Dawn, December 28th, 2015

LAHORE: Police have so far failed to capture the prime suspect allegedly involved in Friday’s tragic incident of a gang rape with a 15-year-old girl at a local hotel. However, the police claimed that they were after the suspect and would arrest him soon.

On Friday, some 10 men allegedly raped the teenage girl in a hotel on The Mall after abducting her from outside her house in Rana Town on Multan Road.

On Sunday, the DNA test of six of the suspected rapists arrested by police and the victim were conducted by the Punjab Forensic Science Agency.

Racecourse police registered the case against all the ‘rapists’ but could not arrest prime suspect– PML-N’s Punjab Youth Wing additional secretary general Adnan and his three other accomplices. Those arrested were Abdul Majid, Muhammad Umer, Ameer Ahmed, Haris, Bilawal and Zaman.

Earlier, the girl in her statement alleged that the main suspect was personal staff officer (PSO) to Punjab Education Minister Rana Mashhood.

She said the suspect after abducting intoxicated her before taking her to the hotel room.

Civil Lines Division SP (Investigation) Irfan Ali Samo told Dawn that the DNA test of the girl and the arrested suspects were conducted and sent to forensic science laboratory. “We are hoping receipt of DNA results in a day or two. And as soon as we receive these the police will be able to produce these before the court,” he said.

The SP said raids were being carried out in various districts to arrest the main suspect.

He said police arrested the men on the information of the girl.

Sources told Dawn that since the prime suspect belonged to Okara district, police are conducting raids there in coordination with the local police.

Provincial Minister for Education Rana Mashhood Ahmed Khan said that he had no link with Mian Adnan involved in molestation of the girl.

In a news release, Rana Mashhood said he met different people during political activities but it did not mean that he was responsible for personal acts of someone.

He said Mian Adnan had applied for the ticket of UC-94 chairman in connection with local government election but his request was rejected due to his criminal past and irresponsible attitude and his link with PML-N was finished.

He said Adnan committed a heinous crime and police were investigating the case independently and the Punjab government would ensure that the culprit was taken to task.



The Express Tribune, December 28th, 2015.

LAHORE: The Technical Education and Vocational Training Authority (TEVTA) has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Southern Punjab Embroidery Industries, Multan, to promote training related to embroidery and handmade products.

The MoU was signed at a ceremony at the TEVTA Secretariat on Sunday.

TEVTA Chairperson Irfan Qaiser Sheikh said that southern Punjab was rich in agriculture and livestock resources. The area was also known for embroidery and handmade products, he said.

“Contributions of women to this sector cannot be ignored,” he said. He stressed the need for modern vocational training to promote this field. Sheikh said the TEVTA was doing its best to market these products across the world.

The TEVTA chairperson said that a course on industrial stitching machine operator would be started next month on the premises of the Southern Punjab Embroidery Industries. The course was being started on the demand of the garments sector in the area, he said. He said the TEVTA would provide training curricula and scholarships to the trainees.

Sheikh said that training activities would be monitored through a third party to ensure quality. He said that no fee would be charged from the trainees and the TEVTA would bear all expenses.

He said the Punjab Board of Technical Education would provide certificates to successful trainees while the Southern Punjab Embroidery Industries would be responsible for enrolling them.

The agreement was signed by Sheikh and Southern Punjab Embroidery Industries Chairman Nasir Saleem Chaudhry. TEVTA Chief Operating Officer Jawad Ahmad Qureshi was also present.



The News,December 28, 2015

BEIJING: China’s largely rubber stamp parliament on Sunday passed the country’s first law against domestic violence, which covers unmarried people who cohabit but does not protect gay couples, a senior lawmaker said.

China previously did not have a special law covering violence in the family, an issue often ignored to avoid bringing shame upon the family in traditional Chinese culture.

The new law prohibits any form of domestic violence, including psychological abuse, and helps streamline the process for obtaining restraining orders.

According to the Communist Party-run All-China Women’s Federation, about one quarter of women have suffered violence in their marriage, though only some 40,000 to 50,000 complaints are registered each year.

Of the cases reported last year, almost 90 percent involved abuse by husbands of their wives.

The new law also covers cohabitation, meaning those who are not related but live together are also included



Dawn, December 29th, 2015

UMERKOT: Leaders of civil society have expressed grave concern over an alarming rise in the sale of minor girls into marriage in Umerkot, Tharparkar and Sanghar districts and demanded that the government implement relevant laws in letter and spirit to save children’s lives.

Social activists Abdul Karim Mangrio and Mir Hassan Arisar, Women Action Forum’s Rasheeda Sand, Bansi Malhi and members of “Save underage girls from sale and marriage committee” said at a press conference at the press club on Monday that in 2014-15 more than 200 girls were sold into marriage to older partners hailing from Rahim Yar Khan, Sadiqabad, Daharki, Ghotki and other areas.

They cited parents’ greed and extreme poverty as major reasons behind the nagging social evil and said that girls aged between four and 14 years and adults had been sold for varying prices ranging from Rs1 million to Rs4 million.

Their buyers often used them as their servants, who fed their goats and sheep and in a number of cases the girls were reportedly killed, they said.

In 2014, they said, the Sindh government introduced the Sindh Marriage Bill but the law had not been implemented yet because of reluctance on the part of police, they said and cited as example a case of underage marriage exposed by social activist Abdul Karim Mangrio in Umerkot five days ago.

They said Mr Mangrio approached the court of district and sessions judge Syed Nasiruddin Shah who then directed police to raid the wedding ceremony. Police arrested parents of the bride, groom and other participants and lodged an FIR on Mr Mangrio’s complaint, they said.

Mr Mangrio said that the case had been lodged but police were now supporting the accused and some influential persons associated with the Pakistan People’s Party were also pressuring him and witnesses to withdraw the case.

It was the responsibility of the state to register cases against the social evil which was destroying lives of innocent girls, he said.



Dawn, December 30th, 2015

QUETTA: The rights of women would be protected and all cases involving honour killing would be heard in future by the anti-terrorism courts (ATCs), Chief Justice of the Balochistan High Court (BHC) Justice Mohammad Noor Meskanzai said on Tuesday.

He was speaking at a ceremony held in Sibi to mark opening of the ATC Complex and judges’ residences there.

“It is the responsibility of the judiciary to ensure implementation of the Constitution and rule of the law. The cases against the accused involved in honour killings will be heard in Anti-Terrorism Courts,” he said, adding that the judiciary would monitor and ensure protection of women’s rights.

He instructed the officials concerned to construct waiting rooms for women in all courts across the province.

Chief Justice Meskanzai said that in Pakistan, women had been deprived of the rights that had been granted to them by Islam.

“It is a very bad trend that the society has been making compromises on the issue of women murdered in the name of honour,” he said. “First the women are killed in the name of honour and later the killers are freed through bargaining.”

He said the judiciary would not allow such injustices in future. “The judiciary will do justice and the offenders will be brought to book,” he said.

The murder of an innocent woman was a shameful and cowardly act, he said. All such cases in future would be heard by the ATCs in order to ensure punishment of those responsible.

The BHC chief justice said the lawyers gave voice to the sentiments of the people and played a vital role in the provision of justice.

He expressed the hope that the judicial complex would be constructed on time.

The ceremony was also attended by Justice Muhammad Hashim Kakar, District and Sessions Judge Rashid Mehmood, senior judges and officials of the district administration.



The Express Tribune, January 2nd, 2016.

  Mehvish Muneera Ismail

In Pakistan, most, if not all of us, probably know an underage girl who is married. Whilst more prevalent amongst the less affluent, this phenomenon extends beyond rural areas and poverty. It is present even amongst middle class families, where girls are married off young not because it means one less mouth to feed, but because it is assumed that marriage is the end-all and be-all for girls. Surely all of us have heard the phrases — if not said to us then to someone else — ‘itna parh likh keh larki nay kia karna hai’ (what will a girl do with so much studying), or ‘jitni jaldi baiti apni ghar ki ho jaaye itna behtar’ (the sooner the daughter is in her home, the better). These statements speak volumes of the gender bias prevalent in Pakistan and an awful lot about a significant section of our society that views its girls as brides — child brides.

Seven per cent of Pakistani girls are married off under the age of 15, according to unicef’s state of the world’s children report 2014. of the cases of child marriage reported in 2012, 43 per cent of child brides were 11 to 15 years of age and 32 per cent from ages six to 10. To put things in perspective, children, approximately six to 10 years of age, are enrolled in classes one to five at school. These are conservative statistics — it is estimated that millions of minors are married off, but monitoring and/or reporting of these cases is abysmally low.

Child brides are more likely to be victims of domestic violence, sexual abuse and psychological trauma. Early and forced marriages lead to early childbearing, which poses severe health risk implications for both the mother and child. It is the leading cause of death for girls aged 15 to 19 in developing countries.

The Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey of 2006-07 states in its section on teenage fertility that almost half of the girls of ages 15 to 18 are already pregnant or have a baby to take care of.

It has been over 66 years since Pakistan signed a declaration acknowledging that child marriage is a serious violation of human rights. Yet, statistics from as recent as 2014 indicate that one in three girls in Pakistan is married before her eighteenth birthday. There are a number of reasons behind these appalling statistics.

They range from extremely weak legislation, lack of implementation of the laws that do exist, an absence of public awareness of the harmful effects of early marriage, poverty and a common perception that girls are liabilities.

Stopping child marriage is one of the first steps that can lay the foundation for achieving other key Millennium Development Goals. After years of lukewarm and paltry offerings, the government is finally doing something about it. Sindh now has a law that declares marriage before the age of 18 a violation of the rights of children, and carries a punishment of Rs45,000 in fines and up to three years’ imprisonment.

The Punjab Assembly has recently approved a bill amending the Child Marriage Restraint Act of 1929, holding not only parents of underage children, but also the cleric who allows such a marriage, liable on criminal charges, including fines and imprisonment. It is crucial that the laws enacted be enforced and one can only hope the other provinces follow suit.

