Polio survivor makes athletic dreams come true for Pakistani wheelchair users

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Updated 29 March 2021

Polio survivor makes athletic dreams come true for Pakistani wheelchair users

  • Unable to afford a sports wheelchair, Muhammad Ayub made one himself and his design immediately attracted attention of disabled athletes
  • Estimates of the number of people living with disabilities in Pakistan wildly vary from 3.3 million to 27 million

KARACHI: With no control of his legs after childhood polio, Muhammad Ayub would crawl on the grass to play cricket during his school years in the early 1990s. Still determined to do sports, two decades later he started designing special wheelchairs that make it possible.
Born in Mirpur Khas in Pakistan's southeast Sindh province, Ayub, now 37, moved to Karachi in 1999, where he would attend Shifa School for Special Education.
"In those days there was no concept of wheelchairs for sportsmen. We were away from the concept of wheelchair. We would play while crawling on the grass," he told Arab News at his home in the city's Korangi area last week.
Ayub and other Shifa Shcool students would try using normal wheelchairs, but barriers persisted.
"We played a lot but would always face difficulty in playing. We would face problems in moving the bat and blowing. The hand would touch (the handle) while moving.”
It was only in 2013, when he saw someone using a custom-made sports wheelchair and was sure that his athletic dreams would now come true, until he learnt that it cost Rs15,000 ($94), a sum he could not afford.
But giving up was not an option for Ayub. He said: "I thought if they could make it, then I could also make it!"
After six months, with a budget of Rs7,000, he made a sports wheelchair which immediately made the rounds on social media when he posted its photo.
"I got orders from Ghotki, Islamabad and Lahore. They are still using those wheelchairs,” he said.
In 2017, when the Pakistan Tennis Federation decided to introduce wheelchair tennis, it also turned to Ayub to make them for disabled players.
"We had four wheelchairs so Para Sports Pakistan secretary Dr. Nadia Razzaq helped us and introduced some people to us, who were already in the field. Muhammad Ayub was one of them,” Khalid Rehmani, vice president of the federation, told Arab News.




Muhammad Ayub speaks to Arab News at his home in Korangi area, Karachi, on Dec. 5, 2020. (AN photo)

Ayub made "excellent" sports wheelchairs, he said, and they are regularly used by the federation’s disabled members.
While he was determined to overcome physical barriers to pursue his dreams and also be financially independent, Ayub, who works for the Cantonment Board Clifton, knows that many others need support.
According to Human Rights Watch, estimates of the number of people living with disabilities in Pakistan wildly vary from 3.3 million to 27 million.
With his skills, Ayub is willing to help as much as he can.
"I am disabled and if someone needs a wheelchair, I can make one for him without taking any benefit," he said. "This way, my special brothers will be helped out and my heart will also be contented."


In a first, NSA presents national security policy draft before parliamentary committee

Updated 06 December 2021

In a first, NSA presents national security policy draft before parliamentary committee

  • Government says this is first time comprehensive national security document has been shared with parliament representatives
  • Meeting attended by federal ministers, parliament members and senior bureaucrats, opposition boycotts meeting

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Parliamentary Committee on National Security met under the chairmanship of Speaker National Assembly Asad Qaiser at the Parliament House on Monday for a briefing on the newly drafted ‘National Security Policy’ of the Pakistan government, the office of the national security adviser said in a statement.

The details of the policy were presented to the committee by National Security Adviser (NSA) Dr. Moeed Yusuf.

This is the first time in the history of Pakistan, according to the government, that a national security policy document that “outlines the challenges and opportunities facing Pakistan in the coming years” and which provides “policy guidelines for mitigation and actualizing opportunities through a whole-of-government approach” has been presented before parliament.

“Moeed explained that the National Security Policy is designed to leverage the symbiotic relationship between human security, economic security and military security with the prosperity and safety of citizens as its principal focus,” the statement. “It [the policy] endeavors to put economic security at the core of policy priorities to expand the national resource pie for greater investments in human and military security.”

The process of consultations with relevant stakeholders for the formulation of the policy was initiated in 2014 after the establishment of the National Security Division, the NSA said.

“In year 2018, a drafting Committee was established which built on earlier work. Several rounds of feedback consultations on multiple drafts were held with all state institutions, including provincial government and the governments of Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir. This was followed by consultations with over 600 academics, analysts, civil-society members and students across Pakistan to make the policy process inclusive,” the statement said.

