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Pakistan sees alarming rise in HIV cases

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  • Newly infected people include low risk males, females, clients of key populations.
  • Punjab tops in new HIV cases with 6,106 people infected. 
  • Doctor says healthcare system biggest culprit in spreading HIV in Pakistan.

ISLAMABAD: As many as 9,773 people have tested positive for HIV in Pakistan during the last 10 months of 2022, raising serious doubts about HIV prevention and control efforts and clearly indicating spread of HIV from the key populations to the general public, health authorities in the federal capital said, citing official data.

“Every month, more or less 1,000 new HIV cases are being reported from all four provinces, capital Islamabad, Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan. This clearly indicates that HIV is now spreading to general population from the key populations including people who inject drugs, male, female and transgender sex workers,” an official of the National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination (NHSR&C) told The News.

Pakistan has spent hundreds of millions of dollars from the Global Fund and other international donor agencies during the last 11 years to contain and prevent the spread of HIV but new infections are constantly on the rise. According to UNAIDS, a significant percentage of low risk males, females, and clients of key populations are the newly infected ones suggesting an increase in HIV transmission to bridging populations (spouses, partners, and clients) of key populations.

Official data available with The News indicate that Punjab tops in new HIV cases where 6,106 people have been tested positive from January to October 2022, followed by Sindh where 2,097 people have been tested positive for HIV in the last 10 months, while 815 new HIV cases have been reported from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the current year till October 31, 2022.

Similarly, 316 new HIV cases have been reported from Balochistan while 496 new HIV cases have been reported from Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) from January to October 2022, the official data indicates.

In Punjab, which is the most affected province with respect to HIV in Pakistan, 400 people were tested positive in January, 475 in February, 572 in March, 547 in April, 610 in May, 723 in June, 669 in July, 701 in August, 712 in September and 697 in the month of October 2022, the official data shows.

With 2,097 new cases 10 months of current year, Sindh was second with new HIV cases where 164 cases were reported in January, 148 in February, 182 in March, 201 in April, 183 in May, 211 in June, 181 in July, 169 in August, 236 in September and 140 new cases were reported in October 2022, the official data indicates.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had 815 new HIV cases in the first 10 months of the current year with 71 new cases reported in January, 96 in February, 71 in March, 61 in April, 68 in May, 85 in June, 84 in July, 87 in August, 101 in September and 91 in October 2022.

Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) reported 496 new HIV cases in first 10 months of the current year with 36 cases in January, 57 in February, 38 in March, 33 in April, 43 in May, 72 in June, 51 in July, 59 in August, 60 in September and 47 in October 2022, the official data indicated.

Balochistan had the lowest number of new HIV cases in the first 10 months of the current year where 259 HIV cases were reported with 32 cases in January, 18 in February, 27 in March, 31 in April, 21 in May, 40 in June, 19 in July, 27 in August, 29 in September and 15 in the month of October 20022, the official data indicates.

Commenting on the spread of HIV in Pakistan, renowned infectious diseases specialist and expert on HIV Dr Faisal Mehmood said one of the reasons behind more HIV cases as compared to past is that millions of tests are being done in the country and added that Men-having-Sex-with Men or MSM and the poor Infection Prevention and Control were the major reasons for the spread of HIV in Pakistan.

“MSM is the one of the biggest key populations in which HIV is spreading fast in Pakistan because Pakistani MSM have very different characteristics as compared to rest of the world. Secondly, poor infection prevention and control is the major reason behind increasing cases of HIV in the country,” he added.

Dr Mehmood, who is associated with Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH) Karachi said healthcare system was also the biggest culprit in spreading HIV in Pakistan and warned that if not controlled, HIV cases would be in millions very soon like Hepatitis C which spreads with the same means as HIV.

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government contests Imran Khan and Qureshi’s exoneration in the cipher case

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On Thursday, the federal government led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif filed a lawsuit in the Supreme Court contesting the exoneration of former Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and former Prime Minister Imran Khan in the well-known cipher case.

Citing procedural and jurisdictional issues, the Ministry of Interior has appealed the Islamabad High Court’s (IHC) ruling.

In hearing the cipher case, the High Court allegedly overreached its power, arguing that judges cannot change laws where Parliament has not expressly passed legislation.

Despite receiving government-funded legal representation, the petition emphasized Imran Khan and Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s lack of cooperation during the trial, submitting 65 separate motions and neglecting to cross-examine witnesses.

