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An Islamic airline has taken off in Malaysia this week. The believers catching the ride on Rayani Air expect halal meals and greater sensitivity to their religious beliefs while being 30,000 feet above the ground.

Many religiously inclined in Malaysia believe that the two recent airline disasters involving Malaysia Airlines were, in fact, divine retribution. Hundreds lost their lives in Flight 370, which disappeared without trace, and in Flight 17 that was shot down over Ukraine. The two disasters are unrelated except that both involved Malaysia Airlines.

Here in Pakistan, religious leaders often remind those affected by natural disasters that their lack of religious zeal is what made them victims of divine wrath. Numerous religious leaders have accused the victims of floods and earthquakes for straying from the righteous path.

Such reasoning begs the question:

Why are victims of such disasters the poor and landless who end up squatting at the most undesirable parcels located on the top of fault lines or flood plains?

The passengers in the Malaysia Airlines flights were not destitute. They could afford to fly. We also have no reason to believe that they were any more or less sinners than the rest of the Malaysian society.

We can only be certain about this; it was an unfortunate turn of events for the Malaysian airline victims and their loved ones.

Accidents do happen and at a much higher frequency on ground than in air. The death toll in road accidents runs into millions globally. Such accidents claim the lives of old and young, and believers and sinners alike.

Should one therefore accept religiosity to have an impact on one's safety?

I often wonder how one's religious beliefs would influence one's driving behaviour.

Would religious zeal instill a greater respect for traffic rules, or would it contribute to a pseudo sense of infallibility, making one take risks that one would not have entertained otherwise.

The public display of religious beliefs often manifests in the driving culture in Pakistan. Public transport operators on ground and in air recite prayers at the start of each journey. Some drivers hang religious prayers printed on CDs from rearview mirrors in their cars. Prayers are also printed in decorative calligraphy on public vehicles.

A few years ago, an alliance of religious parties that governed Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, banned music and videos in local and intercity public transit. Intercity transit operators, such as Daewoo, would switch off music or videos as they entered KP to comply with the provincial government's dictates.

The empiricist in me would like to determine if the drivers' level of piety impacts his or her safety record. A natural experiment could allow one to test such hypothesis. One can explore whether traffic safety improved after the KP government banned music and videos in public transit vehicles. Or one can compare accident frequency of the vehicles hanging prayers against those without prayers.

Among other factors, the religiously-inspired fatalism is also a barrier to promoting road safety in Pakistan where many believe that all accidents are pre-ordained and that human brings cannot interfere with divine plans.

A study of fatalistic beliefs in Pakistan revealed that most respondents considered road crashes as fated.

If all accidents, deaths, and injuries are fated, does it absolve drunk drivers and those who overspeed?

Writing in the journal, Advanced Health Research in September 2012, Kayani, King, and Feiter studied how fatalism impacts attitudes regarding road safety in Pakistan?

They interviewed people from all walks of life. They asked a bus driver what role, if any, do humans have in road accidents.

He replied: "We try to avoid mistakes but final authority is with God. Nothing is under human control, everything is by God. You see me, I am talking with you, and even this is not under my control. I will talk to you as much as God wants. Look at this bus, how big it is. Only God is running it and controlling it. How can a human being control it?"

I find it odd though that the same people, who believe traffic deaths are pre-ordained and absolve the guilty of their culpability, are quick to blame the poor people who perish in earthquakes and floods.

It did not surprise the authors of this study that fatalist beliefs exist in Pakistan. They, in fact, exist in most societies. What surprised them was how widespread such beliefs are.

The authors noted that "fatalism in Pakistan is a central part of systems of meaning making, regardless of education and role".

