Parents of child killed by gunshot fight to change system that denied medical aid

Beenish Umer and Umer Adil talk to supporters gathered at the Aga Khan University (AUK) in Karachi on Feb. 16, 2020. (Photo courtesy: AUK)
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Updated 18 February 2020

Parents of child killed by gunshot fight to change system that denied medical aid

  • Ten-year-old Amal Umer was shot during a police encounter with criminals
  • Their struggle led to the passage of Sindh Injured Persons Compulsory Medical Treatment Act

KARACHI: Ten-year-old Amal Umer lost her life during a police encounter with criminals in Karachi on Aug. 13, 2018. She was denied emergency treatment at a nearby hospital. Her parents are now fighting to change the system that allowed it all to happen.
The girl’s father, Umer Adil, and mother Beenish Umer launched Rah-e-Amal, an initiative named after their late daughter to enforce regulations that would compel medical institutions to provide immediate assistance when life is at stake.
“The purpose of Rah-e-Amal is to implement the Sindh Assembly’s legislation in its true spirit so that other parents may not lose their children,” Beenish told Arab News after the launch of her nonprofit organization at the Aga Khan University Hospital in Karachi on Sunday.
“Our loss will never be regained,” she said, explaining that their initiative aims “to create a system that will make every life count.”

In this undated photo, Amal Umer is seen listening to music at her home in Karachi. (Photo courtesy: Beenish Umer)

Amal was hit by a police bullet while sitting in a car when the 2018 encounter took place on a Karachi road. For nearly an hour her parents struggled to get medical help, but it was denied as in gunshot cases examination and registration by a medico-legal officer (MLO) was required.
Police pleaded not guilty, stating that it was a criminal’s shot that killed Amal. The claim was untrue. A Supreme Court case ended last week with the Sindh government dismissing the officer who fired the fatal bullet.
The parents’ struggle led to the passage of the 2019 Sindh Injured Persons Compulsory Medical Treatment (Amal Umer) Act, which compels hospitals to treat injured persons on a priority basis, without any delay. Previous laws required MLO examination in gunshot cases. The regulations were remnants of British rule, meant to prevent freedom fighters from getting medical assistance before arrest.
“We don’t want that just a law be made,” Amal’s mother said, adding that she and her husband are now fighting through Rah-e-Amal for the law’s effective enforcement and the establishment of trauma centers at Sindh hospitals.

Amal Umer is seen painting at her home in Karachi. (Photo courtesy: Beenish Umer)

Amal’s friends have also joined the cause and when the Supreme Court was deliberating the case, they came to show their support.
“Amal was a very creative and nice girl, she loved art and cats,” said Hani Ali, the girl’s schoolfriend. “Some of us gathered outside the Supreme Court to support Beenish aunty and Umer uncle.”
“We lost our friend,” he told Arab News, explaining that they too wanted to make sure that no more children would ever die this way again.

Pakistani religious party’s volunteers disinfect temples and churches

Updated 31 March 2020

Pakistani religious party’s volunteers disinfect temples and churches

  • Jamaat-e-Islami volunteers provide food and other necessities to Muslims and non-Muslims in need alike, party chief says
  • Religious minority leaders say the step will help promote interfaith harmony in the country

LAHORE: Promoting interfaith harmony during coronavirus crisis, Pakistan’s religio-political party, Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), has set out on a disinfection campaign for mosques, churches, and temples alike in the provinces of Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The initiative taken by the party’s social welfare wing, Al Khidmat Foundation, has been greatly lauded the country’s minority communities.
“Al Khidmat Foundation has been instructed by the party leadership to provide food to the needy in these testing times and participate in the movement of disinfecting worship places belonging to all religions along with other public areas,” JI’s information secretary, Qaisar Sharif, told Arab News on Tuesday.
“In Karachi and Peshawar, Al Khidmat volunteers have helped seven churches, five temples and two [Sikh] gurdwaras,” he added.
Sharif said the party’s top leadership opined that no one was safe since COVID-19 had engulfed the entire world.
“The JI has directed its volunteers to provide cooked food, rations and other items of necessity to those in need. The service is for the people of all faiths, not just Muslims. We believe in one God who is the Master of the universe. Our Prophet was a mercy to the humankind, not just to Muslims alone. As his followers, it is our responsibility to serve all humans without making any discrimination,” Sirajul Haq, the JI chief, told Arab News.
“Serving the mosques, churches, temples and gurdwaras is a practical step toward religious harmony,” he continued. “We are trying to show the world that Islam is not a religion of extremism but teaches its followers that all humans are equal.”
The religious leaders of different faiths welcomed the step, saying it would lead to a more pluralistic society.
“It is a positive development that will pave the way for religious harmony in Pakistan,” Pastor Shahid Meraj, Dean of Lahore Cathedral, told Arab News. “There is always an initiative to begin, and this act will help start dialogue among religions.”
“We are thankful to the JI leadership for this gesture,” he added. “They helped us today and we have assured to help them whenever needed.”
Leaders of the Hindu community also appreciated the gesture, saying it would bring people of different religions closer together.
“At a time when the whole world is suffering due to an unseen virus, this act of disinfecting our temples is a good omen,” Pandat Bhagat Lal Khokhar, custodian of Lahore’s Valmik Mandar, told Arab News. “It will have a far reaching and positive impact on our society since it will bring Hindus and Muslims closer together.”
President of the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee Sardar Satwant Singh echoed the same sentiment as well.
“This positive gesture will further strengthen the Sikh-Muslim brotherhood,” he noted. “It is important to have interfaith harmony in the country and such steps are extremely fruitful for that purpose.”
Rights activists also appreciated the JI initiative.
“Huge respect for Al-Khidmat, welfare wing of @JIPOfficial, for doing disinfectant spray in Mandir and Church. Lead by example of peaceful coexistence, interfaith harmony and pluralism,” Kapil Dev, a Hindu activist from Sindh, said in a Twitter post.