Stories about help

Why should feudals apologize?

I have grown up hearing all the stereotypes on television in newspapers. Feudals drive big jeeps (who cares how many books they read?). Feudals are the reason the country can’t prosper. Feudals abuse people in the name of tradition. But this ‘wadera’ boogeyman image is not accurate. I’m not saying that exploitation of the poor does not exist in rural Pakistan, but the facts that are often ignored are: Exploitation is not exclusive to the agricultural community. For every landlord who mistreats the people who depend on him for a livelihood, there are at least three who are actively working to provide services (services that every ...

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Riaz wanted to learn English

It was almost 11 years ago when I stopped my car at the Teen Talwar traffic light to be greeted by the usual herd of beggars, windscreen cleaners and newspaper sellers. One of the newspaper sellers, Riaz, a total of four feet in height, asked me for a lift to the Marriot signal. Irritated by the commotion around me, I chose to ignore him. Rather than moving on, he boldly walked in front of my car, locked eyes with me, stuck his teeth out like President Asif Zardari would, if he stared at the sun, and performed a mini-break dance ...

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The man who taught me how to give

I was not too surprised when I saw the elderly man on the side of the Islamabad highway. Beggars are a common sight on the road and drivers are used to ignoring them. But as I waited at the traffic signal, I noticed the man stepping onto the road. The light had just turned red and the timer had started. He only had a few seconds to get someone’s attention. Watching him from the car, I assumed he was asking for money, but his movements suggested otherwise. There was no weariness, no weakness in his movements, which is usually associated ...

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How Saira learned to smile again

Saira Liaqat was a teenager when she married a relative. Both families agreed that she finish school before moving in with her husband. However, just a few months later he was demanding she drop out. One hot day in July 2003, her husband arrived at her house and doused Saira’s face with acid. Her face was entirely disfigured, her right eye was blinded and she could barely see from the left. The acid attack erased any trace of the pretty girl of the past – but it has not crushed her spirit. Fortunately, she received help from the Depilex Smile again Foundation, an organisation started ...

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Ask questions, your doctor isn’t psychic

Miscommunications are part of daily routine.  You order a large Coke and no fries at a restaurant and the waiter brings you extra fries and a regular Fanta.  You ask a classmate for physiology notes and she photocopies the entire term’s anatomy notes and presents them to you the next day. But there’s one place miscommunication can be a serious problem. Having spent time on both sides of the physician-patient fence, I’ve started noticing how doctors often do not explain stuff adequately and patients will not ask enough questions, resulting in huge communication gaps.  In a clinical setting, these gaps ...

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Journalists need to help Swat

All reporters and journalists should join hands together to help rebuild Swat Valley and restore it to its previous glory. Known as the Switzerland of Asia, the region was, it seems, deliberately pushed into the hands of extremists who were not only financially nurtured but also backed, many say, by the powers that be. There is considerable evidence of this, especially in how Mullah Fazlullah, then head of the Swat Taliban, was allowed to air his venomous broadcasts to the people of the valley for many months. I would request all my colleagues and other patriotic reporters of my country to write ...

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When reporting falls short

Sometimes I wonder whether reporting an incident and having it published is enough. I began to ask myself that a lot more when recently I went to investigate a target killing case in a neighbourhood of Karachi. The story is of an 18-year-old girl, whose father was killed by unidentified gunmen with a single shot to his head one evening as he was returning home from work. He had no political or religious party leanings. He was just an average middle-class widower, who happened to live in a troubled neighbourhood and was making an honest living for his small family. As I ...

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Flood relief: Does any one still care?

It has been a few months since floods ravaged one fifth of Pakistan. Immediately, massive campaigns were launched to collect money and supplies to help victims. But slowly, this spirit has died down. Now there are  just a few reminders every now and then that survivors need your help. So what exactly happened? What went wrong? And how the hell have we all just come to terms with one fifth of our countrymen being homeless and living off international donor assistance? Well, there are a couple of things that happened that led to this. Firstly, from day one rather than talking of rehabilitation ...

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Sindh’s elite must change now

It has become clear that the state of Sindh’s health is desperate.  There is an acute shortage of vaccines, trained paramedical staff including lady health workers. Multi-national pharmaceutical companies are almost inconspicuous in their absence on any visible scale. They are not seen offering any organized flood relief effort. The medicines given for charity maybe in the form of small donations in an individual capacity. Due to lack of clean drinking water, the most vulnerable will be children and women. But as someone who has visited the rural areas pf Sindh (Kaccha, Bela and other rural areas) for the past 40 years ...

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For those who haven’t donated…

I was endlessly going on about how fundraising for the flood survivors has developed into some kind of a competition among various organisations, all indefatigably striving to outdo each other, when my wife suddenly interrupted. “What are you doing to help them?” she said. “Nothing that I know of.” A pause followed. After struggling to find some face-saving answer, I naively replied, “Don’t know yet.” “Donate through an NGO, perhaps?” she suggested. “Hmmm… but I don’t trust them.” “Then what else will you do?” Good question. I wanted to help, make a difference… but how? Perhaps the events that followed the earthquake in the country’s north in ...

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