Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz inaugurated the second
SAARC Health Ministers Conference in Islamabad that was certainly the
event of the week, which suggested some concrete remedial measures to
address the health issues confronting the people of South Asia region.
In his key note address, the prime minister stressed
the need to foster greater collaboration among the SAARC member
countries for providing better health care to the people of South Asia
region and moving towards the accomplishment of millennium development
"SAARC Conference needs to work collectively to
improve the quality of life of our people. Health care is one of the
critical areas for any government to take on; it is only a healthy
nation, which can face challenges. We have to change the image of South
Asia and re-position it as the future economic powerhouse, free from
conflicts, hunger, poverty, disease, etc."
The PM said some SAARC countries have made
commendable progress in some of the health-related millennium goals and
they can share their experience to benefit other member countries to
improve health services for the benefit of the people.
SAARC has great potential and opportunities to grow
for the betterment of this region but at the same time it has many
challenges to face to move forward along the path of progress and
The member states should gear up their efforts in all
fields, particularly in health and education. He emphasized the need to
shift the focus from curative to preventive health care and disease
control with special attention of combating hepatitis, malaria, TB, AIDS
and polio from the region.
Prime Minister Aziz referred to Pakistan's efforts
towards developing health sector and extending the latest health
facilities to its people, saying the government has launched two major
programs to control hepatitis, besides providing clean drinking water to
the whole population by 2007.
Shaukat Aziz floated an eleven point agenda for SAARC
Health Ministers to share best practices, encourage scientific research
and create a health system capable of responding to all emergencies.
"South Asians are resilient, enterprising, intelligent and
industrious people; yet, many are still grappling with hunger,
unemployment, high disease burden and poverty." He said the SAARC
Health Ministers should focus on concrete actions to institutionalize
the mechanism, by which best practices can be shared, creating mutual
dependencies and linkages.
PM called for looking at ways to use technology to
improve quality of life and living conditions while keeping the costs
down. He called for bridging the knowledge gap by encouraging scientific
research and development by utilizing new technologies including tele-medicine
to reduce health delivery costs. Prime Minister Aziz also called for
conceiving a health system encompassing health care, public health,
community-based and population-based interventions. It was vital to
provide leadership in the development of a national strategy for an
integrated health information network, especially in the area of
communicable diseases, including health surveillance, population health
information dissemination, and health information management.
PM also proposed an institutional infrastructure for
effective coordination amongst various stakeholders within countries
responsible to implement the health system. In this regard, he said,
more knowledge could be shared through the better available
communication system . Citing the example of Pakistan, he said there was
a need to promote private-public partnership by devising mechanism for
growth generating collaboration between civil society, the private
sector and government. PM Aziz also stressed the need to focus on
building managerial skills of the staff associated with the health
system at all levels. He called upon the donors to work more closely
with each other to remove constraints in achieving the MDGs. He urged
the member states to help each other in order to help themselves. He
said it was a pre-requisite for sustained and holistic economic growth
and social development.
He also called for developing harmonious societies by
redressing inequalities and sub-regions, adding, South Asia is home to
one-fifth of the worlds population. He said Pakistan enjoyed a unique
pivotal position on the Asian continent as it straddled strategic trade
routes between the East and the West. "We are fully committed to
effectively contributing to defining of an international order, which
would guarantee peace, security, economic development and social
justice. Pakistan earnestly seeks amicable and peaceful relations with
all counties of the region and is committed to the peaceful settlement
of all outstanding issues." He said faster economic growth must
take place in an environment of social harmony and an atmosphere of
social cohesion. High maternal and neonatal mortality were attributed to
high fertility rates, low skilled birth attendance rate, low levels of
female literacy, poverty, malnutrition among women of reproductive age
and inadequate and unreliable access to obstetric, child care and family
He said further progress in health would largely
depend on literacy, access to safe drinking water and sanitation. While
the internal challenges include raising government public health
expenditures on health services, strengthening or policy formulation and
management, improving quality of care by health care providers,
strengthening monitoring and evaluation system, and an effective
regulatory framework for the health sector.
