‘World where no child feels hopeless’: Pakistani families, experts urge empathy as suicides rise

The undated photo shows Emad posing for a picture with his mother. (@SyedIHusain/Twitter)
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Updated 11 September 2022

‘World where no child feels hopeless’: Pakistani families, experts urge empathy as suicides rise

  • Suicide is illegal in Pakistan, there is no access to prevention programs and little attention paid to mental illnesses
  • Clinical psychologist Atia Naqvi lost her son Emad to suicide, believes suicides preventable with familial and medical attention

KARACHI: When Atia Naqvi and her husband spoke to their son Emad on May 18, 2018, he sounded “cheerful.” 

The family was scheduled to leave for Boston the next morning to attend Emad’s upcoming graduation from the University of Massachusetts.

Within a few hours, however, the Naqvis’ world turned upside down. An American police official called the family and said Emad had died after hanging himself at a local train station. He was two months short of his 25th birthday.

One in every 100 deaths worldwide is the result of suicide. Between 1999 and 2019, the suicide death rate in the United States increased 33 percent. In Pakistan, where Emad grew up, the World Health Organization estimated there were 19,331 suicides in 2019, with a rate of 8.9 percent per 100,000. 

The WHO also estimates that, globally, for one death there are between 10 and 20 attempts. Based on these numbers, there may be between 130,000 and 260,000 suicide attempts annually in Pakistan, a rising trend. Suicide is also illegal in Pakistan and there is no access to prevention programs and little attention paid to mental illnesses such as depression.

To this day, Emad’s parents say they saw “nothing on the radar” to reveal that their son, a football enthusiast and engaged member of the community, was struggling with mental illness. But a two-hour long video recorded by the young man to explain his reasons convinced the parents otherwise. 

“He was peaceful, he was very loving, but he had a warped theory that he had been born into privilege,” Naqvi, a clinical psychologist herself, told Arab News in a Zoom interview earlier this month ahead of World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10.

Emad is pictured during a soccer match in Boston, US, in 2017. (Photo Courtesy: Atia Naqvi)

Her son, she said, had come to believe he was “not worthy” of the opportunities life had afforded him.

“Then, he came up with anecdotes from his past that ‘I had lied, and I’m not worthy of this, and I’m not good enough’,” Naqvi said, sharing details of Emad’s video message.

“It didn’t seem that [anything big] happened in those few hours [after Emad’s phone conversation with parents],” she said. “It seemed that it was a well thought-out [action]. He had been struggling … for months. In that video, he says that ‘I wanted to speak to you guys, but I didn’t want to make you unhappy’.”

The eldest among the Naqvi children, Emad was born in New York, but grew up in Karachi where he attended the elite Karachi Grammar School and the Lyceum School before moving to the United States for a bachelor’s degree. His greatest passion was football and he was among the first members of the now highly-acclaimed Karachi United Football Club (KUFC).

In this undated photo, Emad Naqvi (right) is seen with his younger siblings. (Photo courtesy: Atia Naqvi )

After moving to Boston for college, Emad began working as a football coach for children at Super Soccer Stars. He also taught disabled students at Ivy Street School, and went on to get two FIFA licenses. His dream — after he became an established FIFA Coach with all six licenses — was to start a football academy in Lyari, a Karachi neighborhood where football has for years been a big hit.

Though Emad could not fulfill his dream, his parents have set up the Coach Emad Foundation (CEF) to carry forward Emad’s “legacy of love for football and service to the community.”

A picture posted by Emad's father, Azfar Naqvi, on January 1, 2019 shows his family posing with the students at Coach Emad Foundation (CEF) in Lyari, Karachi. (@azfarnaqvi16/Twitter)

But while the Naqvis’ have embraced Emad’s story, there is widespread social stigma attached to suicides in Pakistan, where it is a criminal offense under the Pakistan Penal Code. Many doctors and academics say the criminalization of suicide makes it difficult to get a clear picture of its prevalence and of wider incidences of mental illness.

Naqvi said a Muslim prayer leader advised her family to cover up the true nature of her son’s death or else he would not perform his last rites, but she and her husband decided against it.

“I didn’t want to lie, I wanted to be truthful,” Emad’s mother added. “This was my last service to my child.”