Human error and mechanical failures are behind most accidents. Drivers' and commuters' prayers might help calm their nerves. However, improving traffic and airline safety requires strict adherence to (air) traffic rules and regulations. (MURTAZA HAIDER)


اقوام متحدہ کے مطابق اکتوبر کے مہینے میں 2 لاکھ 18 ہزار سے زائد مہاجرین بحیرہ روم عبور کر کے یورپ میں داخل ہوئے ہیں جو کہ ایک نیا ریکارڈ ہے۔

اقوام متحدہ کے ادارہ برائے مہاجرین کے ترجمان نے بتایا صرف اکتوبر کے ایک مہینے کے دوران آنے والے مہاجرین کی تعداد گزشتہ سال کی کل تعداد کے برابر ہے۔

اقوام متحدہ کے اعداد و شمار کے مطابق ان مہاجرین میں سے 2 لاکھ 10ہزار سے زائد پناہ گزین یونان پہنچے جبکہ 8 ہزار مہاجرین دوسرے ممالک میں داخل ہوئے۔

رواں برس اب تک یورپ پہنچنے والے کل مہاجرین کی تعداد 7 لاکھ 44 ہزار ہو چکی ہے۔

ادھر ترک حکام نے بتایا ہے کہ یونان کے جزیرہ میدیلی جا نے کے خواہشمند تارکین وطن کی 3 کشتیاں بحیرہ ایجئین سے گزرتے ہوئے ڈوب گئیں جس دوران 3 بچوں سمیت 4 افراد ہلاک ہوگئے جبکہ قریب گزرتے مال بردار بحری جہاز کے عملے نے بچوں اور عورتوں سمیت 100 سے زائد افراد کو بچا کر جہاز میں سوار کر لیا۔

ادھر کابل میں افغان صدر اشرف غنی کے نائب ترجمان ظفر ہاشمی نے کہا جرمنی سے بے دخل کر دیے جانے والے تمام ایسے افغان باشندوں کو ملک واپس بلا لیا جائے گا جن کی پناہ کی درخواست مسترد کر دی جائیں گی۔


راقی وزیر اعظم حیدر العبادی کے دفتر نے ایک بیان میں اعلان کیا ہے کہ گزشتہ بدھ اور جمعرات کے روز ہونے والی شدید بارشوں کی وجہ سے پانی کی سطح بلند ہونے اور گھروں، رہائشی علاقوں اور پناہ گزینوں کے کیمپوں کو نقصان پہنچنے کے پیش نظر وزیراعظم نے ان علاقوں میں ہنگامی نافذ کرنے کا اعلان کیا ہے۔

عراق کے بعض علاقوں میں حالیہ شدید بارشوں کی وجہ سے ہونے والے نقصان کی وجہ سے وزیراعظم حیدرالعبادی نے بلدیاتی اداروں متعلقہ وزرات خانوں، شہری دفاع کے اداروں اور مسلح افواج کو ہدایت دی ہے کہ وہ فوری طور پر متاثرہ افراد کی مدد کریں۔


WASHINGTON (Agencies): The IOC revoked the Olympic qualifying status of a shooting championship in Kuwait on Thursday after an Israeli official was denied a visa to enter the country for the event.

The IOC executive board stripped the Asian Shooting Championship of its Olympic status on the request of the International Sports Shooting Federation. The event is scheduled from Nov 1-12. The IOC said the federation’s technical delegate, Yair Davidovich of Israel, was scheduled to supervise the event on behalf of the ISSF but was denied a visa by the Kuwaiti immigration department. “The denial of a visa is against the nondiscrimination principle of the Olympic Charter,” the IOC said. “The Olympic Charter must apply for all Olympic Qualification competitions.”

The decision came two days after the IOC suspended Kuwait’s national Olympic committee because of government interference. It also came as Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, a Kuwaiti, chaired the general assembly of the Association of National Olympic Committees in Washington. The suspension came after Kuwait failed to amend its disputed sports legislation by the Oct 27 deadline set by the International Olympic Committee. FIFA suspended Kuwait’s soccer association over the same issue two weeks ago. If the suspension is not lifted before next year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Kuwaiti athletes would be barred from representing their country at the games.

The IOC would consider giving them special dispensation to compete as individuals under the Olympic flag. Kuwait was first suspended by the IOC in 2010, also in a dispute over government interference. The country was reinstated in 2012 ahead of the London Games after His Highness the Amir Sheik Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, pledged autonomy for the Olympic committee and promised new legislation for institutions governing sports. Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah inaugurated Thursday the 20th ANOC General Assembly with record-breaking participation of 1,200 delegates from 206 National Olympic Committees (NOCs).