The petition contended that in order for a retrial to satisfy legal standards, the High Court should have ignored important evidence that was given during the trial. It requests that the appeals contesting the IHC’s June 3 acquittal be given a hearing date by the Supreme Court.

Case history

The cipher issue concerns a supposed diplomatic document that disappeared from Imran Khan’s custody. The cipher allegedly contained threats from the US to remove Khan from office, according to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party. Shah Mehmood Qureshi and several aides, including Asad Umar, are named in the First Information Report (FIR) submitted by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) in accordance with Section 34 of the Pakistan Penal Code and Sections 5 and 9 of the Official Secrets Act.

The then-foreign secretary received a diplomatic cipher from Washington on March 7, 2022, according to the FIR. The lawsuit claims that by manipulating the data for their own benefit, Khan and Qureshi put the safety of the country at risk. It alleges that on March 28, 2022, Khan secretly met at his Bani Gala home and gave his Principal Secretary, Muhammad Azam Khan, instructions to change the content of the cipher to his advantage, jeopardizing national security.

The document asserts that Khan still has custody of the cipher, jeopardizing Pakistan’s encrypted messaging systems and possibly helping foreign forces, which would be detrimental to the nation. A complaint has been filed by the FIA’s Anti-Terrorism Wing against Khan, Qureshi, and other individuals for improper use of state secrets and unapproved possession of the cipher.

Acquittal by the Islamabad High Court

In the cipher case, on June 3, the IHC cleared Khan and Qureshi when Justice Aamir Farooq issued a succinct ruling in their favor. Their sentences were appealed in the case, which has since been a source of political and legal controversy, leading to their acquittal.

This acquittal and the ongoing legal and political struggles surrounding the cipher case are highlighted by the government’s subsequent move to contest it.

With potentially huge ramifications for the parties involved and the larger political scene, the Supreme Court’s decision over whether to hear the appeal will be keenly scrutinized.

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Shahid Khaqan Abbasi urges political stability in order to accelerate economic expansion.

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Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, the former prime minister, emphasized on Thursday how important political stability is to Pakistan’s economic development and how the nation cannot prosper without it.

His concern was that export growth had not progressed, and he emphasized that stability in the current climate is vital to draw investments and carry out the necessary reforms.

In his criticism of the tax system, Abbasi brought up the erratic nature of tax laws and the transient nature of the most recent tax slab implementation. Insisting that difficult choices are unavoidable for economic recovery, he emphasized the necessity of designing a tax system that is equitable and does not burden the people.

Furthermore, arguing that the effectiveness of organizations like the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and National Accountability Bureau (NAB) is essential for economic governance and transparency, Abbasi urged for changes within these and other organizations.

Abbasi, in his discussion of more comprehensive fiscal plans, suggested that the National Finance Commission (NFC) award be reviewed again and that power distribution companies (DISCOs) be decentralized to the provinces.

In order to reduce inefficiencies and corruption at the provincial level, he recommended looking into ways to share the cost of defense spending and decentralize the management of energy resources.

In closing, Abbasi emphasized that Pakistan’s economic trajectory will stay stagnant unless comprehensive changes are implemented immediately. To move the nation towards sustainable progress, he urged policymakers to give stability and structural reforms first priority.

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Through in-app QR payments, Zindigi and SBP streamline transactions involving sacrificial animals.

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With its in-app QR code payment system based on Raast, Zindigi—powered by JS Bank—has elevated the convenience of cashless payments for the procurement of sacrificial animals to a whole new level for Eid ul Adha.

This program uses QR code payments to streamline transactions for sacrificed animals for the general public and traders. It is a component of the State Bank of Pakistan’s Raast quick payment service.

This feature enables users of Zindigi and users of any digital banking apps or wallets to safely and easily make payments at certain cattle markets throughout Pakistan using Zindigi QR. The consumer must scan the QR code of the livestock merchant and pay the transaction amount in order to complete the payment.

In order to further financial inclusion and digital innovation in Pakistan’s developing economy, Zindigi and the State Bank of Pakistan have partnered. Both organizations are committed to improving the efficiency and accessibility of financial services, especially on holidays such as Eid ul Adha, by utilizing the most recent developments in fintech.

One of the most important steps toward promoting financial inclusion and economic empowerment at the local level is the integration of livestock markets into the digital economy. Farmers and retailers may take charge of their financial operations and help realize the larger goal of an inclusive digital Pakistan by adopting digital payments.

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