has said it was not yet clear whether Omicron, first detected in Southern Africa, is more transmissible than other variants, or if it causes more severe disease.