In his inaugural speech, Sheikh Ahmad hailed the largest participation of the national committees from the four corners of the globe. This participation shows that the great status of the ANOC as one of the pillars of the international Olympic movement, he said. He welcomed the attending International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach and Washington Mayor. Sheikh Ahmad also welcomed the delegates of the national Olympic committees of South Sudan and Kosovo which recently joined the ANOC.

The meeting — which is the largest event for the Olympic Movement outside of the Olympic Games — will mark the first of its kind to be held in the United States since Atlanta hosted the event in 1994. The two-day event will tackle a wide array of key issues related to the world sports and Olympic committees across the world.

It will also touches upon the relationship among ANOC, the International Olympic Committee, the International Anti-Doping Agency and the Court of Arbitration for Sport. On Wednesday, Sheikh Ahmad chaired the 68th session of ANOC Executive Office which chose the Qatari capital Doha to play a host for the ANOC General Assembly of 2016. It also chose the US city of San Diego to host the coming Beach Games.

RIYADH: The Knowledge Core Education System, Canada, joined hands with Prince Miteb bin Thunayan bin Mohammed to support an initiative in order to set up schools, colleges and a university in line with international standards to solve the higher education problems of expatriates living in the Kingdom.

“Seeking to resolve expatriates’ education challenges in the Kingdom, a formal agreement was signed between Prince Miteb, patron-in-chief for the Knowledge Core, Riyadh, and Shahzad Alam Siddiqui, chairman Knowledge Core, Canada,” said Mohammad Naseem, a Knowledge Core official, on Sunday.
Earlier, addressing a formal ceremony, which was also attended by Manzoor Ul Haq, Pakistan ambassador in Riyadh, Prince Miteb emphasized the importance of education for all Muslims saying: “The seeking of knowledge is obligatory for every Muslim and promoting education in the Muslim world is the need of the time.”
He said that we wanted some groups to set up an educational institution on affordable prices without compromising the quality of education.
Speaking on the occasion, the Pakistani envoy thanked Prince Miteb and Knowledge Core for extending this support and exuded hoped that this initiative will help resolve educational problems of the Pakistani community in the Kingdom.
On this occasion, he pointed toward the pressure for admissions in Pakistan International schools.
“We encourage all groups to come and help us overcoming educational issues of the Pakistani community,” he noted.
Haq suggested that curriculum for schools, colleges and university should be designed keeping international standards and Islamic principles in mind.
He also appreciated Knowledge Core for promoting quality education in remote and distant areas of Pakistan through its e-Learning program “EDUCAST” via its offshoot EPEX Lab.
Alam underlined the importance of support by the Saudi government to allow investment in the education sector for expatriates.
He maintained that there are 9.2 million expatriate workers in the Kingdom, with around 42 percent employed in both the public and private sectors as per a new study.
He pointed out that expatriates face problems in educating their children in some accredited educational institutions at high costs and need quality education at affordable prices, therefore, “we are keen in setting up an education system for entry level to postgraduate level for the expatriates and Saudis at an affordable cost.”

TOKYO: Kuwait’s Minister of Education and Higher Education Dr Bader Al-Essa yesterday urged the international community to strive for a world with a healthy environment, more sustainable and free from pollution. At the plenary session in the Innovation for Cool Earth Forum (ICEF) focusing on future perspective of addressing climate change through innovation, Dr Al-Essa stressed that replacing the use of gas and harmful chemicals with safer alternatives, is one step countries may take to improve on climate changes and reduce pollution.

“Many countries have responded to repeated calls for a healthy, sustainable environment and reducing the negative effects that industries impact on the climate. On the other hand, some countries contribute to environmental pollution, destruction of the climate and changes in the earth’s temperature, by allowing industries to continue with poor practices and protocols,” the minister, who heads the Kuwaiti delegation, pointed out.

“It is the duty of scientists, industry owners, policy makers and countries in general, to work towards a more healthy and sustainable environment by improving current policies, creating new tools and developing new technologies to that affect.” While confirming that all countries are held accountable at the legal, political and humanitarian levels to the current status of pollution and global warning, Dr Al-Essa underlined the bigger responsibilities of industrial nations towards the environmental issues, saying, “Industrial countries are required to be more stringent with enforcing the law to protect the environment and human health.”