While it is imperative that the government be able to keep up to speed with recent developments in this crucial area, one must keep in mind that the law alone cannot bring about complete societal change. Each of us has a duty to ensure that the general mindset towards acceptance of child marriage changes.

Some of us are in a position of authority, influence or respect in regard to families of potential child brides, and can try and prevent underage marriages, or at the very least, create awareness about the issues surrounding child marriages. For those of us who have office staff and domestic help that we are responsible for, perhaps we can be a source of bringing about gradual, but real change. If we have the money, we should begin charity at home. Perhaps assist the males in our employment to educate the girls in their care.

Access to education for girls is necessary if we are to bring about societal and economic change in our country. Instead of thinking of our girls as brides, we need to think of them as future teachers, doctors, engineers, lawyers, inventors and leaders. If as much money and time is spent on a girl’s education as on her marriage, many of our problems as a society can be resolved.

We need to create the awareness that women have a role to play in society and need not be financial or social burdens. If we cannot help financially, we can assist in kind by helping impart skills to females, such as those related to sewing, pottery, culinary or beautician courses. If we are unable to contribute in kind, we can at the very least vocally discourage the practice of under-age marriage.

Changing this prevalent mindset is not a small task. Whilst lawmakers do their work, let us lend a hand in attempting to change this bias in our midst. Preventing child marriages in a country where women are considered inferior to men is an uphill task, one that requires nothing less than a collective unified voice.



The Express Tribune, January 3rd, 2016.

SIALKOT: Women in Sailjkot took the roads to protest against gas suipply cuts in severe winter.

Carrying pots and pans they marched through the streets demanding piped gas to cook meals. Sialkot, a major industrial city of Pakistan, is is hometown of Khawaja Asif, Minister for Defence, Water and Power and Zahid Hamid Minister for Climate Change.

Though Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited has announced to provide gas for household consumers from 06:00 am to 09:00 am in the morning and 06:00 pm to 09:00 pm in the evening, for cooking meals, there is no implementation on this.

The very low pressure of gas and hours-long daily supply cuts have affected the domestic lives of people who are braving cold and foggy weather. Having a warm cup of tea has become a luxury.

Even protests by women and children failed to move the government to bring respite in unending load shedding of gas. The protesting women were carrying kitchen utensils in their hands as they marched on various roads, chanting slogans against  the government. Later, the protesters dispersed peacefully.




Dawn, 21st December, 2015

GILIGT: Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) launched a new initiative in Gilgit on Sunday aimed at empowering women, The programme `beneficiaries outreach and communication strategy` was inaugurated by BISP chairperson Marvi Memon at a function in Danyor on Sunday attended by about 2,000 women.

Speaking on the occasion, Ms Memon said the programme was meant to end discrimination against women in the society. She said the initiative had already been launched in Thatha district of Sindh, last month, adding the programme would also be initiated in Rahim Yar Khan, Kotli AJK, Swat and Quetta.

Ms Memon said BISP was striving to alleviate poverty and empower women through different programmes, adding like other parts of the country women in GB were getting benefits from this programme.

She said the federal government wanted to guarantee constitutionalrights to the people of GB as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was taking special interest in the matter.

She said the PM had formed a special committee to make recommendations to bring political reforms to the region.

Speaking on the occasion, GB Minister for Worl(s Dr Mohammad Iqbal said the BISP`s new programme would help end genderbased discrimination.

He praised BISP chairperson`s efforts for solving political, social and gender problems of the region.BISP regional director Mahboob Ali briefed the gathering about achievements of BISP and its future aims.On the occasion, students presented a play with women empowerment messages for the mostly illiterate audience.



Dawn, December 22nd, 2015

ISLAMABAD: Gender equality has not yet been achieved in Asia, the Pacific and globally, and all women have yet to be empowered, a new United Nations report said on Monday.

“To date there have been no significant initiatives to ensure any degree of gender-responsive budgeting. The common assumption or expression of concern is that there is little political will to do so and that there is a lack of capacity to plan and monitor and report on budgeting per se without the addition of gender-related planning and budgeting,” according to the Asia-Pacific Report on Beijing+20 Review, published on Monday.

The report released by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (Escap), says there is variability between countries in the region to the extent to which they invest in each means of implementation of the ‘Platform for Action’ adopted by the Beijing Conference on Women. The implementation of the Platform for Action is reviewed every five years.

The report identified ‘gaps’ in gender equality policies and legislation. National women’s machineries are mandated to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women but do not necessarily have adequate resources to fulfil their mandates.

The report says that with varying gender equality awareness and capacity, along with the recognised need to strengthen communication and collaboration, the existence of formal mechanisms for cooperation and partnership between government entities do not equate to efficient and effective delivery of initiatives.

In terms of budgeting and funding, there is potential for strengthening existing gender-responsive budgeting measures and for increasing the adoption of gender-responsive budgeting across Asia and the Pacific, the report maintained.

The report points that lack of political will and accountability, limited awareness of and appreciation for gender equality, low status, insufficient resources, scant data and poor coordination between government entities were some of the challenges, cited by the Escap member countries.



Dawn, December 22nd, 2015


SPEAKING at the launch of an ambitious five-year family planning initiative officially titled the Costed Implementation Plan (CIP), Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah stressed that family planning and reproductive health were at the top of the government’s agenda.

If this were true, it would be terrific news indeed for the women of Sindh. An unacceptably high number of women in Pakistan die due to pregnancy and childbirth. While up-to-date and accurate data regarding maternal health is difficult to obtain, WHO estimates that the maternal mortality rate in Pakistan is 170 deaths per 100,000 live births.

The figure in Sindh is even higher than the national average. According to the UN Millennium Development Goals Report of 2012, the maternal mortality ratio in Sindh is between 345 and 350 deaths per 100,000 births.

Improving access to contraception is one of the most important means to improve maternal health. With a generous budget of Rs51.2 billion, the new CIP seeks to increase access and use of family planning measures across Sindh to stem the rate of population growth and improve reproductive health.

However, before we congratulate the Sindh government on taking on this new, costly initiative, we must remind the government of existing reproductive health policies and programmes that it is failing to implement.

As far back as 2006, the government adopted the National Framework on Maternal and Newborn Child Health, which promised to establish maternal and newborn child health cells in every province of Pakistan.

The framework set forth detailed targets for government-run obstetric care centres in all provinces, including Sindh. The policy envisaged that Rural Health Centres will provide basic obstetric care, including skilled attendants for normal childbirth, provision of essential medicines and contraceptives, and transportation to district hospitals in case of complications during pregnancy and childbirth.

District hospitals are required to provide comprehensive obstetric services, including provision of caesarian sections and blood transfusions. These hospitals are to be staffed with a gynecologist/obstetrician, an anesthetist and equipped with a functional operating theatre. But a visit to RHCs and district hospitals today, almost 10 years later, reveals that these targets are woefully far from being met.

An RHC in the Rehri Goth area of Karachi lies vacant and locked in the early afternoon. The chowkidar inside says a doctor had come by in the morning, but left and shut the facility a while ago. If a woman in labour arrives, even the requisite skilled birth attendant will not be available to look after her, nor would she be provided transport facilities to take her to a hospital if complications arise.

The RHC in Murad Memon Goth Karachi is also eerily quiet. Although it is a large building located on a vast compound, there are no patients inside the wards. The medical officer in charge is absent. There is no electricity and the facility has no medicines.

Government-run maternity homes in other parts of Karachi, including Liaquat Market and Model Colony, which are also required to provide basic obstetric care, are similarly understaffed and ill-equipped.

District hospitals in Hyderabad appear to be incapable of handling complicated deliveries. For example, District Hospital Kohsar in Hyderabad did not have a functioning maternity ward until a month and a half ago, because its facilities were being used to house IDPs. Although the hospital is now equipped to handle normal deliveries, it cannot deal with pregnancy-related complications since the posts of gynecologist and anesthetist are lying vacant.

Liaquat University Hospital in Hyderabad is one of the largest hospitals in Sindh. On a Saturday evening, a fairly large crowd is lined up outside the labour ward. But a majority of the beds inside are unoccupied because of the apparent shortage of staff available to attend to the large numbers of people.

There is no gynecologist present in the hospital at the time of our visit. Patients huddled outside the ward say that there are no medicines available at the hospital: the doctors hand them prescriptions and the patients have to purchase the medicines at a pharmacy.

The government’s promise to provide quality, accessible and affordable obstetric services remains unfulfilled in these facilities in Hyderabad and Karachi, suggesting worse conditions in the province’s interior. There seems to be little to no check on endemic staff absenteeism and the unavailability of medicines.

In light of the failure to implement extensive maternal health policies, it is crucial to remind the government that framing policies and allocating budgets is not enough. The government’s commitment must be demonstrated through the actual implementation of policies and programmes. It would be a shame if the Sindh government’s new family planning initiative becomes yet another broken promise and the billions devoted to it go to waste.



The Express Tribune, December 23rd, 2015.

 LAHORE: Speakers at a conference held to mark the National Working Women’s Day on Tuesday noted that women’s contribution to the country’s economy was no longer limited to a few sectors.

They said large numbers of women were now entering professions long considered suitable for men only. These included the armed forces, the police and the media, they said.

The speakers said women outnumbered men in home-based and informal sector work, including labor-intensive jobs like cultivation and livestock management.

Alongside the expansion in working opportunities for women, there had been no improvement in the disparity between wages paid to women and men for same work, they lamented. They said there were instances where for the same job women were paid less than half the wages men got.

They said other important issues faced by working women were gender-based discrimination and sexual harassment.

Provicnial Ombudsperson Farkhanda Wasim Afzal said her office was working with employers to ensure safe working environment for women. She urged women in the audience to not shy away from bringing genuine complaints to her office. She said the complainants should get in touch with her if prompt action was not taken by her staff on their complaints.

The ombudsperson said the use of the term housewife should be discouraged. Women who stayed at home should be identified as home makers, she said. She said there could be no development of the society without women’s contribution.

