1,200 kids, including ages 6-12, start smoking in Pakistan every day — parliamentary secretary health

A Pakistani man smokes a cigarette in Lahore on May 31, 2011, on "World No Tobacco Day". Pakistan accounts for a large proportion of the cigarettes consumed in South Asia where about 100,000 people die annually from diseases caused by the use of tobacco, reports the Coaltion of Tobacco Control in Pakistan. (AFP)
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Updated 24 September 2020

1,200 kids, including ages 6-12, start smoking in Pakistan every day — parliamentary secretary health

  • Dr Nausheen Hamid says more than 160,000 people die every year in Pakistan because of tobacco use
  • Most smokers take up the habit in their teens, with roughly 11 percent of youth aged 13 to 15 around the world using cigarettes and cigars

ISLAMABAD: Around 1,200 children start smoking every day in Pakistan, Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of National Health Services, Dr Nausheen Hamid, said on Thursday.

Tobacco use is the world’s leading cause of preventable death and serious illness, killing an estimated 6 million people each year, according to a youth tobacco report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Most smokers take up the habit in their teens, with roughly 11 percent of youth aged 13 to 15 around the world using tobacco products like cigarettes and cigars.

“The data we have has shown that children between ages of 6 and 12 are also among those children who start smoking every day,” Hamid, who is a member of the national assembly from the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf party, said, adding that more than 160,000 people died every year in Pakistan because of tobacco use.

“The tobacco industry tries to attract young generations [to become users],” she said.

In recent years, Pakistan has introduced several measures to control tobacco use, including banning smoking in all places of public work or use, and on all public transport.

Laws in Pakistan also prohibit the sale of smoked tobacco products within 50 meters of any school, university, or educational institution, as well as the sale of single cigarettes and small packets of cigarettes. The sale of tobacco products is not allowed to persons under the age of 18.

Many forms of tobacco advertising and promotion are also banned, including advertising on domestic TV, radio and print media.

According to data available on the Pakistani health ministry’s tobacco control cell, there are 23.9 million tobacco users in the country, of whom 15.6 million are smokers.

“5,000 Pakistanis are admitted to hospitals every day because of tobacco,” the cell said, “and 39 percent of households are exposed daily to secondhand tobacco smoke.”


Afghanistan says Pakistan scholarship scheme will have 'positive' impact on bilateral ties

Updated 26 October 2020

Afghanistan says Pakistan scholarship scheme will have 'positive' impact on bilateral ties

  • Over 16,000 Afghan students have applied for the Allama Muhammad Iqbal Scholarship which offers grants to 800 undergraduate, 150 Masters and 50 PhD students this year
  • Afghanistan’s special envoy for Pakistan urges Pakistan government to increase the number of scholarships in medicine and engineering

PESHAWAR: Mohammed Umer Daudzai, Afghanistan’s special envoy for Pakistan, on Monday lauded a Pakistani scholarship for Afghan nationals, saying it would have a ‘positive impact’ on the bilateral relationship and on the lives of the people of Afghanistan.

According to Pakistan’s Higher Education Commission (HEC), over 16,000 Afghan students have applied for the Allama Muhammad Iqbal Scholarships in Pakistan, which offers 800 undergraduate, 150 Masters and 50 PhD grants.

The programme was launched in 2009, and 5,000 Afghans have so far benefited from it, gaining degrees in various fields including medicine and engineering. At least 100 seats are reserved for female students as part of the scholarship each year.

“The 800 scholarship this year that Pakistan has offered to Afghanistan is very important; it will have a very positive impact on bilateral relationships,” Daudzai told Arab News on Monday. “It will have a great impact on the life of people of Afghanistan because ... a significant number of these scholarships are in medicine and engineering which is very important for us.”

He added: “The Pakistani scholarship for Afghans is cheapest and most feasible because of the two countries' proximity. Afghan students can travel to their home country easily without involving huge expenses.” 

He also urged the Pakistan government to increase the number of scholarships in medicine and engineering.

“We noticed that a significant number of the youths that participated in this year's scholarship are Afghan girls, which is important,” Daudzai said. “It’s indicative of the trust that families in Afghanistan have to send their daughters to Pakistan."

Afghan students attend a pre-orientation session at the Pakistan Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, on October 24, 2020 for the fully-funded Allama Muhammad Iqbal Scholarship program for academic year 2020-21. (Photo courtesy: Pakistan Embassy Kabul)

Pakistan’s Foreign Office Spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri said the fully-funded Allama Muhammad Iqbal Scholarship Programme for Afghan Nationals was a “valuable” contribution to develop Afghanistan’s human resource sector.

“Pakistan has already contributed in the neighboring country’s development. And this (scholarship) programme will help develop Afghanistan’s human resource sector,” Chaudhri added.

Last week at the pre-orientation programme organized in honor of Afghan students at the Pakistan Embassy in Kabul, Pakistan’s Ambassador to Afghanistan Mansoor Ahmad Khan said more than 50,000 Afghans educated in Pakistan were now serving Afghanistan’s public and private sectors.

In this October 24, 2020 photo, Mansoor Ahmad Khan, Ambassador of Pakistan to Afghanistan, addresses a pre-orientation session for 800 Afghan students (not in photo) selected under the fully-funded Allama Muhammad Iqbal Scholarship program for academic year 2020-21. (Photo courtesy: Pak Embassy Kabul)

Farzana Sharifi, an Afghan female student at COMSATS University Abbottabad, told Arab News that many Afghan students were keen to study at Pakistani educational institutions because of the quality of the universities and low costs.

However, she said Pakistani institutions needed to start orientation classes to prepare Afghans better to speak and understand Urdu and English.

“Special orientation classes need to be arranged for newcomers so they become familiar with the language of the medium of the particular university,” Sharifi said. “In addition, our students should be given special incentives while crossing the border or traveling in Pakistan.”

Ahmad Milad Azizi, a networking officer at the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology in Kabul who graduated with bachelors degree in computer science from a Pakistani university in 2015, said the scholarship programme for Afghan students was also a great opportunity for Afghans to learn about Pakistani culture.

“Islamabad needs to explore measures to ease students’ travel from and to Pakistan,” he added. “I suggest the government of Pakistan increase the number of scholarships because our country direly needs qualified manpower and professionals.”