Three Zero initiatives
The two-day conference gathers more than 1,000 researchers, business leaders, and policymakers from around the world to share a vision and establish partnerships for lasting global reduction in greenhouse gases through innovative low-carbon technologies. Muhammad Yunus, 2006 Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Chairman of the Bangladesh-based Yunus Centre, called for “three Zero initiatives-Zero poverty, Zero unemployment and Zero net emission-to attain the vision of sustainable development goals that improve human lives.

As an example of popularizing solar energy in Bangladesh, Yunus, renowned microfinance pioneer and founder of Grameen Bank, also said his non-profit energy company has successfully installed more than 1.6 million solar home systems in the country’s rural areas over the past 18 years. The Kuwaiti delegation includes Ambassador to Japan Abdulrahman Al-Otaibi, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Higher Education Dr Hamed Al-Azemi, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Education Dr Haitham Al-Athari, Secretary General of the Private Universities Council Dr Habib Abul, Director General of the Applied Education and Training Dr Ahmad Al-Athari, Vice President for Academic Affairs at Kuwait University Dr Firyal Bou-Rabee.
Based on a proposal by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Tokyo launched the ICEF last year to provide a global platform, where the world’s leading policy makers, business persons, and researchers can meet and cooperate with each other to address climate change through innovation. This year’s annual meeting is a critical opportunity to discuss innovative measures ahead of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21) in Paris due November, which will adopt a new international framework in tackling climate change. – KUNA

MUMBAI: An Indian living in Saudi Arabia or Kuwait is at ten times the risk of death, compared to an Indian living in the US, an IndiaSpend analysis has revealed. More than 7 million Indians live and work in the six oil-rich nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Bahrain), accounting for more than 60 percent of all global non-resident Indians (NRIs). Qatar has recently come under fire for poor conditions for many of around one million workers, including a large number of Indians, toiling at construction sites linked to the 2022 Soccer World Cup: 1,387 Indians workers have died in Qatar alone from 2010 to mid-2015.

The deaths of workers from India, and those from other countries, such as Nepal and Bangladesh, have been a matter of controversy, with some saying the toll could rise to 1,200 before any matches start. The Qatari government strongly denies that poor working conditions have anything to do with the death toll.

The Indian government appears to concur: In its response to a question in the Lok Sabha (House of the People), the government has said that most of the deaths in Qatar have been due to natural causes. Given that about 600,000 Indians live in Qatar, that is plausible. But is the death toll among Indians in Qatar unnaturally high? Indiaspend ran a check on the number of Indians living overseas, by country, and on the number of Indians who died in countries across the world between 2010 and 2013.

The check threw up some uncomfortable statistics:

* On an average, there are 53.6 deaths per 100,000 NRIs annually. However, this number conceals a sharp discrepancy. The average for the six GCC nations is 69.2 deaths, while the figure for rest of the world is 26.5 deaths, almost 60 percent lower.

* Saudi Arabia, UAE, Oman and Kuwait report between 65 and 78 deaths per 100,000 Indian workers. Qatar actually fares much better than these four states.

* For the US and the UK, the toll is 80-90 percent less than these four states, meaning, an Indian citizen in Kuwait or Saudi Arabia has 10 times the risk of death compared to an NRI in the US. Indians living in US and UK work mostly in the financial and technology sectors, whereas Indians in the GCC often work in riskier jobs, such as construction. Secondly, Indians in US and UK also have access to better healthcare, given their relatively better incomes and the better medical infrastructure of these states.

The data also show that the death rate in Qatar per 100,000 Indians is half that of Saudi Arabia. Assuming that Indians in Qatar work in similar roles as Indians in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait or Oman, it is evident that a lot of lives can be saved through better working conditions and better medical attention. Qatar has probably come to the attention of Western media because it was awarded the 2022 Soccer World Cup and because of recent controversies linked to FIFA, the international soccer body-and, perhaps, that is the reason its standards are better than its neighbors. Similar publicity for other GCC nations could help improve the lives of expats in those countries.

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