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.

Locust invasion wreaks havoc on Pakistan’s crops, orchards

Updated 29 May 2020

Locust invasion wreaks havoc on Pakistan’s crops, orchards

  • Farmers say locusts are damaging cotton and vegetable crops sown in April
  • Government intensifying efforts to save crops from further locust invasion, says minister

MULTAN: An invasion of locusts has spread across Pakistan, officials said Friday, causing damage to crops and orchards and posing a threat to food security in an impoverished Islamic nation already struggling to tackle a virus pandemic that has caused more than 1,300 deaths.
Massive swarms of the desert locust, which experts say originates in Africa and is the most destructive of the locust species, began damaging crops in Pakistan last month.
But the situation worsened this week and authorities began dispatching aircraft and spraying machines filled with pesticides mounted on vehicles to eliminate the insects, which are roughly the length of a finger and fly together by the millions.
Farmers could be seen wading through clouds of the insects as some tried to kill them with sticks.
Chaudhry Asghar, an agriculture officer in Multan, said millions of desert locusts had already damaged orchards, crops and vegetables.
“We have intensified efforts to save our crops from any further invasion of locusts,” Syed Fakhar Imam, minister for National Food Security, said Friday. He said the government will buy five more aircraft for spraying crops.
The insects have wreaked havoc on swathes of farmland in eastern Punjab, southern Sindh and southwestern Baluchistan provinces. They also attacked crops in the northwest bordering Afghanistan.
The locusts have also brought agricultural destruction to neighboring India, where critics pointed the finger at Pakistan as a new breeding ground for the desert locusts. Pakistani officials said no country should blame another for the situation, but all affected countries need to make collective efforts to prevent a possible food crisis in the region.
Farmers say while crops of rabi, a type of grain, were sown in winter and harvested in the spring, locusts are damaging cotton and vegetable crops sown in April.
“I have already lost my cotton crop and vegetables because of these locusts,” Abdul Rehman, a farmer in Baluchistan province, said. He asked what they would eat if the locusts continued unchecked.
The National Disaster Management Authority said resources were being mobilized and operations were underway to curb the locust invasion.
Meanwhile, Pakistan has struggled to contain the spread of the coronavirus, with more than 64,000 cases confirmed and more than 1,300 fatalities.
The country reported 57 virus-related deaths in the past 24 hours, its most in one day since the outbreak began in February. Infections increased in Pakistan, including Islamabad, recently after the government eased lockdown restrictions — ignoring warnings from medical professionals.