Sindh Mental Health Authority chairman Dr. Karim Ahmed Khawaja, who is also a senator and presented a private member’s bill in 2017 to decriminalize suicide, described the existing law as a colonial hangover. 

“The UK has scrapped it, India also got rid of it a few years back, but we still have not ended it,” he told Arab News. “Instead of such laws, we need to work toward ending depression, which is an illness.”

Naqvi also said she believed suicides were preventable with the right kind of familial and medical attention, lamenting that her family had been “just so focused on being happy and healthy and functional and successful” that they were not able to recognuze Emad’s struggles.

“Let us create a world where no child feels hopeless enough to end their life, where every child realizes how wonderful, how beautiful, how worthy they are,” Naqvi. “Each one of us can do it.”

Pakistan’s benchmark index posts nearly 100% growth in a year, hits 80,000 barrier

Updated 54 min 7 sec ago

Pakistan’s benchmark index posts nearly 100% growth in a year, hits 80,000 barrier

  • Benchmark KSE 100 index hits all-time high at 80,059.87 level during intraday trading
  • Analysts say surge due to investors’ optimism about Pakistan securing another IMF loan

KARACHI: Pakistan’s key stock index hit an all-time high of 80,000 points on Friday, with data showing the benchmark index posted a growth of nearly 100 percent in a year, as analysts attributed the recent surge to optimistic investors confident Islamabad will extract another bailout package from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The benchmark KSE 100 index crossed the key psychological barrier of 80,000 points to hit an all-time high of 80,059.87 points. This is an almost 100 percent increase recorded in the benchmark index since June 21, 2023.
However, following the profit-taking at higher levels— a situation where buyers sell shares at higher prices to gain maximum profit— the index dropped to 78,169 points during trading and closed at 78,810.49 points.
The index figure at the close shows that the benchmark has posted a growth of 96 percent in a year, according to the Pakistan Stock Exchange’s (PSX) data.
“Positive sentiments, led by a tax-laden budget which investors feel will help in getting IMF’s long-term loan, have tossed the index above the 80,000 level which was 40,000 a year back,” Muhammad Sohail, CEO of Topline Securities, told Arab News.
Pakistan’s Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb presented the $67.76 billion federal budget for the fiscal year 2024-25 in parliament on June 12. Analysts expect the budget will play a pivotal role in Pakistan’s negotiations with the IMF to unlock yet another loan from the international lender.
Islamabad has set an ambitious tax revenue generation target of about Rs13 trillion ($46.55 billion) for the year fiscal year 2025 in the budget. The tax collection target has been increased more than 40 percent from the target for the current fiscal year, which ends on June 30.
Pakistan equity investors also celebrated the government’s move to refrain from an anticipated increase in capital gains tax (CGT) and tax on dividend income. In addition, the taxes imposed on the real estate sector will also make the stock market an attractive destination for investment, analysts said.
“Before the budget, there was a rumor in the Pakistan stock market that capital gains tax and tax on dividends is going to be increased,” Shehryar Butt, portfolio manager at Darson Securities said. “But after the budget, those taxes were not imposed. That was positive for the market.”
Butt said the budget presented by the incumbent government seemed to be as per the IMF’s directions and expectations. 
“It is very likely that Pakistan will get a longer program of IMF after presentation of the budget and it has also been marked by international rating agencies including Fitch,” Butt noted, adding that global financial institutions are optimistic about Pakistan achieving its revenue collection target.
Analysts hope the stock market will continue to perform strongly and the KSE 100 index will add another 10,000 points in the coming days.
“Factors that would support the bullish sentiments at the stock market in coming days include inflation and the monetary policy easing,” Tahir Abbas, head of research at Arif Habib Limited, said.
Abbas said average annual inflation is expected to be around 12-12.5 percent while interest rates are expected to decline from the current 20.5 percent figure to around 16 percent in a year.
“Based on these factors we expect that the KSE 100 index would hover around the 88,000 level by the end current year,” he said.

