Two years ago, Abdul Sattar Edhi passed away at the age of 88. It was a sad day for Pakistan. For many, Edhi was the manifestation of love for humanity, for those who were poor, impoverished and powerless. Edhi was always ready to pick up orphans, feed them and house them. He never thought about himself and slept in a windowless room with just a bed, a sink and a hotplate.
He was born in Gujarat, India but later moved to Karachi and started selling clothes. Then, he started working for the poor by opening a medical dispensary to help refugees. The first clinic by Edhi Foundation opened in 1951. Today, the foundation houses more than 5,700 people in 17 shelters across the country. These include abandoned children, the elderly, battered women, the disabled and drug addicts. The foundation also has a network of 1,500 ambulances working across Pakistan. This is the largest ambulance service in Pakistan and gives shelter and health services to homeless women. It was the responsibility of our government but since it failed, he stepped forward and provided these basic amenities through sheer hard work.
In his last statement Edhi said he had done whatever he could for his country and that he was satisfied with his life.
Edhi donated everything he could to charity. After his death, even his eyes were donated to the blind. His life and death serve as a great example of generosity and selflessness.
Once, Edhi was asked why he had allowed Hindus and Christians in his ambulance. He replied that ambulances are more Muslim than them.
Our leaders are responsible for Edhi’s death, as he had been suffering an illness for a very long time but no one took up the cause of his treatment. Whenever our leaders get ill, they go abroad for treatment but Edhi was left in Karachi, where he could not survive.
We miss Abdul Sattar Edhi, remember him whenever we see an act of kindness and selfless charity. He lives on in the hearts of millions of Pakistan.
Child labour is a severe form of social injustice which many of our younger citizens have to suffer. In Pakistan, we see children of all ages begging on the streets, sweeping roads, cleaning cars at traffic signals but no one is ready to take any action to save their lives.
Child labour is a complex problem, which demands a range of solutions. However, the first step must be to give children basic rights such as right to education, right to health most importantly right to identity.
According to the national child labour survey, approximately 3.3 million children below the age of 14 are working as child labourers in this country. This includes both boys and girls, with the former forming 73 percent and the latter 27 percent of the underage labour force.
It is my humble request to the government and responsible authorities to take a serious action to solve this issue as soon as possible.
Road destroyed in rain
Media reports about a portion of the road near GPO caving in during heavy rains exposes the fact that a proper soil survey was not carried out by the government and its contractors. Unfortunately, every major political party and powerful state institution seems to be dominated by contractors and land developers in this country. Mega projects, which have investments of hundreds of billions of rupees, are awarded to contractors who fail to follow laid down procedures such as proper soil survey and involvement of qualified structural engineers. They do this in order to cut corners, and add to their profits. This is a deplorable situation, and one of the basic mandatory obligations of a state should be to establish independent powerful regulators that can oversee each project and ensure compliance to specification before awarding contracts or later when giving payments and completion certificates.
An end to the practice of child marriage is one of the sustainable development goals of the United Nations. According to this goal, child marriage must be eradicated from the world by 2030. Current statistics of 12 million girls getting married every year below the age of 18 are dark reminders of the long way the initiatives and the efforts against child marriage have to go.
Bringing an end to child marriage is far easier in urban areas. It is the rural areas of developing countries like Pakistan where a greater proportion of the population is illiterate and religiously believes in the importance of underage marriages to keep their social structure intact. They are unaware of the long-term effects of the practice that is not limited to constrained economic growth but also higher infant mortality rate, poor health and stunted growth of children born to young mothers.
It is only if the laws against child marriage are strictly implemented that the practice will be put to an end in the times to come.
In an unexpected move, the Saudi Kingdom lifted the world’s last remaining ban on women driving. Now, Saudi women can be seen behind the wheel, doing their daily chores as an independent people. They can be seen visiting friends, dropping off kids to school and going to work. The move has been appreciated all over the world.
This will pave the way for women’s empowerment in an ultra-conservative state. Hopefully there will now be more participation of women in public dealings. But, there is still a large vacuum to be reformed by the Kingdom’s Crown Prince Muhammed Bin Salman, he should do more for the modernisation of the Kingdom for the sake of true reforms.
It would be wise to release arrested women who campaigned for women’s right to drive. They should be pardoned now.
Film industry in Pakistan
This Eid was special. After a long time, people got to enjoy five new releases from the Pakistan film industry. This comes through a revival of our entertainment industry, and it is heartening to see original content on our big screens. The recent ban on Bollywood films was expected to have a detrimental effect on profits of local cinemas. Release of Pakistani films has helped drive audiences back to the theatres again. It was the perfect opportunity for our filmmakers to realise that there is a sizable population of movie fans in the country and that there is a huge market for original content in Pakistan.
Over the past few years, many initiatives have been designed to revive the ailing film industry in our country. Pakistani films are being released with greater frequency.
Democracy in action
I am greatly alarmed by reports of election engineering being done in this caretaker set up. As Lahore braces Nawaz Sharif and his daughter’s arrival, containers have been set up across the city and 300 PML-N workers have been arrested. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, meanwhile, is also complaining they their campaign is being obstructed. This raises questions about the neutrality and partiality of the caretaker governments constituted ahead of the elections. They told us that the caretaker government is needed because political forces do not trust each other enough to just directly elect another government after the tenure of one government is over. Punjab Chief Minsiter Hassan Askari, in a televised interview, had reassured the public that as part of his mandate, he was obligated to address complaints, grievances or any allegations of rigging. Yet, he is silent. He said his government hoped that the problems which had risen in the previous election would not happen again. Yet, this election is even worse! Systematic rigging is not even being hidden.
Elections are the process through which members of a given community or state choose their leaders in a democratic society. Elections should be free and fair to ensure that elected representatives are acceptable to all members of the community.
Any election should give citizens all basic democratic freedoms, including the freedom to vote for or join the political party of their choice without having to fear intimidation. They should also have the right to keep information about who they voted for private.
Therefore, fair elections must have a process which is impartial and meets international democratic standards. Anyone who attempts to derail this process through intimidation or bribery is an enemy of democracy, and hence should be considered an enemy of the state.
Free and fair elections must be open to adults and the losers must accept the results graciously. The body conducting the election exercise must be impartial, transparent and able to enforce the electoral rules, especially the elector code of conduct.
All parties and candidates should be treated equally without discrimination or favour as only this enables the populations to have faith in the system. The election body should ensure that all candidates contest elections on an equal footing.
It is important to note that the party in power will certainly enjoy certain advantages in fields of government resources use of existing administrative structures and use of public media in this regard. Such advantages should be checked and remitted to try and ensure that all interested parties in the political arena enjoy the same privileges.