Yusuf said the document would be reviewed each year and as governments changed to keep national security policy “abreast with policy priorities in a fast changing global environment.”

Speaker National Assembly Asad Qaiser said the formulation of a comprehensive policy by the incumbent government reflected its priority for a secure and prosperous country.

“He also appreciated the fact that taking public representatives on board on national policies is vital for strengthening of democratic institutions in the country,” the statement said. “He said that the upcoming Policy would be a document that envisages challenges and prospects, the country has in the coming years.”

The meeting was attended by federal ministers, leader of the House Senate, members of the national assembly and senate and senior officers of the National Security, Defense, Foreign Affairs and Interior Divisions. Opposition politicians boycotted the meeting.


Pakistani experts cite lack of equipment after international vets determine ‘male’ elephant is female

Updated 06 December 2021

Pakistani experts cite lack of equipment after international vets determine ‘male’ elephant is female

  • Team of international vets last Sunday found elephant listed as male at Karachi’s Safari Park was female 
  • Karachi Zoo and Safari Park senior director says Sonu too young for gender to be determined properly 

KARACHI: A Pakistani expert, who assisted a team of international veterinarians in assessing the health of four elephants in Pakistan’s Karachi city, has said Pakistan did not have the equipment to ascertain the gender of elephants.

Last week, a team of international veterinarians and wildlife experts examined four elephants in Karachi and reported that one of the elephants needed a “complicated” surgery to remove damaged and infected tusks. A second elephant had dental problems and a medical issue with a foot, according to the vets dispatched by international animal advocacy Four Paws.

The visit came months after the Sindh High Court (SHC) granted permission to Dr. Frank Goritz, the head veterinarian at the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW), to visit Pakistan to inspect the health of four African elephants: Malika and Sonu at Karachi’s Safari Park, and Noor Jehan and Madhubala at the Karachi Zoo. The order was passed after animal rights activists moved the court following a viral video that revealed cracks in Malika’s foot. 

In its preliminary report submitted to the court on November 30, the team recommended medical interventions and also revealed that Sonu, which Pakistani authorities had listed as male, was actually a female elephant. 

Dr. Isma Gheewala, who assisted the international team, told Arab News it was not possible to ascertain the gender of an elephant with the equipment available in Pakistan and only international experts could do it using specialized tools. 

“If Pakistan is keeping wildlife, it is the responsibility of our government to provide tools and medicine required for the screening and treatment of animals, which are currently not available in the country,” Gheewala said, adding that even the international team, which included the world’s most highly qualified experts in elephant reproduction and treatment, couldn’t have ascertained the gender of the elephants without conducting a special screening. 

“How could local vets ascertain the gender without having access to advanced diagnostic and screening tools,” the expert asked, explaining that elephants do not have exposed genitals outside their bodies. “The specialist who came here used a very long ultrasound probe. In this examination, they discovered that the animal had ovaries and a uterus and no testicles. Without this special equipment there is no way to figure it out.”

Pakistan, Gheewala said, didn’t even have the necessary medicines to sedate elephants for the test, or to reverse the sedation.

Mansoor Kazi, a Karachi Zoo and Safari Park senior director, said Sonu was only 16 years old and elephant genitalia became more evident as the animal neared full adulthood. 

Elephants often continue to grow in size and weight until they’re about 20 years old. Males might fill out for a bit longer, but by age 25, both males and females are at their full size and strength

“Sonu has been in the Safari Park for the last 11 years and our veterinarians haven’t noticed its menstrual cycles. Sonu has behaved completely differently from its partner, Malika, as far as its cycles are concerned,” Kazi told Arab News, citing former vet Dr. Syed Kazim Hussain, who has been looking after the animals since they were imported to Pakistan in 2010. 

All four elephants were imported by an animal trader, Irfan Ahmed, who had said he had captured three females and one male elephant aged 2 to 3. 

“Our very experienced veterinarian Dr. Syed Kazim Hussain has been closely monitoring the animals. Sonu has a male reproductive organ and we strongly believe that once the elephant reaches its complete adulthood, its gender will be clearer,” Kazi added. 

In their report, however, the international experts wrote that “Elephant ‘Sonu’ presented as a male turned out proven female.” The experts ultrasonographically visualized its uterus and inactive ovaries, the report said. 

