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Smoking cures cancer
Sir: There are an estimated 1.2 billion smokers worldwide — that’s roughly as much as South Asia’s or China’s population. Half of these smokers will die prematurely of a disease caused by their smoking, losing an average of eight years of life; this currently represents four million smokers each year worldwide. Deaths from smoking are projected to increase to more than 10 million a year by 2030, by which time 70 per cent of deaths will be in developing countries.
That’s if we are unable to stop the tobacco companies who are ruthlessly pushing their deadly product. One major seller of this poison now advertises itself on TV as a socially responsible corporation!
Recently a large metallic globe, of questionable aesthetic merit, sprang up on Pakistan’s widest road, the Constitution Avenue. Its prominent base gives away its pedigree — the logo and the company is that of the representatives of the British American Tobacco, a major tobacco multinational. Those approaching the diplomatic zone or the Convention Centre (controlled by CDA, Islamabad’s city authority) cannot avoid noting this recent scarring of the city landscape.
Tobacco companies realise that smoking is declining significantly and the epidemic is just now taking off in the South. Some multinational companies marketing here have decided to look respectable, and don’t wish to push their products too blatantly, particularly since their publicity departments can concoct more subtle methods. The millions of TV addicts are now subjected to a whitewash of globe-maker, which is portrayed as a protector of the environment and human health and a big contributor of taxes. If the idiot box hasn’t destroyed their intelligence, they will realise that they are being conned by the tobacco company and the TV channel.
Note that smoking in low and middle income countries is increasing rapidly — for example, the prevalence of smoking among males in populous Asian countries is now far higher than in Western countries — 45 per cent in India, 53 per cent in Japan, 63 per cent in China, 69 per cent in Indonesia, and 73 per cent in Vietnam. One would guess that our figures would match India’s.
It is estimated by the British Medical Journal that current cigarette smoking will cause about 450 million deaths worldwide in the next 50 years. Reducing current smoking by 50 per cent would prevent 20-30 million premature deaths in the first quarter of this century and about 150 million in the second quarter. Preventing young people from starting smoking would have a more delayed but ultimately even greater impact on mortality.
Instead we have the CDA helping death peddlers appear respectable by giving them a prime spot where their name will remain planted for years. That’s unless Mr Kamran Lashari, the CDA chief, with a fine record of beautifying Lahore, wakes up and nullifies the globe ad contract. If incapable of this, he should ensure that a tastefully designed billboard in the nearby park displays the number of people who have died in the last century due to cigarette smoking, as well as a ‘death clock’ that displays how fast the smokers are being sent to their graves.
Q ISA DAUDPOTA
Students and politics
Sir: It’s really heartbreaking to see students involved in political feuds and our education institutes appear to be combat zones. It is essential that we be aware of the fact that student unions frequently lead to violence and mishaps in colleges and universities. At times, these groups lead to the deaths of other students but in general they hamper the lives and the academic progress of the majority of students. Deploying rangers and law-enforcement agencies are no answer to this problem.
Political parties acquire their votes from public. Their members are elected to the parliament to represent the people of their constituency on the assembly floors and play a role in legislation. It is pretty obvious that our local parties have so far paid no heed to this matter mainly because these college and university students are a dynamic segment that are misled and misguided to join radical groups and work for the political parties. In exchange they pass their examinations and are often paid for their political activities. It is time that our leaders reach a consensus and separate politics from education so that we can ensure a good education for our students.
Sir: The recent incident at the meeting of the Khairpur district government has exposed the much trumpeted devolution plan of the military government. Devolution of power is non-existent in the districts where the Pakistan People’s Party has a clear majority. Any district that dares to differ with the centre or exercise their right of autonomy is denied democratic functioning of their district.
Nafisa Shah is the Nazim of Khairpur, a stronghold of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). Her district government is under constant threat as she refuses to toe the government line. She is denied the legal powers guaranteed by the constitution. Government functionaries have stopped working for her. Even the police take their orders from the provincial government.
Though the Awam Dost Panel — a pro-PPP group — has a clear majority in the district council, the Khairpur Dost Panel at the behest of the provincial government is creating hurdles for her government.
On January 14, 2004, the District Council session was scheduled to be held at 12:00 pm. Before the start of the session Abdul Aziz Bhambhro of Khairpur Dost Panel (KDP), assisted by police officials in plainclothes, forcibly occupied the office of Naib Nazim (Convener) at District Council hall at about 11:00 a.m. This led to a physical scuffle between councillors. One Nazim, Bahadur Ali Phul died of heart failure.
The police refused to register a case. Instead, the convener of the assembly Shafi Muhammad Chandio and a UC Nazim Syed Amjad Shah Jilani, were arrested. The Khairpur incident is a repetition of what had happened earlier at Nawabshah and Larkana. All three have a PPP majority council.
Another reason for harassing Nafisa Shah is that she is the daughter of Syed Qaim Ali Shah, a former PPP chief minister of the province, whose anti-government stance in the provincial assembly has annoyed many. In addition to this, many cases of water thefts and kidnapping have been registered against the council members who are supporting her.
The Human Rights Cell of the Pakistan People’s Party condemns the Sindh government’s persecution of PPP’s district government and demands the registration of cases against those responsible for the January 14, 2004 incident. The international community is requested to pay attention to this matter and prevent the regime in Pakistan from pushing the political opposition to the wall.
HUMAN RIGHTS CELL, PPP