Punjab bans public gatherings for 7 days as ex-PM Khan’s party calls for protests

Updated 32 min 4 sec ago

Punjab bans public gatherings for 7 days as ex-PM Khan’s party calls for protests

  • Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party called for nationwide protests on Friday to demand his release from prison
  • Punjab government imposes ban on public gatherings, rallies, protests, sit-ins and demonstrations for seven days

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Punjab government imposed a ban on all kinds of public gatherings throughout the province on Friday after jailed former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party called for nationwide protests to demand his release.
In a video statement earlier this week, PTI leader and former National Assembly speaker Asad Qaiser urged Khan supporters to come out on the streets across the nation on Friday to demand Khan’s release from prison.
The former prime minister has been in jail since August 2023 after he was convicted by a local court on corruption charges. Khan denies the allegations, saying they are politically motivated to keep him and the PTI away from Pakistani politics.
“It has been observed that in view of the prevailing law and order situation and security threats, any gathering/ assembly is likely to provide soft targets to terrorists and miscreants,” a notification issued by the Punjab Home Department said.
“Which not only pose serious security threats but is also likely to cause threat to public at peace and order as well as inconvenience to public at large.”
The notification said the government was imposing Section 144, which empowers the administration to ban any activity in the general interest of the public for a specific time period, across Punjab for a period of seven days.
The notification said assemblies, gatherings, sit-ins, rallies, processions, demonstrations, protests and other such activities have been prohibited across the province effective immediately.
PTI leader Raoof Hasan criticized Punjab government’s “shameful” decision in a post on social media platform X.
“It reflects how mortified they are of the person of @ImranKhanPTI & his vision of an independent & sovereign Pakistan where its people would become the true arbiters of their fate,” Hasan wrote.
Khan’s tensions with the government and Pakistan’s powerful military came to a head on May 9 2023 when angry supporters took to the streets and attacked government and military installations following his brief detention in a land corruption case.
The move sparked a nationwide crackdown launched by the government against Khan’s party which saw several PTI leaders and supporters rounded up in jails. Many Khan aides announced parting ways with him following the crackdown on his party. Pakistan’s military announced it would try those involved in the May 9 violence in military courts.
Khan initially said the protests were a natural reaction by his supporters but later distanced himself from it, blaming Pakistan’s intelligence agencies for instigating the riots. Pakistan’s military and government rubbished his allegations.

Senior Chinese official says Pakistan’s security challenges undermining investor confidence

Updated 21 June 2024

Senior Chinese official says Pakistan’s security challenges undermining investor confidence

  • Liu Jianchao raises concern over the issue after several Chinese workers were targeted by militants in the country
  • The Chinese official also asks political parties to work together and deal with complex challenges facing Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: A senior Chinese official on Friday identified Pakistan’s internal security deficit as a major challenge undermining investor confidence while addressing the 3rd Meeting of the Pakistan-China Joint Consultative Mechanism (JCM), which brought together representatives of all major Pakistani political parties.
Liu Jianchao, a prominent Chinese political figure, serves as the Minister of the International Liaison Department of the Communist Party of China, a key position that involves managing relationships with various political organizations around the world.
He arrived in Pakistan on Thursday night to co-chair the JCM meeting, focusing on the progress and future direction of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
Liu voiced concern over Pakistan’s internal security situation, as militant groups in the region have targeted Chinese nationals working on various CPEC projects around the country in recent years.
“We need to improve security and the business environment,” he said while addressing the forum. “Security threats are the main hazards to CPEC cooperation. As people often say, confidence is more precious than gold. In case of Pakistan, the primary factor shaking the confidence of Chinese investors is the security situation.”
“Without security, the business environment cannot really improve,” he continued, adding this may undermine development in the longer run.

Pakistan's Deputy Prime Minister Ishaq Dar (right) meets a senior Chinese Communist Party leader Liu Jianchao in Islamabad, Pakistan on June 21, 2024. (@ForeignOfficePk/X)