The PM said Pakistan's strategy in the health sector
was focused on prevention and disease control, ending malnutrition,
providing maternal and child health care, prevention of hepatitis and
ensuring nation-wide outreach of public health facilities, better
sanitation and clean potable water.
The thrust of public expenditures was geared towards
primary and secondary tiers and aimed at promoting gender equity through
targeted interventions like increase of Lady Health Workers and
improvement in maternal health care, he added.
PM Aziz also distributed compensation cheques amongst
the relatives of those who lost their lives in the tragic multi-train
accident near Gothki on July 13. Speaking on the occasion the Prime
Minister said that money is no substitute for the precious lives that
were lost. "It was a very sad incident and I was shocked to see the
horrific crash in news," he observed. Only those who have lost a
loved one can understand the sheer grief and a sense of loss, he said
and asked the people to bear it with magnanimity. He said that he has
asked the minister concerned to bring to task those responsible for the
tragic accident. The PM also offered Fateha for the victims and prayed
to Allah Almighty to rest the departed souls in eternal peace.
VISIT TO US
Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, who was supposed to
visit the United States and Canada later this month, has postponed the
visit that will be rescheduled in a due course of time.
According to Foreign Office, the visit of Prime
Minister Shaukat Aziz to the United States and Canada towards the end of
this month has been postponed for the present. "Prime Minister
Shaukat Aziz is looking forward to his meetings with US President George
W. Bush and Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin and has expressed his
deep appreciation to the two leaders for their understanding for our
request to reschedule the visit for a later date. Mutually convenient
dates will be worked out through diplomatic channels." The FO
statement said Pakistan attaches importance to its multi-faceted and
cooperative relations with the United States and Canada. "We are
engaged in the process of further deepening and expanding our special
relationship with the two countries."
CRACKDOWN ON MILITANTS
Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, presiding over the
cabinet meeting last week, observed that the institutions and elements
found involved in fanning hatred, sectarianism and militancy would not
be tolerated and brought to justice.
The federal cabinet in its meeting last week
reiterated the government's resolve to continue crackdown on extremists
until they are eliminated from society.
Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao informed the cabinet
about the current law and order situation and the government's measures
to arrest extremists after the London bomb blasts.
The federal cabinet, with Prime Minister in chair,
also approved amendments in labour laws to achieve social compliance
with standardized global system in order to boost exports.
The cabinet observed that amendments in labour laws
would improve investment climate, besides helping increase exports and
create job opportunities. The laws will ensure full security to women
employees during their office hours.
The cabinet approved the national sports policy and
implementation strategy. It directed the Ministry of Culture and Youth
Affairs to prepare sportsmen for the next Beijing Olympics 2008, by
providing excellent coaching and training facilities, so that they
should compete successfully in the games.
The cabinet also approved simplification of the
procedure regarding security arrangements for authorities. The
provincial and federal agencies were directed to work out security
arrangements keeping in view convenience of the people.
The cabinet also approved MoUs on avoidance of double
taxation with New Zealand, Sudan and Luxembourg. The cabinet ratified
inter-government agreement on Asian Highways network aiming at a
coordinated plan for the development of highway routes of international
The cabinet approved establishment of Pak-Iran Joint
Investment Company, which will give a boost to existing bilateral
economic cooperation between the two brotherly countries and will also
attract foreign direct investment from other friendly countries.
The Trade Policy 2005-06 and fixing of export and
import targets were also approved. The cabinet considered the
establishment of National Training Education and Vocational Training
Authority that will formulate policies on skill development in the
country. The cabinet was informed that there was heavy demand of jobs
from abroad in the category of skilled labour in different areas like
plumbing, air conditioning, electronics and carpentry.
The Prime Minister informed the cabinet that US
Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice telephoned him and they discussed
situation in the region and Afghanistan, India-Pakistan relations and
matters of mutual interests.
In his address to the cabinet, Prime Minister said
the government is not against the Maderssas for they are imparting
education to students and doing a good job. He, however, added that the
institutions and elements involved in fanning hatred, sectarianism and
militancy could not be tolerated and would be brought to justice.