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Imran Khan aide Dr Sania Nishtar, actor Mahira Khan named in BBC’s 100 Women 2020 list

Nishtar was recognised as a leader in global health and sustainable development, while Khan was lauded for her efforts against sexual violence and racism.

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New Delhi: Dr Sania Nishtar, special assistant to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on poverty alleviation and social protection, and actor Mahira Khan were named in BBC’s list of 100 inspiring and influential women from around the world for 2020. They were the only two Pakistani women to be featured on the list.

Nishtar, a cardiologist, author and aide to PM Khan, was recognised as “a leader in global health and sustainable development”. The British network also noted that since 2018, Nishtar has spearheaded the Ehsaas Poverty Alleviation programme, “which has improved the livelihoods of millions of Pakistanis by providing mobile banking and savings accounts, and other basic resources”.

In 1999, Nishtar founded Heartfile, an Islamabad-based health policy think tank. In 2013, she served as a federal minister in Pakistan’s interim government, where she held four portfolios and was instrumental in establishing Pakistan’s Ministry of Health.

Meanwhile, Khan was recognised for her efforts to speak up “about the causes and issues that matter to encourage change”. Khan is a national Goodwill Ambassador for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and has been vocal about the plight of Afghan refugees in Pakistan. She has spoken out “against sexual violence, refuses to endorse skin-lightening creams and supports the fight against racism,” noted the BBC.

The list of 100 inspiring and influential women was divided into four categories — knowledge, leadership, creativity and identity. Nishtar was featured under the ‘knowledge’ category while Khan under the ‘creativity’ category.

The only church in Pakistan for Transgender Christians 

The ‘First Church of Eunuchs‘, the only church for transgender Christians in Pakistan, allows an ostracised community to practice their faith and celebrate their identity freely, notes a report in the Associated Press. The church is located in the compound of a cathedral in Karachi, on the Arabian Sea coast.

As transgender and Christian, many of the parishioners face double oppression in Pakistan and therefore, with this church, have created a safe space for themselves. The church’s co-founder Ghazala Shafique is also a pastor, a post rarely occupied by a woman.

The church conducts Bible readings, hymn singing and three-hour-long services that are led by the transgender congregation.

While the Pakistan government has officially recognised transgenders as a third gender, the community still faces ostracisation and social alienation with many living as beggars or sex workers.

‘World’s loneliest elephant’ leaves Islamabad Zoo with help from Cher

After years of campaigning by animal rights activist and even US singer Cher, ‘world’s loneliest elephant’ Kaavan will be airlifted from the Islamabad Zoo to an elephant sanctuary in Cambodia.

The zoo even hosted a farewell party for Kaavan just before he was airlifted.

For several years now, animal rights activists have campaigned to rescue the 33-year-old elephant from the grim conditions in the Islamabad Zoo. In May this year, the Islamabad High Court ruled that Kaavan should be freed and Cher tweeted that the decision was one of the “greatest moments” of her life.

In 1985, Kaavan arrived in Islamabad from Sri Lanka. He was held in chains in 2002 over concerns about increasingly violent behaviour. He was freed later that year after an outcry but later in 2015, it emerged that he was again being regularly chained.

Zoo officials have previously denied that the elephant was chained up and claimed he had been pining for a new mate after his partner died in 2012. Shahab Ahmad, vice chairman of Pakistan Wildlife Foundation, said in 2016 that the elephant had “a kind of mental illness” and showed signs of distress such as bobbing his head repeatedly.

Pakistan Medical Commission announces special exam for Covid-positive students

The Pakistan Medical Commission (PMC) announced Wednesday that a Special MDCAT (Medical and Dental Colleges Admission Test) Examination will be held on 13 December for registered students who tested positive for the novel coronavirus. The original test is scheduled to be held on 29 November.

Any registered student who has tested positive for the virus between 15 and 29 November shall be permitted to take the exam in “special centers”, said a statement from PMC. Covid-positive students will have to upload their test results online via a link that will be operational from 26 to 29 November.

Pakistani students have been clamouring against the PMC’s decision to hold the national exam on 29 November and have been pushing to have the exam delayed.

Several students tweeted that Covid-positive students will get two extra weeks to study for the exam, which is unfair.

Others have cried foul saying some students won’t be able to get themselves tested and that anyone can photoshop a Covid test.

Students have also tweeted that a special exam wouldn’t make much of a difference as asymptomatic students who haven’t taken a Covid-19 test can still show up to the regular exam hall and infect other students.

Also read: Pakistan, Iran to promote ‘Islamic unity’ with art contest weeks after Prophet cartoon row


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