Earlier, Pakistan’s Deputy Prime Minister Ishaq Dar told the meeting the CPEC enjoyed full political support in his country while members of several rival political factions sat around the conference table.
However, the Chinese official also urged Pakistani politicians to work together to deal with the complex challenges facing the country.
“In the turbulent world of rising uncertainties, stability within a country is essential for the development of that country,” he noted. “Faced with complex internal and external challenges, Pakistan is navigating carefully the turbulent rivers and treacherous shores. Only when all political parties in a country join hands to ensure political and social stability can there be sustainable development.”
Liu also mentioned the “Western social media,” saying it had a huge impact on younger generation and was eroding the foundations of China-Pakistan friendship.
He pointed out the strategic nature of relationship between the two countries had yet to translate into mutual understanding and affinity between their people, emphasizing exchange programs on multiple levels to foster greater friendship.
The Chinese official said his country wanted to upgrade CPEC and take it to the next level of development to benefit the people of the region.
He praised Pakistani law enforcement agencies for capturing suspects who have “so badly sabotaged” the security situation in the country.
He also expressed optimism that the two sides would continue to cooperate with each other, adding that Pakistan would remain a major destination for Chinese businesses and investors in the coming years.
Liu’s trip to Islamabad comes only days after Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif concluded his five-day visit to China where he met with the top political leadership along with a number of investors and representatives of top technology companies.
The two countries principally agreed to usher CPEC into its second phase, expanding beyond the initial focus on infrastructure and energy to include broader economic and social development goals.
The new phase emphasizes rural revitalization, agricultural modernization, industrialization and green development, among other things.

Balochistan to present budget 2024-25 today

Updated 21 June 2024

Balochistan to present budget 2024-25 today

  • Provincial government announced last week that budget layout will exceed Rs850 billion
  • Balochistan ministers also announced increase in government salaries in FY25 budget 

ISLAMABAD: The government in Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province is set to present its annual financial budget 2024-25 today, Friday, state-run media confirmed.
State broadcaster Radio Pakistan said Balochistan Finance Minister Mir Shoaib Nosherwani will present the budgetary proposals in the provincial assembly at 4:00 p.m.
“Balochistan budget for next fiscal year will be presented in provincial assembly in Quetta on Friday,” Radio Pakistan said.
Speaking at a joint press conference in Quetta on Sunday, Balochistan’s Planning and Development Minister Zahoor Ahmed Buledi and Finance Minister Nosherwani announced that employee salaries would see a 25 percent increase for grades 1 to 16, a 20 percent increase for grades 17 to 22, and a 15 percent increase in pensions in the upcoming budget.
Both ministers said the budget layout would exceed Rs850 billion while the federal budget allocated Rs58 billion for the southwestern province under the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) head for the upcoming fiscal year.
Pakistan’s restive Balochistan province, which shares porous borders with Afghanistan and Iran, has been wracked by an insurgency launched by ethnic Baloch militants for decades.
Baloch nationalists have long accused the Pakistani government of monopolizing profits from Balochistan’s abundant natural resources, saying it has led to political marginalization and economic exploitation.
However, Pakistani administrations have denied these allegations, citing several development initiatives launched in the province to improve local living conditions.

PIA aims to repatriate over 35,000 pilgrims from Saudi Arabia following Hajj

Updated 21 June 2024

PIA aims to repatriate over 35,000 pilgrims from Saudi Arabia following Hajj

  • The national airline is among several aviation services working to bring Pakistani pilgrims back to their homeland
  • PIA says it will operate its special flights to Peshawar, Islamabad, Sialkot, Lahore, Multan and Karachi until July 21

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s national air carrier announced on Friday it would bring back more than 35,000 pilgrims from Saudi Arabia via 171 flights after transporting 325 devotees to Lahore this afternoon who had performed the annual Hajj pilgrimage.

Pakistan launched its post-Hajj flight operation on Thursday, bringing back 1,200 pilgrims through seven flights to four different cities in the country.

The authorities have announced the continuation of special flights to repatriate 70,000 pilgrims on the government Hajj scheme until July 21.

Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) is among several aviation services working to bring Pakistani pilgrims back to their homeland.

“PIA’s post-Hajj flight PK 764 from Jeddah to Lahore arrived this afternoon carrying 325 pilgrims,” the airlines said in a statement. “The pilgrims were adorned with garlands of flowers.”

“PIA will bring back more than 35,000 pilgrims from Saudi Arabia through 171 flights,” it added. “Under the government Hajj scheme, approximately 19,500 pilgrims, under the private Hajj scheme about 14,900, and around 630 Hajj assistants will be brought back to Pakistan.”

Pakistan’s national airlines will operate post-Hajj flights to Peshawar, Islamabad, Sialkot, Lahore, Multan and Karachi.

PIA announced pilgrims from Sukkur and Quetta would travel to their cities via Karachi.

The airlines said it would conclude its post-Hajj flight operation on July 21.