Aurat Foundation resident director Mumtaz Mughal stressed the need for increasing women’s representation in public decision-making forums. She said lack of adequate public transport facilities was keeping women from benefiting from working opportunities.

Women In Struggle for Empowerment (WISE) executive director Bushra Khaliq highlighted the lack of enforcement of pro-women policies. She said poor budgetary allocations for issues that concerned women showed that the government lacked political will to enforce these policies. She said there was a need to push the government to increase budgetary allocations for its pro-women programmes.

Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf MPA Sadia Sohail said women were good at management of finances and maintaining public relations and in parliamentary politics. She said efforts to bring down corruption in the society could not be successful without women’s participation.

The conference was organised jointly by the Ombudsperson’s office, the WISE, the AWAZ Accountability Programme at the auditorium of the Lahore of Commerce and Industry (LCCI).

Other speakers were Lubna Mansoor from the Ministry of Human Rights, Ruqiaya Bano of the Rescue 1122, Syeda Ghulam Fatima of the Bonded Labour Liberation Front, Salman Abid of the Strengthening Participatory Organisation, journalist Fakhara Tehreem and Operations SP Ammara Athar.



The Express Tribune, December 23rd, 2015.

ISLAMABADThe federal government is making all out efforts to increase employment opportunities for women across the country, said Ministry of Human Rights Joint Secretary Humera Azam Khan.

She said the Prime Minister was taking keen interest in the progress of women and steps are being taken to provide them a better working environment in all sectors. “No progress can be made without the active participation of women,” she said, adding that a 10% job quota for women was strictly being followed upon.

“There is a need to invite educated and experienced women in different disciplines in the policy making matters,” she further added. Replying to a question, she said the women empowerment package would be introduced soon. Meanwhile, a walk was also organised by the Ministry of Human Rights on the ‘National Day of Working Women.’



Published in Dawn, December 23rd, 2015


THEY descend upon Pakistani television screens almost as soon as the men and the working women have left, bound for grim offices via car-clogged roads.

Many of the women hosts of Pakistan’s morning television shows are unrelenting in their insistence that the new day is going to be a glorious one. One can, of course, pause at the absurdity of this claim, dissect its inapplicability to every single new day in Pakistan; but there are others that annoy more, and grate on the intellect as they do on the senses.

This kind of deluded optimism is not the only crime of the morning show. Even more annoying than the relentless and artificial excitement is the ‘girlishness’ with which it is conducted. There is something crucial to be noted here: few of the many hosts of the many channels are actually ‘girls’ or anywhere around the neighbourhood of just-passed adolescence.

Their mode and manner, however, seems never to have recovered from that bygone age bracket; as they seek to project that the grown woman is really just a girl. In turn, a girl, naïve and innocent, forever cheerful and untainted by the seriousness of the world, is the epitome of Pakistani womanhood.

The morning show is just one instance, albeit a grating one, of this curse of infantile thinking that is inflicted on millions of Pakistani women who must never grow up. In this, its most visible iteration, it says to women that maintaining the persona of a girl — the just-grown anorexic body, the impish impudence and the naiveté with which all things serious or pressing are somehow out of bounds — equals attractiveness.

Seriousness of purpose, engagement with issues beyond wedding outfits, crafts and cooking are generally questionable, suggesting an un-femininity that is, if not outright noxious, definitely not attractive.

Advertisements and television dramas further substantiate the stereotypes; the girls who grow up into women, are more often than not the villains, scheming, plotting and arranging the demise of the girlish innocents, who cannot see through their evil machinations.

Excavating the curse of being the forever girl from Pakistani society requires a bit of acuity in cultural products — mornings shows, television dramas and advertisements — that are otherwise uncritically consumed by too many. It also requires recognising what such an image does to the larger situation of women in the country.

A society that is obsessive in its idealisation of ‘girls’ is one that can never really be committed to ending practices like child marriage. If it is the ‘girl’ that is the epitome of attractiveness, then it follows that younger and younger girls are sexualised and made available for marriage.

In turn, the girls who escape this practice, who become women, are caught in the vice-like grip of cultural expectation that requires them to pretend at being younger than they are, embarrassed, even rejected, for being women.

It is not just they who are being discarded; the degrees, the professional skills or educational achievements that they may have gathered on their way to becoming women are all also devalued.

A society that wants women to stay forever girls is disrespecting all women by saying that women are or should be, in some perpetual way, always children. Children, we all know, must be told what to do, protected, never permitted to do as they wish. So it is the condition of women as well.

If we assess this wreckage produced by cultural norms that find women attractive only when they model the childishness of girlhood, then the realm of the morning show is recast as yet another scene of battle.

Grown women, guests and hosts and those who call in are constricted by the shackles of a permanent adolescence, one they must embrace to be considered attractive, even acceptable.

Further iterations are available throughout the wedding season, where the unwed, aged anywhere beyond 18 or 19, must maintain the mien of that glorious age if they are to preserve any prospect of being betrothed. This latter goal, everyone in Pakistan knows, is the defining dream of every unwed Pakistani woman — I mean girl.

The task of changing norms can only belong to those who are currently defined by them. If Pakistani women do not recognise the degradation and perversion of an idealisation of girlhood as the feminine ideal, then all of them, married or unmarried, old or young, will remain shackled by its boundaries, pushed for years to come into the pretence of being childlike.

Youth and its preservation is undoubtedly a universal quest, the paints and potions sold to women around the world all evidence of its ubiquity and timelessness.

There is, however, a difference between the worldwide quest of staying young and the social insistence that only the female and the young are pretty, marriageable or beautiful.

The former points to the human fear of death and aging, applicable to men and women, in Pakistan and elsewhere. The latter, the curse of the forever girl, points to something particularly Pakistani: a clever equation of the female with the child, something that indirectly justifies the subjugation of women, their relegation to lesser beings.

There are many tools in the arsenal of those who wish to deny women equality, and other women are one of them. The mavens of morning shows, fighting the fervent rating wars, are perhaps too preoccupied with the task of widening their appeal and emphasising their girlish inability to question the structures within which they operate.

If they were to take up their task, they could begin by putting their flippancy aside and consider with some seriousness the fact that Pakistani women, including themselves, deserve much better than to be sentenced to being forever girls.



The Express Tribune, December 24th, 2015.

It was National Working Women’s Day on December 22 and to the surprise of nobody, its celebration in Pakistan was to say the very least — muted.

This is not to say that it went entirely unrecognised and there was the obligatory conference in the auditorium of the Lahore Council of Commerce and Industry. Speakers noted that an increasing number of women were entering an ever-broader range of professions, some of them previously the sole domain of men.

The armed forces, the police and the media have all seen an uptick in the numbers of women they employ. The banking sector and finance generally have seen a surge in the numbers of women they employ. Women now outnumber men in home-based and informal sector work — and there the mostly better news ends.

Whilst there are undoubtedly more women in the workplace, their terms and conditions of service to say nothing of their salaries often fall far below those of men — even if they are doing an identical job.

The conference was told that there had been no improvement in the disparity between salaries paid to women and men and in some instances where men and women were doing the same work, women were paid less than half of what men was getting. On top of wage disparity, women have to suffer sexual harassment, and gender-related discrimination is rife across all sectors.

The expansion of women in the workplace numerically is being seen as an expansion of opportunities to exploit and abuse them in many instances. The conference heard that as well as the workplace, more women were needed in public decision-making forums. All too often those that are there today are little more than mouthpieces for male relatives who pull the strings from behind.

Worthy as the conference was, there is a need for more proactive interventions, of affirmative action in protection of the rights of women, more positive discrimination regarding the appointment of women and further broadening of the sectors women work in. Women are half the population and there is going to be no development without them taking their place in the workforce.



Dawn, December 27th, 2015

HYDERABAD: The health minister of Sindh has said that the government is planning to launch two healthcare programmes — one on prevention is better than cure and the other one about infant and mother mortality (maternal mortality) — in every district from January.

Speaking to participants in the two-day first International Conference of Obstetrics and Gynaecology titled ‘Women’s Health in Pakistan get momentum’ at the Liaquat University of Medical and Health Sciences Jamshoro, Sindh Health Minister Dr Jam Mehtab Hussain Dahar said on Friday that it was a fruitful conference and the Sindh government would try to fulfil its recommendations.

The sindh government made a trauma centre at the Karachi Civil Hospital and completed it with billions of rupees, he said.

This facility was not only for Karachi or Sindh, but for the entire country, he added.

Answering a question about deaths of pregnant women during delivery because of quacks, he said that lady doctors were deputed to every taluka hospital.

He said recommendations of the conference would be incorporated in the policy-making process to provide all possible health benefits to the people of Sindh.

He said that the great achievement of the health ministry after the 18th constitutional amendment was a health strategy 2012-2020.

“The document provides healthcare planning for eight years, and strategic directions for resource mobilisation from stakeholders, including the public sector, international donors, corporate sector and philanthropic organisations.

Welcoming guests and delegates, chairperson of the organising committee of the conference Prof Roshan Ara Qazi said the government as a signatory to the Millennium Development Goals strived its level best for achieving the goals and targets but unfortunately the country was lagging behind in achieving many targets because of several reasons.

“Maternal mortality has reduced from 340/100,000 live births in 2001 to 260/100,000 live births in 2013, but still we are away from the target of 140/100,000 live births,” she said.

LUMHS vice chancellor Prof Noshad A Shaikh said that women’s health was a serious issue world over in general and in third world countries like Pakistan in particular.

“The government of Pakistan gives immense importance to the child and mother health. This is evident from the fact that this issue holds a pivotal position in the Millennium Developing Goals.

“Unfortunately, we have failed to achieve the goal of ensuring a healthy female population, with adversely affecting the entire family unit,” he said.




Dawn, December 14th, 2015

RIYADH: Saudi Arabians voted 17 women into public office in municipal elections in the kingdom on Saturday, a state-aligned news website reported on Sunday.

The election was the first in which women could vote and run as candidates, a landmark step in a country where women are barred from driving.

Sabq.org, a news website affiliated with the Saudi mona­rchy’s interior ministry, reported that a total of 17 women had been elected in various parts of the country.

