Stories about polio workers

Can Pakistan be polio-free?

People who know me well know that I often compulsively compare and contrast India and Pakistan by virtue of not just their close proximity, but because I consider both countries as my home. When the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared India polio free on March 27, 2014, after it had not had a single case since 2009, I was filled with great pride. Knowing that India is densely populated, afflicted with poverty and has poor access to healthcare for millions, polio eradication was indeed something to celebrate. But as in every such situation, I naturally wanted to know how long it ...

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Labour Day: The continuous plight of our workers

Labour struggle and issues in Pakistan receive little attention. This issue is not glamorous enough for the mass media and nor does it drive up ratings. In all fairness, a country in the middle of a battle against violent religious extremism has other priorities. The fact that this Labour Day will be observed like every other public holiday is a sad reflection of our society. Some major incidents have taken place over the last few months with regards to the rights of workers. However out of these, only the PIA case stands out as one which gathered significant attention. The management at Nestle’s ...

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Living with polio in Pakistan

“I always wanted to study but my dream to get higher education remained just that, a dream. I was unable to complete my Matric because of my disability. It would pain me immensely to see girls who were with me in school going to college and making something of themselves.” Maria, while wiping her tears, was discussing the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) government’s new scheme regarding free education for the disabled. Maria is 32-years-old and is a resident of Gulbahar in Peshawar. She was diagnosed with polio when she was one-year-old, soon after she got her polio vaccination. She is currently living with her brother ...

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A vaccine a day…

I have heard her say, She fears for him, for his fleeting eyes, For his silent voice, He has built some walls A tad too thick and far too long. He has escaped from this world and now he lives within, Surrounded by his opacity, she yearns to hear him, She says, one of these days, he will talk, he will shout She is sure, the storm, that is brewing inside him, will be let out, She is afraid, before it consumes him, she wants him to consume her, With his head against the ground, with his nonsensical articulations, Bouncing off the walls, she just wants to hear him talk, ...

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What makes Pakistan a great country

Flip through our TV channels, skim through our newspapers and scan through a dozen latest international reports on indicators of some sort and they will all give you only a few reasons to be happy about our country. In fact, if you do this long enough, you’ll probably start noticing initial symptoms of prolonged depression. Are there any problems of the world that this nation has been spared off? Floods, drought, earthquakes, terrorism, corruption, infant mortality, diseases, illiteracy, sectarian conflicts, ethnic disputes, border disputes, domestic violence, water scarcity, electricity shortages, gang wars and what not. It’s tragic and scary. But there is a flip ...

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Karachi is blasphemous, Lahore is not

If blasphemy is defined as ‘irreverent behaviour towards anything sacred’, Karachi is blasphemous; a city where something as sacred as human life is irreverently and disdainfully extinguished. As January limped to a close, three health workers administering anti-polio drops to children were shot dead. Bullet-ridden bodies of three young men were discovered and a police officer was gunned down in a suspected targeted attack. And yet, it is in Karachi, much more so than in Lahore, that a bastion of sharafat (respectability) is present; it is here that strangers smile at you, people say thank you for services rendered or stand aside and allow you to pass. In this ...

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A woman’s perspective: Pakistan must not negotiate!

As a woman, you grow up under the shadow of men. You look up to them to make important decisions for you. Ranging from how you have to eat and address your peers to what you should be studying, who you should be marrying, how to protect your body, your offspring, what’s the appropriate time for you to hang up the phone to how fragile your reputation is in a patriarchal society such as ours. Your self- worth becomes a bit of a joke – a paradox and a concept that Pakistani women, quite obviously, are still struggling with. Are we ...

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Peace talks or muscle power, that is the question

Pakistan may finally be getting more serious about tackling its militancy problem. But don’t get your hopes up. For years, the US government has pushed Pakistan to crack down harder on militancy and for years, Islamabad has largely refused. Instead, it has dithered as extremist violence has spread across the country. Last week, investigative journalist Umar Cheema revealed that Pakistan’s previous government used a secret counter-terror fund to purchase jewels, rugs and even sacrificial goats. Yet the tides may be turning. Last week, Pakistan was rocked by a rapid succession of bomb blasts, including attacks on consecutive days that killed Pakistani soldiers in the northwest and ...

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Pearls of destiny… deprived

Her face glowed as she reached the gates of her college. Her eyes sparkled with ambition as she took each step towards her classroom, aided by her faithful crutches. Slowly, she approached the front desk of the class, kept her bag on the seat next to her, sat down and neatly hid the crutches under the desk. It had been another usual day for Anika. She had enjoyed every bit of her lessons, making it a point to answer all the questions she had answers to when asked by the teacher. When she didn’t know the answer, she would eagerly wait ...

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Polio: Can Imran Khan help defeat the ugly villain in Pakistan’s story of survival?

On October 24, 2013 when I saw polio teams entering my colony – Musharraf Colony in Hayatabad – it was the first time I knew what they had come for. They had come to save lives. I ran home to tell my mother to get my little sister vaccinated. Polio – the villain It was only the night before that I had been peeping into one of the community halls where the elderly, adults and children from the colony had gathered because we were told that some goras (foreigners) were coming to deliver a talk. I had seen one of these lectures before but this time ...

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