“However, an oversized clitoris has been palpated inside the vestibulum, which is getting exposed very often by Sonu as reported by local staff. Latter may explain the assumption to see a penis and could be indicative of a hormonal imbalance. Measurements of female and male sexual hormones in the blood scrum are still pending,” the report said. 

The focus on Karachi’s four African elephants comes a year after Kaavan, called the “world’s loneliest elephants,” was released from a ramshackle, now-closed zoo in Islamabad. Animal rights activists had campaigned against the plight of 35-year-old Kaavan, the last remaining Asian elephant in the country, who had lived alone since the death of his mate eight years earlier. 

Kaavan was transferred to Cambodia in November last year in a blaze of publicity after his plight caught the attention of US superstar Cher, who helped raise funds for the jumbo relocation. 

Owais Awan, an animal rights activist who pleaded the case for Kaavan’s relocation and is also a co-petitioner in the case to examine the Karachi elephants by international experts, said whatever the reason for the misgendering, it indicated that local authorities did not have the required expertise, tools and medicines to deal with wildlife they were keeping at Pakistani facilities. 

“We need to enhance our expertise and capacity,” Awan said, “and ensure that we have proper tools and medicine to treat elephants.” 
 


Pakistani national carrier gets permission to operate additional flights to Saudi Arabia 

Updated 06 December 2021

Pakistani national carrier gets permission to operate additional flights to Saudi Arabia 

  • PIA has increased its weekly flights to the kingdom from 33 to 48
  • Last week Saudi Arabia ended a COVID-19 flight ban for travelers from Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has received permission from Saudi authorities to operate additional flights between the two countries, PIA said on Monday. 

The announcement came days after the kingdom lifted an entry ban on expats from six countries that was introduced to curb the spread of COVID-19. A Saudi ban on direct travel from Pakistan and several other countries came to an end on December 01 as the kingdom continues to relax travel restrictions imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Saudi Arabia suspended all flights to and from the kingdom on March 14, 2020, after the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a global pandemic. Entry to the kingdom by air, land and sea resumed on January 3, 2021, though a direct entry ban was imposed on certain countries including Pakistan of concern the following month.

“PIA got permission for additional flights with the help of [Pakistan’s] ambassador to Saudi Arabia Bilal Akbar,” PIA said in a statement “In light of PIA CEO [Chief Executive Officer] instructions, airline has increased its weekly flights from 33 to 48.”

“PIA will now operate 48 weekly flights from Pakistan to Saudi Arabia,” the statement said. “These include 8 flights to Dammam, 8 to Madinah, 9 to Riyadh and 23 to Jeddah.”

PIA said the purpose of increasing the number of flights is to get more Pakistanis back to their workplaces in the kingdom after the easing of COVID-19 restrictions.

“PIA has always been at the forefront of meeting the travel needs of Pakistanis,” CEO Arshad Malik said. “If need be we will get permission for more flights from the Saudi government.”


PM seeks ‘comprehensive strategy’ against violence as Sri Lanka lynching victim’s remains reach Colombo

Updated 06 December 2021

PM seeks ‘comprehensive strategy’ against violence as Sri Lanka lynching victim’s remains reach Colombo

  • Priyantha Kumara was killed and his body publicly burnt by a Muslim mob in Pakistan’s Sialkot city last week 
  • Islamabad has assured Sri Lanka all those involved in the crime will be brought to justice, PM personally overseeing probe