Late King Abdullah had announced in 2011 that women would be able to vote in this election.

Huda al-Jeraisy — the daughter of a former head of the chamber of commerce in the central part of the kingdom — won a seat in Riyadh.

Salma bint Hazab al-Otaibi won a seat in Makkah. Lama bint Abdulaziz al-Sulaiman, Rasha Hafza, Sana Abdulatif Abdulwahab al-Hamam and Massoumeh al-Reda won seats in Jeddah.

Hanouf bint Mufreh bin Ayad al-Hazimi won a seat in al-Jawf. Mina Salman Saeed al-Omairi and Fadhila Afnan Muslim al-Attawi won seats in Northern Borders province.

Two women won seats in al-Ahsa in Eastern Province. Elsewhere in the province, Khadra al-Mubarak won a seat in Qatif district. In the southern Jazan province, Aisha bint Hamoud Ali Bakri won a seat. In Qassim, two women were elected. Another was elected in al-Babtain district.



Dawn, December 14th, 2015

ISLAMABAD: Even three years after the previous PPP government regularised their services on the intervention of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, around 80,000 Lady Health Workers (LHWs) still wait for their salaries and other benefits as regular employees.

Left with no other option to overcome the severe financial crunch, the LHWs, who lost scores of their colleagues during the polio campaigns and have been working in the flood and earthquake-affected areas, are now considering launching protests and strikes.

However, Minister for National Health Services (NHS) Saira Afzal Tarar blamed the devolution of the health sector for the problems being faced by the LHWs. The minister claimed that she was trying her best to address the issue as soon as possible.

According to a report of the World Health Organisation (WHO), the LHW cadre was started through the Prime Minister’s Programme for Family Planning and Primary Care in 1994. The objective of the programme was to provide essential primary healthcare services to communities and fulfil the unmet health needs in rural and urban slum areas.

Under the programme, 100,000 LHWs were appointed, each covering about 1,000 people. During the first eight years, the government spent $155 million on the programme but only 11 per cent of the amount came from external donors. Each lady health worker was attached to a government health facility from where they received training, a small allowance and medical supplies.

The LHWs continued demanding regularisation of their services and from time to time held protests. During the tenure of the PPP government, the Supreme Court took notice of their issue and instructed the government to regularise their services.

Zahida Mazhar, the secretary LHWs Union Chitral chapter, told Dawn that in 2012 on the intervention of the apex court, the then PPP government announced to reguralise the services of the LHWs and even issued confirmation letters to them.

However, the LHWs are yet to get the benefits of regular employees.

“According to the letter, we are regular employees in Basic Pay Scale (BPS) 7 but we are yet to get any benefit as regular employees. After so many years, we still get a remuneration of Rs8,000 per month which is only Rs266 a day,” she said.

“Over 60 health workers have sacrificed their lives during the polio campaigns. We know that our life would be at stake during the polio campaigns but still we continue going door to door to save the children from the crippling disease. There are 514 LHWs in Chitral, which was declared a polio-free district about a decade ago,” she said.

According to another LHW, Shahina Mehmood, houses of 10 LHWs were destroyed during the recent earthquake in Chitral but they continued working in the field.

Another LHW from Chitral, Sadia Mansoor, said even after three years the service structure for the LHWs could not be announced.

“We only have appointment letters stating that we are permanent employees. We even don’t get the Rs8,000 on time. Almost every second month, our remuneration is delayed,” she said.

The LHWs called upon Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to look into the problems of the LHWs.

The LHWs said they did not want to launch agitations and strikes because they realised that their role was important in the rehabilitation activities in the flood and quake-affected areas. But if the government did not resolve their issue, they would be left with no other option but to take to the streets.

Minister Saira Tarar added that she was aware of the problems being faced by the LHWs. In 2012, the LHW programme was run under the federal government which provided most of the needed resources for it.

“However, after devolution of the health department, it became the responsibility of the provinces and the Planning Commission refused to continue funding for LHWs,” she said.

“Now we are trying to bring both the Planning Commission and provinces to a negotiating table and set some formula regarding the needed resources to provide all the benefits available to regular government employees to the LHWs,” she said.



Dawn, December 15th, 2015

LARKANA: Speakers at a consultation session have called for evolving a comprehensive strategy to encourage and empower women socio-economically.

The session titled ‘Empowering Women Economically’ held in Shahdadkot on Monday was organised by the Pirbhat Women Development Society where Rubina Chandio, a human rights activist and social worker, stressed the need for chalking out a plan for evolving a women-friendly strategy on their future role in the country.

She said the purpose of the consultation was strengthening women economically and encouraging them to play their due role globally. Constructive and positive ideas would contribute in effectively structuring future planning, she said.

Social worker Wahab Pandrani said that even in this modern era, women in remote areas were deprived of their due rights and role.

Living in remote areas, they faced mental and physical torture. Scientific approach was demanded in fighting against rotten traditions which revolved around suppression of women, he said. He also stood for launching strategic approach in uprooting mind set of treating women as subservient to men.

Advocate Waheed Bhatti, Mansoor Jarwar, Jarwar, Ms Bashul Buriro, Ms Saira Bhatti and others stressed lawmakers for introducing a legislation in the Sindh Assembly so as to protect women in real sense against injustices they confronted in different fields. They also called for educating women to help them understand their basic rights.

Even having flaws, the Benazir Bhutto Income Support Programme was a bit beneficial economically

for women, the speakers said. Ganhwar Brohi, Hubdar Mirjat, Mazhar Abro and others also spoke on the occasion.



The News, December 17, 2015

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the USAID’s Maternal and Child Health Program (MCH), which aims at providing at least 80 percent of families across 15 districts of Sindh with quality healthcare services, was signed by the mission director of USAID Pakistan, John Groarke, and Sindh Health Secretary Saeed Ahmed Mangnejo and Population Welfare Secretary Muhammad Saleem Raza on Wednesday.

Under the terms of the agreement, the USAID will assist the Sindh government to provide families with maternal, newborn and child health services as well as integrated family planning to reduce maternal and child deaths.

Speaking on the occasion, John Groarke said with bilateral cooperation reproductive, maternal, newborn, and child health can be improved in the province.

“Together, we can develop key policies and programs to deliver high-quality health services to a population in need,” he said.

US Consul General Brian Heath said the United States has always showed its support for improving the accessibility and quality of healthcare services available to Pakistanis.

“The main goal of the program is to reduce maternal and infant illness and mortality,” he said. “This includes working together to reach ambitious targets, such as decreasing the newborn mortality rate from 54 to 50 deaths per 1,000 live births.”




The Express Tribune, December 10th,  2015.

KARACHIWhat you want to do defines you and the luckiest person is the one who loves his or her job and wants to come back and do it every day.

This sentiment was repeated by female entrepreneurs at a workshop titled ‘Women X And Women’s Entrepreneurship’ at the Pearl Continental hotel on Wednesday. These successful entrepreneurs shared their personal struggles in pursuing their passions and motivated the participants to step forward and do what they want.

One such source of inspiration was Dr Urooj Mumtaz Khan, the former captain of the Pakistan’s women’s cricket team, who is now running a family dental clinic. She related a moment from the 1992 Cricket World Cup semi-final match when Imran Khan and Australia’s captain headed out for the toss.

Khan was not wearing his cricket gear and instead sported a white t-shirt with a tiger printed in the centre. “He had motivated his team members on the field by calling them cornered tigers — a dangerous position for them,” she said, adding that cricket taught her motivation and tolerance above everything else.

Sharing his observations on case studies gathered by the Institute of Business Administration (IBA) on female entrepreneurs, the director of IBA’s Centre for Entrepreneurial Development, Dr Shahid Qureshi, said that these women entrepreneurs do the opposite of what is taught at IBA.

“For entrepreneurship, we suggest planning and resourcefulness, when in reality entrepreneurship is done with no money,” he said. Dr Qureshi claimed that these iconic women pursued their dreams and hobbies and took very calculated risks, which not only made sense but is a source of inspiration for us too. Sharing the story of a couple, where the wife started preparing cakes at home, he said that the husband had quit his job and joined her. “Now their efforts are a part of history,” he said.

Kashf Foundation CEO Sadaffe Abid shared some fascinating statistics on female leadership across the globe. “The strength of women CEOs in the world is under five per cent. The return on equity is 34 per cent when women are CEOs or on the boards of companies, according to research,” she said.

She too told an interesting tale of a female researcher in the US, Elizabeth, whose work will help US save $200 billion annually. “Her medical breakthrough will allow hundreds of tests to be conducted using a single drop of blood,” she explained. Abid said that women tend to hold back and this is something that should be addressed, as it is entirely in their control. “Say yes to new situations, develop confidantes and be willing to support each other,” she advised.




The Express Tribune, December 11th, 2015.

 BAHAWALPURA woman was stabbed to death, allegedly by the woman’s husband late on Wednesday. Her sister was injured. Police said Safiya Bibi, a resident of Pulli Islamabad, Dera Bhaka near Bahawalpur, had married Muhammad Naeem a year ago. She had later developed differences with her husband and moved back to her parents’ house.

Police said on Wednesday, Naeem showed up at her father Ghulam Yaseen’s house and demanded that she return to him. They had an argument during which Naeem pulled out a knife and attacked Safiya Bibi. Her sister Razia Bibi tried to stop him but he attacked her as well. Abbasnagar police were called. They took the body for post-mortem examination and Razia Bibi to a hospital for treatment. Police said they had registered a case against Naeem.



The Express Tribune, December 12th, 2015.

ISLAMABAD: In order to better document and comprehensively address the problem of violence against women, the National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) on Friday launched a new set of standardised indicators.

The booklet “Standardised Indicators on Violence Against Women in Pakistan” was launched by the NCSW in Islamabad on Friday as part of the countering gender-based violence through research, data strengthening and standardisation project with the support of Aurat Foundation’s Gender Equity Programme and with funds from USAID.

