I am committed to campaigning for terminally ill, mentally competent people to have the right to an assisted death. I have an incurable disease, a form of blood cancer called myelofibrosis, where the inside of the bone marrow turns to fibre and it no longer produces blood, so you suffocate. I have been told that it can be very terrible in the last stages.
I have been in Parliament for over fifty years and have worked on many important issues. To have the opportunity to legalise assisted dying is one of the most crucial parts of my political career. Due to my health I am sometimes unable to participate in certain debates that go on late but the Assisted Dying Bill is an obvious exception!
I am pleased that it has so far been a great success; it was passed unanimously through Second Reading, and was constructively amended during the first day of Committee Stage. The House of Lords received much praise for the way it has so far conducted the debate, and my colleague Lord Falconer quite rightly won the Spectator’s 2014 Peer of the Year award.
More than three dozen Shia Muslims have been killed by terrorists in Pakistan this month, pushing the number of victims over three hundred so far in 2014. This epidemic of suicide bombings, bomb explosions and targeted assassinations against the Shia community has extended to Karachi, Hyderabad, Khairpur, Rahim Yar Khan, Quetta, Peshawar, Kohat, and Gilgit, together with the main pilgrim routes.
Since 2008, extremist terrorists have openly declared on the social media that they intend ultimately to exterminate the whole Shia population of the country, numbering between 17 and 30million – unless they convert to the fundamentalist brand of Sunni Islam the terrorists espouse. Thousands have been murdered already, and their properties and places of worship destroyed. This campaign of religious cleansing also extends to other minorities, strikingly similar to what the Daesh are doing in Iraq and Syria. Its time the international community joined the dots, and recognised that we have to contend not only with the territorially based pseudo-caliphate in the Middle East, frightening as that is to all civilised people, but also with its metastasising growths in other vulnerable states, of which Pakistan is the main example.
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative, set up by the World Health Organisation (WHO),has reduced the number paralysed by polio from 350,000 in 1988 to 405 in 2013, and the number of countries where the disease is endemic has been cut from 125 to just 3 –Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. But progress has come to a grinding halt, with Pakistan reporting 174 new cases so far this year out of 193 worldwide.
The WHO says there is a high risk that this highly infectious disease will spread to other parts of the world, paralysing many of its victims.
Three quarters of all cases are reported from two lawless areas of Pakistan, Khyber Pakhtunkwa (KP) and the misleadingly named Federally Administered Tribal Areas. In these provinces terrorists call the shots, intimidating and murdering those who don’t agree with their fundamentalist brand of Islam.
The terrorists and their clerical allies decreed in 2012 that vaccination was a western plot to sterilise Muslim children, and a cover for spies following the use by the CIA of a fake vaccination project to track down Osama bin Laden. A local warlord Hafiz Gul Bahadur was ‘persuaded’ to ban vaccination in the tribal region of Waziristan in June 2012, and this was endorsed by the chiefs in other tribal areas and in KP.