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday sought the implementation of a ‘comprehensive strategy’ against violence, as a SriLankan Airlines flight arrived in Colombo with the remains of Priyantha Kumara, a Sri Lankan factory manager who had worked in Pakistan for many years and last week was lynched by a Muslim mob over blasphemy allegations. 
On Friday, a mob attacked and killed Kumara, who had worked at a garment factory in the city of Sialkot in Pakistan’s Punjab province. The crowd also publicly burned the Sri Lankan national’s body over what police have said are accusations he desecrated religious posters.
Blasphemy is considered a deeply sensitive issue in Pakistan and carries the death penalty. International and domestic rights groups say accusations of blasphemy have often been used to intimidate religious minorities and settle personal scores. 
Prime Minister Imran Khan chaired a meeting attended by Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Jawed Bajwa and senior members of the cabinet to review security in the country after the lynching incident.
“The participants of the meeting were of the view that individuals and mobs cannot be allowed to take the law into their hands and such incidents cannot be tolerated,” a statement issued by the Prime Minister Office said. “Therefore, a comprehensive strategy shall be implemented to curb such incidents and strict punishments to all the perpetrators shall be ensured.”
“The meeting expressed serious concern over the cruel act of killing of Sri Lankan national Priyantha Diyawadanage in Sialkot and expressed the resolve to bring the perpetrators to justice”.
A spokesperson for Sialkot police, Khurram Shehzad, said 132 people had been arrested so far in the case, after being identified with the help of CCTV footage. 
“Police has arrested seven more of the prime suspects including key suspect Imtaiz aka Billi who was involved in torture and disrespecting the dead body,” Shehzad told Arab News in a phone interview, saying 26 key suspects had been remanded in police custody. 
Human Rights Minister Dr. Shireen Mazari told media it was time to fully implement existing policies to combat violence, including the National Action Plan (NAP), a counter-terrorism strategy that was devised in 2014 after militants attacked an army-run school in Peshawar, killing 134 children.
“This lynching was not the first of its kind,” Mazari told Dawn. “It’s now time to take definitive action as the state.”
Meanwhile, Kumara’s remains were transported from the Pakistani city of Lahore via SriLankan Airlines flight UL-186 at 12:30pm on Monday.
The flight landed in Colombo at around 5pm where Kumara’s remains were received by Pakistan’s acting high commissioner in Colombo, Tanvir Ahmed, along with other Sri Lankan officials.
“Pakistan Acting High Commissioner Tanvir Ahmad and Press Secretary Kalsoom Qaiser received the mortal remains and conveyed the sympathies of the people and government of Pakistan to the relatives of the deceased present at the airport,” the Pakistan high commission in Colombo said in a statement.
Representatives from all walks of life visited the Pakistan High Commission on the occasion, the statement added: “They came from Sri Lankan Parliament, Coordinators for the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka for all religions including Hinduism,Christianity, Buddhism & Islam. All of them expressed their satisfaction over the quick action of the Pakistan Government in apprehension of the perpetrators of the Sialkot tragedy.”
On Monday, a delegation of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party met with Sri Lankan high commissioner Mohan Wijewickrama in Islamabad and condoled with him over Kumara’s death. 
“This was a horrific murder and we are concerned the way it was carried out. But we have seen that the government of Pakistan has immediately taken all possible actions at the highest level and they have assured to the family and to us that very stringent actions will be taken against the culprits,” Wijewickrama told the delegates. “And we are seeing it now that a large number of people have been arrested and remanded. So, we believe that the government of Pakistan is very sincere on this issue.” 
Pakistani leaders, including PM Khan and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, have said Islamabad is working closely with Sri Lankan authorities on the case. Top Pakistani leaders have promised accountability after the Sri Lankan leadership demanded Islamabad ensure justice in the case. 
Few issues are as galvanizing in Pakistan as blasphemy, and even the slightest suggestions of an insult to Islam have been known to supercharge protests and incite lynching. Perpetrators of violence in the name of blasphemy often go unpunished. 


Sri Lanka to bolster cricket security after Pakistan lynching 

Updated 06 December 2021

Sri Lanka to bolster cricket security after Pakistan lynching 

  • A dozen players from Pakistan are taking part in Lanka Premier League T20 competition
  • Friday's vigilante lynching in Pakistan has caused outrage across Sri Lanka

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka will bolster security for international cricketers after an expatriate factory manager was beaten and set ablaze by a mob in Pakistan over blasphemy allegations, an official said Monday.
A dozen players from Pakistan are taking part in the Lanka Premier League (LPL) T20 competition, including veterans Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Hafeez.
An official from Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) told AFP that extra precautions will be taken in light of Friday’s vigilante lynching in Pakistan, which has caused outrage across Sri Lanka.
“We have enhanced security across the board, not just for the Pakistani players,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The remains of the expat factory manager Priyantha Diyawadana were repatriated to Colombo on Monday, and authorities in Sri Lanka have asked for the culprits to be punished for the “brutal and fatal attack.”
Few issues are as galvanizing in Pakistan as blasphemy, and even the slightest suggestion of an insult to Islam can supercharge protests and incite lynchings.
The five-team LPL began Sunday and ends with a December 23 final.