“These indicators, that are essentially meant to be used by government’s statistical agencies as well as research-related organisations, are crucial in the long run as they will aid in generating reliable data on violence against women in Pakistan,” said NCSW chairperson Khawar Mumtaz, adding that current data focuses on selective aspects of violence.

She added that the data recorded as per these indicators can be compared across time and regions, within and outside Pakistan. Further, the National Institute of Population Studies will be using these indicators in a proposed survey on violence against women.

Gender expert Dr Yasmin Zaidi gave a presentation on the main categories over which the indicators have been divided including physical, sexual, economic, psychological violence, violence in the political arena and culturally-harmful practices.




Dawn, November 30th, 2015


Reham Khan has lamented the manner in which her recent divorce was treated by the media. With journalists scrambling to reveal all the ‘skeletons in her closet’ for primetime slots and snide judgements being disguised as breaking news, one can certainly see her point.

Was the media guilty of a gender bias?

Let’s imagine the following scenario. There is a public figure, perhaps a politician/philanthropist, who has a strong, overly ambitious personality, and a penchant for living life on his/her own terms. The person has led a turbulent personal life, having been divorced twice, with children from one of the failed marriages. Is this person more likely to be portrayed as an attention-seeking gold-digger if a woman, but just your average politician if a man? I leave that to your discretion.

Hypotheticals aside, we now have concrete data that describes the extent of disparity in the representation of men and women in the news media. A just-released report by the Global Media Monitoring Project has revealed that media sexism is a serious, global problem. GMMP is the world’s largest and longest-running research and advocacy initiative for gender equality in and through the news media, a project of the communications advocacy agency WACC, with support from UN Women.

The report, which gathered data from 114 countries, finds that women make up only 24pc of the persons heard, read about or seen in newspaper, television and radio news, exactly the same level found in the 2010 report, showing that progress towards gender parity in the news has “ground to a halt”.

Male reporters dominate the news world, with only 37pc of stories in newspapers, television and radio newscasts reported by women. This global glass ceiling on women reporters seems to have an impact on not only the number of stories that focus on women, but also the extent to which gender inequality issues are raised in the media and gender stereotypes perpetuated through the media.

For example, only 9pc of stories highlight gender inequality concerns. Moreover, the journalistic lens in source selection is not only male-centric, but also focuses on a certain type of masculinity while selecting interviewees. In other words, male reporters tend to prefer male sources, and politicians are the most sought after category of interviewees, for everything from personal testimonies to expert opinion.

Women interviewees, on the other hand, tend to be ordinary residents, homemakers, students, villagers, or survivors of domestic violence. Such stereotypical representation barely reflects the reality of the scope of women’s contribution towards society. While women comprise approximately 40pc of the employment in the formal labour force, their economic contribution is reflected in only 20pc of news reports.

Media sexism has “endured across decades and geographical boundaries, adapting to emerging media forms and thriving in all spaces in which news content is produced and shared”, according to Dr Sarah Macharia, GMMP global coordinator.

In the context of Pakistan, the data reveals severe gender disparity. Only 16pc of print/broadcast reporters are women, and the number is even lower in print media alone. Interestingly, the scenario changes with regards to television presenters, a majority of whom are women (86pc). This figure, however, largely represents the younger age bracket, with severe under-representation of women TV presenters in the 50-64 year age group.

There is reason for optimism, however, when it comes to online news media. While online media shows persistent gender bias globally, in Pakistan, the data reveals gender parity, both in terms of women who make the news, and online reporters who are women. “Newsmakers of online media may be leading the nation into a gender-equal news coverage,” said Dr Glory Dharmaraj, GMMP US coordinator.

For better or for worse, the media is a powerful tool that shapes our perception of the world, and nowhere is this more apparent than in Pakistan. News and news media contribute to how people act — at home, school, work — to the political choices they may make, as Rev Dr Karin Achtelstetter, WACC general secretary said.

The severe gender disparity that the GMMP report has revealed in traditional media in Pakistan does seem to have an impact on the portrayal of women. Male-dominated newsrooms indulge in noisy commentary that can often perpetuate discriminatory attitudes towards women, with Reham Khan being the starkest example. What then, will it take to end media sexism? An immediate step that media houses can take as suggested by the report is to hire more female reporters and establish gender quotas for senior positions. Women reporters tend to focus on women’s issues more than their male counterparts.

As long as women remain consumers of news and not shapers of news media, the problem of gender inequality will continue, Dr Dharmaraj pointed out. At the same time, she suggests a ‘ground-up’ approach at the grass-roots level as well as a ‘top-down’ approach at the policymaking level. The civil society should hold the media accountable for shaping public opinion in gender-related issues, while the government should make provisions for empowering women in media and communication policies, she said.

As observed in Latin America, a vibrant civil society and human rights movement as well as an increase in the number of female heads of state seems to have helped reduce the gender gap in people in the news.

Fortunately, the online news world has allowed women in Pakistan to bypass the barriers of traditional media. This raises the hope that gender stereotypes will be challenged more than ever before, as both men and women become equal partners in the online arena to build momentum towards the advancement of women’s rights in the broader society.



Dawn, November 30th, 2015

 ISLAMABAD: Despite an additional quarter of a billion women entering the global workforce since 2006, wage inequality persists, with women only now earning what men did a decade ago, according to the Global Gender Gap Report 2015.

The global gender gap across health, education, economic opportunity and politics has narrowed by only 4 per cent in the past 10 years, with the economic gap closing by just 3pc, suggesting it will take another 118 years — or until 2133 — to close this gap completely, says the report released by the World Economic Forum this week.

For educational attainment, one of the four pillars mentioned in the report, the picture is mixed. Overall, the gender gap now stands at 95pc, or 5pc away from parity. This is an improvement on the 92pc where it stood in 2006.

Worldwide, 25 countries have now closed their gap completely, with the most progress having been made in university education, where women now make up the majority of students in nearly 100 countries.

But progress has not been universal, with 22pc of all countries measured continuously over the past 10 years seeing an actual widening of the gap between men and women when it comes to education. There is also a marked lack of correlation between getting more women in education and their ability to earn a living particularly through skilled or leadership roles.

Political empowerment, the fourth pillar measured by the index, is the widest. Worldwide, only 23pc of this gender gap has been closed although this area has also seen the most improvement, up by 9pc from 14pc in 2006.

Only two countries have reached parity in parliament and only four have reached parity on ministerial roles.

In the Gender Gap Index, the lowest performing countries in Asia and the Pacific are Fiji (121), Iran (141) and Pakistan (144). The Philippines (7) remains the region’s highest-ranked country, followed by New Zealand (10) and Australia (36).

With no one country having closed its overall gender gap, Nordic nations remain the most gender-equal societies in the world. As last year, the leading four nations are Iceland (1), Norway (2), Finland (3) and Sweden (4), with Norway overtaking Finland.

Sixteen countries have closed less than 50pc of the economic participation and opportunity gap, including 11 from the Middle East and North Africa region. Iran, Jordan, Pakistan, Syria and Yemen hold the last five spots on this sub-index.

The Asia and Pacific region has closed more than 67pc of its overall gender gap. It has improved its political empowerment performance since 2014 and remains first globally with more than 25pc of the gender gap closed.

However, the region ranks second from the bottom on the overall index and economic participation and opportunity sub-index, with 54pc of the gender gap closed. On health and survival, the region has regressed since 2014 and, once again, scores last with less than 95pc of the gender gap closed.

When compared to 2006, the region is the most improved on political empowerment and second most improved on educational attainment and on the overall index, report says.

The region is the least improved on health and survival despite being home to three of the five most improved countries on this sub-index. Of the 24 countries in the region, 17 have improved and seven have regressed.



The Express Tribune, December 1st,  2015

 Asad Rahim Khan

Before he somehow dodged the terror of Cromwell, Matthew Hale, the Chief Justice of the King’s Bench, put down a list of “Things Necessary” to be remembered as a jurist. These have survived centuries, and make for sound advice today.

“If in criminals it be a measuring cast, to incline to mercy and acquittal,” Hale wrote. Yet he balanced this with another consideration, “In criminals of blood, if the fact be evident, then severity in justice.”

But justice is far from reach when it comes to said criminals. Since their promulgation as an ordinance in 1990, the qisas and diyat provisions were re-promulgated by the legislature 20 times, before being raised to an Act of Parliament in 1997. Eighteen years on, the state’s proposing amendments at last, but it may be time we grasp how we sunk this low.

A word of thanks is due here to the National Commission on the Status of Women’s report on the subject, under Chairpersons Majida Razvi and Arfa Syeda Zehra; exhaustively researched by Syeda Viqar-un-nisa Hashmi. They have done all of us a service.

It all begins with a judgment authored by the Shariat Appellate Bench’s Justice Pir Karam Shah, with Justice Afzal Zullah in agreement (i.e., the same two gents that struck down land reform). The Court declared entire swathes of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) “repugnant” to faith.

Taking heat from the court, the state passed the qisas and diyatprovisions in response, which form the ultimate act today: qisas, defined as “punishment by causing similar hurt at the same part of the body of the convict” and diyat, “compensation … payable to the heirs of the victims”, converted a crime against the state into a crime against the individual.

We’ve since been flooded with issues from the outset — murder (qatl-i-amad) is punishable with death as qisas (i.e., equal retaliation), or as death or life imprisonment under ta’zir. But a qisas offence may be proven in only two ways: that the accused either confesses voluntarily before the court, or by evidence under the Qanun-e-Shahadat’s Article 17.

To turn to the first plank — confession — few men confess to doing what may lead them to rope or rack. Yet of even those that do, judicial interpretation is such that it may discard the statement altogether, especially where ghairat is involved.

In one such case, the accused was convicted after confessing, by both the trial and Shariat Court. The case reached the Supreme Court (with Pir Karam Shah sahib yet again on the bench!). It was Justice Saeeduzzaman Siddiqui that ruled, “In these circumstances it was not open to the court below to have only that part of his statement under section 342 CrPC in which he admitted having killed the deceased Muhammad Yousuf and discard that part of his statement in which he stated that it was done under grave and sudden provocation as he had found the deceased in a compromising position with his wife in the early hours of morning.” The Court set him free, via sentence already served.

This forms part of a wider trend of judges weighing up izzat and honour over actual penal sentence. As Justice Siddiqui told the Commission, convictions under the ‘confession’ section rarely take place. Might he wonder why?

For the second plank for conviction — evidence mandated by Qanun-e-Shahadat — the law provides the Court “may accept or act on the testimony of one man or one woman”.

Yet in a spate of decisions, this was elevated to a Tazkiyah-tul-Shahoodtest, i.e., that the Court first ascertain the credibility of said witnesses. The Tazkiyah test is required for both Hudood offences and qisas: the witness must abstain from “major sins” and be disinclined to indulge in minor ones.

And with that, all witnesses go out the window: this, without even touching how ordinary witnesses are bought or beaten into recanting evidence as a matter of routine.

Seeing qisas convictions are a joke and a half, we’re down to the usually used murder category: ta’zir — punishment where the offence isn’t proven under qisas standards (i.e., red-herring confessions or holy witnesses). Yet ta’zir, being a somewhat B-category offence, provides no lower limit in sentence: thus, honour killings merit on average not more than five years.

With ta’zir enfeebled, that leaves us with diyat: the wali or heirs of the deceased may accept blood money in compensation for a crime underqisas. We remember well Raymond Davis, in ratty plaids, avoiding eye contact, or Shahrukh Jatoi giggling and waving to the cameras in contrast — killers that bought their freedom (though Jatoi was hemmed in, in one of the Chaudhry Court’s finer moments).

But do we remember sons taking diyat from their own honour-killing fathers, or brothers taking diyat from sister-killing brothers; a law that encourages the crime? Just the fact that qisas is near-impossible to prove should mean that diyat be as difficult to obtain.

Yet the courts (and police) jump the gun: freeing the killer via diyatwithout first convicting him under qisas. Thus between 1990 and 2000, conviction rates fell from 29 per cent to 12 according to scholar Tahir Wasti.

It’s time now to turn the tide. Firstly, section 311 of the PPC — fisad-fil-arz (mischief on earth) — empowers the Court to punish the accused regardless of compromise, owing to the depravity of the crime. While widened to include honour killing, these provisions are rarely invoked, and it’s time the judiciary took initiative against this practice.

Then there is required a multi-pronged approach, as also recommended by the Commission — first, that fisad-fil-arz be given far broader scope. Then, rather than leaving it to the Court’s discretion, diyat be made blanket-ineligible in fisad cases.

As further safeguards, a pardon may only be applicable after conviction anyway, with a prison term regardless. Or — to cut to the root of the matter — that the stipulation of wali (entitled to claim diyat) is expansive, and may include the state first (and never a relative of the accused), with no monetary incentive at play.

Ways to better our broken justice system abound, if with few takers. The same Hale struck a maudlin note, “That in business capital [matters of life and death], though my nature prompts me to pity, yet to consider that there is also pity due to the country.”

One may only agree with the departed Chief Justice; that there is pity due to this country.



The Express Tribune, December 1st,  2015.

KARACHI: Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah has decided to increase the quota of women in government jobs from five to seven per cent with immediate effect and has directed the chief secretary to implement it strictly.

“It was the dream and mission of Benazir Bhutto to empower women and my government is committed to fulfil it in true letter and spirit [of the idea],” he said at a meeting of the Women Development Department (WDD) at CM House on Monday. Taking another landmark decision for women empowerment, the CM decided that all the vacant positions in the WDD will only be given to women. “Any application by male candidates will not be entertained,” he said.

WDD secretary Aijaz Mangi said that his department has constructed a `Working Women Hostel’ in Shaheed Benazirabad for Rs13.2 million. The scheme has been completed but police have occupied the hostel and a DIG office has been housed there, he claimed. Shah expressed his displeasure and directed his principal secretary, Alamuddin Bullo, to have the hostel vacated. “This hostel is meant for working women only, it must be returned and used for the purpose for which it has been built,” he directed.

Mangi said that under the Protection Against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act 2010, 1,000 provincial watch committees have been formed in Sindh. For proper implementation of the act, a committee under Justice (retd) Peer Ali Shah has been formed, he added.

Speaking about Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Act 2013, Mangi said that rules have been prepared, after consulting with stakeholders, and submitted to the law department for vetting. Once the rules are approved by the chief minister, the act will be implemented properly, he assured.

He said that the Early Child Marriage Restraint Act has been passed by the Sindh Assembly and now it is in the process of implementation. The rules for the act have also been sent to the law department for vetting. Additional chief secretary Aijaz Ali Khan said that Sindh was the first province in the country to enact a law against child marriage, which has been widely appreciated.

He said that the provincial commission on the Status of Women Act 2015 was also passed by the Sindh Assembly on March 2. “The commission has to examine the policy, programmes and other measures taken by the government for gender equability, women empowerment and political participation,” Khan said, adding that it will also review all provincial laws, rules, regulations, pre-judicial to legitimate interest and the rights of women.

Chief secretary Muhammad Siddique Memon said that provincial home-based women worker policy is also in process. “The draft bill has been discussed by the cabinet committee and will be presented in the assembly very soon,” he assured.

The CM said that he had released Rs130 million for developing an endowment fund to give small loans to women artisans. “The policy to grant loans from Rs50,000 to Rs100,000 through the Sindh Bank has also been formed,” he said, asking why it has been delayed despite all this.

Memon said that the fund has been established at Sindh Bank. “I am personally monitoring the design of the application form. The first draw of the loans will be performed by the CM in the first week of January,” he promised.Presently, 10 of the department’s development schemes of Rs400 million under ADP 2015-16 are in progress, of which eight are ongoing and two are new.

Shah directed Khan to approve the schemes at the next ADP meeting.


‘N Ireland abortion law against HR’

 The News, December 01, 2015

LONDON: Northern Ireland’s restrictive abortion legislation is in breach of human rights law, the Belfast High Court found on Monday in a judgement hailed as “historic”.

The case was taken by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission in a bid to allow women and girls to access abortion in cases of rape, incest, or where their baby has no chance of survival, without facing criminal charges.

“Today’s result is historic, and will be welcomed by many of the vulnerable women and girls who have been faced with these situations,” Les Allamby NIHRC chief commissioner said in a statement.

Unlike the rest of the United Kingdom, the law in Northern Ireland currently bans abortion unless it is required to save a woman’s life or if there is a serious risk to her health.

The ruling does not change the law and any reform has to be debated by the regional parliament, where there is significant political opposition.

Judge Mark Horner told the court that “rights of women in Northern Ireland who are pregnant with fatal foetal abnormalities or who are pregnant as a result of sexual crime are breached” by the current law.

He was referring to Article Eight of the European Convention on Human Rights, which covers the right to family and private life.

Judge Horner said that in cases where a foetus cannot survive outside the womb “there is no life to protect”.

He added that prohibiting abortion in cases of assault “completely ignores the personal circumstances” of innocent victims of crimes.

“She has to face all the dangers and problems, emotional or otherwise, of carrying a foetus for which she bears no moral responsibility and is merely a receptacle to carry the child of a rapist and/or a person who has committed incest, or both,” Horner said.

The Department of Justice did not immediately respond to a query on whether it would appeal the decision.

The court received a submission from Sarah Ewart, a woman who travelled from Northern Ireland to England to have an abortion because her foetus had a severe brain malformation that meant it would either die during pregnancy or once born.

The case also considered submissions from Catholic clergy, anti-abortion groups and human rights organisation Amnesty International. But anti-abortion campaigner Bernadette Smyth expressed disappointment with decision.



The Express Tribune, December 2nd, 2015.

 Akbar Bajwa

LAHORE: The government has approved the inclusion of a chapter on protection of women from violence in Punjab textbooks, The Express Tribune has learnt.

According to details, the development was first discussed in a meeting chaired by Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif in March on the establishment of Violence against Women Centres province-wide. Sharif had given the green light to the proposal, which was formulated by the Chief Minister’s Special Monitoring Unit (SMU), on the occasion.

SMU Senior Member Salman Sufi told The Express Tribune that the VAWC implementation committee had later briefed the Punjab Curriculum & Textbook Board secretary on the proposal. The secretary had issued a notification with regard to the inclusion of a chapter on protection of women from violence in matric and intermediate Urdu textbooks following the briefing.

Quoting statistics from the office of the Investigations DIG and the Public Prosecution Department, Sufi said as many as eight women were raped, 11 assaulted, 32 abducted and six faced murder attempt in the Punjab everyday. Shedding light on the text set to be included in the curriculum, he said the chapter would educate students regarding the perils of violence and encourage peaceful settlement of disputes.

Sufi said the chapter would be comprehensive in nature. He said the text would address the root cause of violence against women and adequately equip students with the intellectual ability to tackle social challenges without resorting to violence. Sufi said the chapter would also include details regarding women shelters and ways by which victims could secure access to justice after being subjected to violence.

The SMU senior member told The Express Tribune that the chief minister was determined to make the province safe for women. He said after establishing violence against women centres, the government had further strengthened its efforts in the sector by taking this “landmark” step. Sufi said the timing of the initiative was also auspicious as it came at a time when 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence Campaign, a UN Women initiative, was being marked the world over.

Noted rights activist Asma Jehangir praised the idea. She told the The Express Tribune: “It’s an excellent idea. It is very important for schoolchildren to be cognisant of the fact that men and women have equal rights and that men cannot treat women cruelly in any circumstances.”Jehangir said the SMU’s initiative had the potential to cultivate amicable and pacific relations among citizens province-wide if it was effectively implemented.



 The News, December 02, 2015

Islamabad:Women should struggle for comprehensive solutions to build a society based on peace, democracy, rule of law, justice, equality and freedom.

It was stated by Nobel Peace Laureate Tawakkol Addel-Salam Karman, first Muslim Arab lady awarded with Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 at Emerging Young Women Leaders Congress 2015 organised by Institute of Peace and Diplomatic Studies (IPDS) and Hanns Seidel Foundation (HSP) in partnership with Inter University Consortium for Promotion of Social Sciences Pakistan (IUCPSS) and National Testing Service Pakistan (NTS) on Tuesday.

She urged young girls to raise their voice against injustices, corruption, illiteracy, poverty in the society. “Their voice must be loud as we as women are the solution to every problem — fighting for the women’ right is likely to fight against custom,” she said.

Tawakkol said that the governments, institutions and laws should guarantee active participation of women in all walks of life. “In this regard, special quota should be reserved. In my opinion, the quota for women should be 60 per cent,” she added.

She said that political parties should also ensure effective representation of women in general elections. “Women must struggle of inclusion women’s social and economic liberty in the constitution and law.”

She said that Pakistan is country of Fatima Jinnah, Benazir Bhutto and Malala Yousafzai and women from all over the world especially Muslim women are proud of their dedicated contribution.

She was of the view that economic liberty is the only way to achieve the desired goals aiming at women empowerment. She emphasised the young women to put their maximum efforts for bringing about positive changes in the society.

In her welcome remarks, IPDS President Farhat Asif shared the objectives of the congress and shed light on low representation of young women in various spheres of life in Pakistan.

She extended thanks to the organizers and collaborative efforts of IPD, HSF and IUCPSS for promoting peace and democratic values in the society.

Resident Representative Hanns Seidel Foundation, Kristof W. Duwaerts lauded the efforts and contribution of Pakistan women for promoting peace and democracy.

The event was attended by diplomats, women parliamentarians and party leaders, senior government official and young women from all over the county.



Dawn, December 3rd, 2015

KARACHI: Pakistan’s maternal and newborn indicators are among the lowest in South Asia, lower than Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives and Nepal.

The country did not meet the millennium development goals (MDGs) of reducing under-five child mortality and improving maternal health by 2015 by a large margin, according to experts at a maternal, foetal and neonatal medicine conference on Wednesday.

Instead, every year, 8,000 Pakistani women have died either from pregnancy-related complications or in childbirth, and a mother’s life was lost every 40 minutes, said experts at the conference organised by the Aga Khan University’s Centre Of Excellence in Women and Child Health, in collaboration with the Pakistan Paediatric Association.

Experts said that the maternal mortality ratio (MMR) might have declined from 521 in 1990 to 332 in 2012 but it was still far behind the proposed MDG target of 130 for the year 2015. There were also wide variations between provinces, with the MMR being lowest in Punjab at 227 and highest in Balochistan at 785 deaths.

They said Pakistan could make progress towards promoting the health of pregnant women and newborns and meeting sustainable development goals on health by strengthening policy, targeting specific health system bottlenecks and improving access to quality health services.

“It is universally agreed that no country can progress without improvement in its health indices, with substantial and meaningful improvement in maternal, fetal and neonatal health,” said Dr Sohail Salat of the neonatology group.

He said ending preventable child deaths required focus on a healthy start.

Globally, close to three million newborns died annually, accounting for 44 per cent of deaths in children five years or less, and an additional 2.6 million babies were stillborn each year, with almost half the deaths occurring during labour.

Experts said Pakistan currently ranked 26th in the world for under5 child mortality rates which had fallen from 141 in 1990 to 89 in 2012, yet still far behind the MDG 4 goal of 46 by the year 2015.

Newborn deaths are a major contributor to under-5 mortality with around half of deaths occurring in the first month of life.

Dr Marleen Temmerman, director, World Health Organization, Reproductive Health and Research, spoke how the generation today has knowledge, resources and opportunity to end all preventable deaths.

A study of newborn survival opportunities in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries shows that of the eight members, India and Pakistan alone are responsible for 88pc of newborn deaths and 82pc of stillbirths in the region. Across all countries, for women, stillbirths and newborns, the time of highest risk remains the same — birth.

“Birth is the time of greatest risk of death and disability,” said Dr Jai Kumar Das. “Focus should be on care during pregnancy and immediately after birth.”

Pakistan has put together a national Maternal, Neonatal And Child Health (MNCH) 10-Point Action Plan to meet the sustainable development goals on health, remarked Dr Assad Hafeez, director-general health in federal ministry of health services.

He said that the plan covered a broad spectrum; improving the quality of care available at basic health units, rural health centres and district hospitals; investing in nutrition especially of adolescent girls, mothers and children; increasing investments in health; agreeing on meaningful indicators; a monitoring framework and accountability mechanisms; and garnering political will to support the mother and child agenda.

“The ultimate goal is to facilitate adoption of policies that bring an end to preventable deaths among women and newborns and to bring about a more prosperous and sustainable future,” said Dr Zulfiqar A Bhutta.



The Express Tribune, December 4th, 2015.

The Punjab Chief Minister’s Special Monitoring Unit has done a fine job by formulating a proposal to include a chapter on violence against women in textbooks, a suggestion quickly approved by the chief minister. The chapter will be included in Matriculation and Intermediate Urdu textbooks. When seen through the lens of cold and hard statistics, one would be tempted to think that Punjab, more than any other province, needed this modest but crucial initiative: as many as eight women are raped, 11 assaulted, 32 abducted and six face murder attempts in Punjab every day. However, other parts of the country are not immune to shocking crimes against women and girls either, and it is important that this initiative is replicated in other provinces as well.

Gender-based inequality and discrimination are at the heart of gender-related violence in our society. While many may argue that this move will only make a minuscule impact in terms of fighting this menace, these baby steps are necessary to lay the groundwork for waging a wider battle. According to reports, the textbook chapter would educate students regarding the perils of violence against women and equip them with the intellectual ability to handle social challenges without resorting to cruelty. It is also important that the chapter talks about the importance of viewing women as individuals who have the right and ability to make independent decisions. Too often, women are subjected to violence for trying to lead their lives the way they want to. There was recently the tragic news of a man killing his sister for voting in the local government polls in Islamabad, after he had forbidden her from doing so. Our curriculum is reflective of a male-dominated society where women issues and problems faced by other marginalised groups remain ignored. Including a chapter on violence against women is welcome, but this should only be the first step in instituting long range curriculum reforms that focus on imparting ideas of tolerance, non-violence and a more liberal Pakistan to our younger generation.



Published in The Express Tribune, December 4th,  2015.

For quite some time now, Gilgit-Baltistan’s scenic Diamer Valley has been in the spotlight, but for all the wrong reasons. It all began in 2011-12, when passenger buses travelling on the Karakoram Highway were attacked and their passengers butchered on sectarian grounds. A year later, armed men wearing army uniforms, stormed a base camp in Nanga Parbat, killing 10 foreign mountaineers. It doesn’t end there. The security officials investigating the high-profile murders of the mountaineers also fell prey to terrorists in the days that followed the attack.

After a brief pause, the district made headlines again in 2015. First, for barring women from voting and then blaming a djinn for the abduction and subsequent murder of a four-year-old child. In addition to this, there was also an incident last month where two officials were kidnapped, although this failed to draw media attention.

With a population of over 0.2 million, Diamer is one of the 10 districts in Gilgit-Baltistan, sharing boundaries with Kohistan in Khyber- Pakhtunkhwa. Just like its neighbour, Diamer’s society is deeply patriarchal and heavily influenced by orthodox clergy. Class stratification runs deep, as Sheen and Yashkun tribes wield political, social and economic clout. While it comprises 77 per cent of the total forest-cover in Gilgit-Baltistan, the valley is lagging far behind on many other fronts.

According to Alif Ailaan Pakistan District Education Rankings 2015, Diamer is ranked 95 out of 148 districts in terms of education and 127 in terms of infrastructure and facilities.

The literacy rate among women is close to zero, while hardly 15 per cent of the men are educated. These dismal statistics speak volumes about how the valley has been kept backward by successive governments over the decades. Instead of providing basic civil rights, solution for every problem has been sought through jirgas and the use of force.

Admittedly, the locals have lacked initiative, unlike those in other districts, and have also barred NGOs from launching education and health projects. But there is no reason for the government not to launch such projects.

Diamer serves as a gateway to Gilgit-Baltistan and is the first defence against the Taliban from Fata. An educated Diamer is undoubtedly in the interest of Gilgit-Baltistan and the rest of Pakistan. The government must, without any delay, take emergency measures and initiate education campaigns in the valley if it really wants to do away with terrorism. Resorting to brute force and blaming the illiterate and ignorant will not help any more.




Dawn, November 23rd, 2015

THE more things change, the more they remain the same — unless some brave individuals challenge the status quo, and unless political ambitions are in danger of being thwarted.

The local government elections in Punjab on Thursday were edifying in several respects where female franchise is concerned.

In village Laliani, Sargodha district, residents maintained their execrable, decades-old practice of disallowing their women to vote. Mauza Mohripur in Khanewal district would have also witnessed complete female disenfranchisement, had it not been for one woman, Fauzia Talib, who defied tradition and voted.

Meanwhile, a rather different scenario was observed in the Paikhel union council of Mianwali where women are also prevented from exercising their right of franchise as a matter of course.

Here, a rumour that the ECP would hold re-election in any UC where 20pc of women voters did not cast their ballot, prompted candidates to hurriedly set aside what they earlier considered a venerable tradition, and allow women to vote.

A patriarchal society does not easily let go of customs based on antediluvian notions of honour; it fears that any expression of personal opinion on the part of its women will spill over into other aspects of life and undermine the very bedrock of its existence.

However, the Mianwali incident illustrated how swiftly ‘tradition’ can be cast aside when it is politically expedient to do so, which only serves to highlight the rank hypocrisy that underlies this smokescreen.

Meanwhile, the example of Ms Talib shows there are courageous individuals who are willing to stand up to misogyny and unjust customs: the ECP must reinforce their stand by imposing such sanctions as allowed by law against those who violate the electoral code.

In the run-up to the general elections in 2013, the body had made it abundantly clear it would not tolerate any attempt to disenfranchise women, often achieved through agreements among local candidates and right-wing pressure groups.

To its credit, it has followed through in some instances — with salutary effect. Most recently, it ordered re-polling in Lower Dir’s PK-95 constituency when no women turned up to vote in the by-election on May 7 — a step, it is believed, that led to women being allowed to participate in the Upper Dir by-election a few months later.

For its part, parliament should enact legislation that re-polling must be mandatory at polling stations where results show a less than 10pc turnout of registered women voters.



The News, Money Matters,  November 23, 2015

Chris Giles

Statistics should shine light on societal trends and provide reliable information to help form users’ views and guide their actions. The figures for the gender pay gap fail on all counts. They are among the most misused numbers in British political discourse.

An immediate problem is that no one can really agree on the right number. The Office for National Statisticsyesterday reported that in 2015 the pay gap was 9.4 per cent, a reduction of 0.2 percentage points on 2014. More formally, the statisticians were describing their favourite measure: the difference between men’s and women’s median full-time hourly earnings excluding overtime. Perfectly reasonable higher figures are often used instead. The gap was 13.9 per cent when measured at the mean and 19.2 per cent for all employees including part-time workers.

Worse is that any of these averages hide more than they reveal. Rather than just getting cross about gender discrimination, we need to know who is losing out so that we can decide what should be done. This information is public, but too rarely used.

Your age is particularly relevant to gender pay differences. At the median, where half earn more and half less, the gender pay gap for full-time employees has disappeared for people in their 20s and 30s. A 12 per cent difference still exists for women in their 40s, which rises to almost 16 per cent for people over 50. Everyone should therefore think twice before talking about endemic gender discrimination across Britain’s workplaces.

Even better is strong evidence that there is a generational shift towards equal pay. Women in their 20s closed the full-time pay gap in about 2004;in 2012, by the time they reached their 30s, it had disappeared. It has halved for women in their 40s since the data series began in 1997. In contrast, there has been no significant improvement for working women over 50.

The detail reveals darker sides to UK workplaces. A clear problem is that the highest-paying employers also appear to be worst for successful women. At all ages the pay gap for higher earners remains larger and has fallen more slowly than for those on middling earnings or low pay. Partly this reflects fewer women working in the highest paid sectors; and partly the remuneration practices of the highest-paying employers.

Most important is that the biggest and most persistent pay gap is not between the pay of men and women, but between the hourly pay of women working part time and those working full time. For all ages, this gap has stubbornly stuck at around 30 per cent since 1997.

Armed with these facts, the statistics suddenly become informative and useful. It is unhelpful for teachers to warn girls in secondary schools about injustice in the labour market. For the relevant time horizons of teenagers, the message should be that huge victories in pay equality have been won by women since the 1970s and they are a generation that can expect and demand equal treatment. For teenage boys, the harsher message must be that no longer can they doss around, flunk school and still expect to earn more.

Female employees in their 20s and 30s need to take note of one big thing not in the headlines: the persistent wage penalty of going part time. Their hourly pay does not decline at first; but evidence suggests promotions stop and, over the years, they will fall far behind.

Without doubt, tensions rise when families first have children and when their oldest child reaches primary school age. Men might enjoy having their partner at home after school to care for the kids – it makes their life considerably easier – but they should also understand how much it is likely to cost in lost lifetime household earnings. Women might think twice about men who consider child rearing primarily a woman’s responsibility.

The most difficult issues for society is whether there is anything that can be done about the gender pay gap for those currently (or nearly) over 50, where past discrimination was overt and its effects have been persistent. We have to accept that it might be too late for policy changes to be effective, but this is the area on which government should focus research.

The wage premium for full-time work is also strong evidence that productivity, hourly pay, annual incomes and hence tax revenues would all rise if government and employers could encourage more flexible working practices so that fewer families felt mothers had to go part time.

Such conclusions and priorities are possible only once you ditch the summary statistic and look more closely at the detail. Ridding Britain of gender pay gaps is unfinished business in top jobs, for older women and part-time workers. But we should also celebrate the huge gains in equality for most employees over the past 40 years.



The Express Tribune, November 23rd,  2015.

KARACHI: A 35-year-old man, Imran, is behind bars after being accused of killing his eleven-month-old daughter, Mahnoor, at their home in Sector 4B in Surjani Town.

The incident was highlighted when Mahnoor’s mother began shouting and screaming and neighbours gathered at their home, finding the infant dead. The body was taken to Abbasi Shaheed Hospital, after which the neighbours informed the police, who subsequently arrested the father.

Initially, the accused, who is a labourer, tried to defend himself by accusing his wife of the crime. “My wife is a psychiatric patient and I found my daughter dead when I returned home from work,” claimed Imran from behind bars. “My wife killed her.”

Later, however, he admitted to the crime. “I got angry when I did not find soap in the bathroom while I was bathing,” he admitted. “I came out of the bathroom and started beating my wife and daughter. I did not have any intention to kill her. It was a mistake.”

The victim’s mother, Samreen, who married Imran a couple of years ago, accused her husband of routine abuse and said a fight had broken out between them over the birth of their daughter. “He [Imran] wanted a son instead of a daughter,” she claimed.

“We had been living happily but ever since Mahnoor was born, our lives became disturbed and family disputes had become a routine matter,” she alleged.

The police have registered a case against Imran on behalf of his wife. An FIR, No 620/15, under Section 302 (murder) of the Pakistan Penal Code was registered against the accused at the Surjani police station. “The case is straighforward as the accused admitted to the crime,” said SHO Imtiaz Jut. “The initial postmortem report also suggests that the little girl bore marks of torture,” he said.



The Express Tribune, November 23rd, 2015.

 Tuba Athar

KARACHI: As the local government elections in the city draw near, the women’s wing of different political parties of Karachi have geared up their campaigns.

Heads of women’s wing of political parties told The Express Tribune that they are busy in door-to-door campaigns and in arranging corner meetings to spread their respective party’s word.

PTI Karachi women wing president Syma Nadeem told The Express Tribune that the party is running a strong election campaign to attract voters. “We have visited areas such as Lyari and North Nazimabad,” she said, adding that the response of the women from these areas was really good. According to Nadeem, 60 female candidates are contesting in the third phase of the local government elections on the party’s ticket. “They are contesting on all seats including the chairman, vice-chairman and councillors.”

Nadeem also claimed that her party has started training sessions for polling agents at the party’s Karachi headquarters, Insaf House. Speaking about their unique campaign to attract women voters of the city, Nadeem said that she is focused on training female voters. “We are determined to train the female voters about how to vote properly so that their vote is not lost in electing the local government of the city,” she said.

Similarly, Mehr Afsha, the information secretary of Jamaat-e-Islami’s Karachi women’s wing, said they are also conducting door-to-door campaigns. “Everyone is aware of the working and setup of the women’s wing of JI,” said Afsha. She added that her party runs campaigns for the women of the city throughout the year by providing religious classes and lectures on the Quran. However, she added, as the elections are nearing, the party’s women’s wing is solely focused on running political campaigns and spreading the ideology of the party. “We are conducting women conventions in different parts of the city,” she said. “In these conventions, we are educating women about the role they can play in the local government.” According to a party official, two female candidates are contesting the local bodies’ polls on JI’s ticket.

The Pakistan Peoples Party’s women’s wing representative said they will soon start their campaign. PPP’s lawmaker in the Sindh assembly, Shamim Mumtaz, said the party is planning to hold women’s gatherings in all districts of the city. “It has been part of the party’s ideology to support women’s causes,” she said. According to Mumtaz, the party’s women’s wing has been holding rallies and corner meetings for the last two months. Giving details about the number of women contesting on her party’s ticket, Mumtaz said the party has issued tickets to four female candidates. “Unlike MQM or PTI, we do not need to attract women voters by running any specific campaign,” said Mumtaz. She added that her party is already running the Benazir Income Support Programme and other schemes for the women empowerment.

Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s Kishwar Zehra said the party already has a huge female following and a large number of women will contest on the party’s ticket in the upcoming local government elections. “Without a local government, it is the woman of the house who suffers the most because she has to spend the day without electricity or over-flowing gutters near the home,” said Zehra. She claimed that the party has decided to bring in a setup of more women in the local government as the women of Karachi are well aware of the issues they face and how to resolve them. Speaking about specific campaigns to attract female voters, Zehra said the party has arranged a ‘Basant Mela’ in different parts of the city so that women can enjoy the party’s election campaign.



 The Express Tribune, November 24th,  2015.

LAHORE: Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif on Monday stressed the need for empowering women.

Sharif was speaking to a delegation from Shirkatgah, an NGO working for the protection of women’s rights. Farida Shaheed, the Shirkatgah executive director, led the delegation.

The chief minister said that in 2012 the provincial government had announced a comprehensive policy for the empowerment of women under which several steps had been taken to protect their rights.

He said that a 33 per cent quota had been reserved for women in government boards; their share in government jobs had also been increased from five per cent to 15 per cent. He said that contracts for canteens at educational institutions for women were being given to women. He said a law had also been introduced for the protection of women at workplaces.

Sharif said Pakistani women had proved their mettle in all fields of life. He mentioned the role of women, including Fatima Jinnah and Rana Liaquat Ali Khan, in the Pakistan Movement. He said Benazir Bhutto, the first woman prime minister of Pakistan, had played a prominent role in national politics.

He said that upholding women’s rights and providing them protection was a  collective responsibility of the society. He said that economic independence was essential for their empowerment. He encouraged women to work along with men in all fields. “They hold the key to national development.”

The chief minister said that Islam attached great importance to women’s rights. He said special centres were being set up to ensure justice for women subjected to violence. The foundation of first such centre had been laid in Multan.

He said he believed that development targets could not be achieved unless women took part in the development process. He called for steps to make women financially self-reliant.

Federal Minister for Water and Power Khwaja Asif said a lot of work was still to be done for the empowerment of women.

The attorney general of Pakistan; Provincial Ministers Begum Zakiya Shahnawaz, Hameeda Waheeduddin, Ayesha Ghaus Pasha, Syed Haroon Sultan and Khalil Tahir Sindhu; and assembly members Saba Sadiq and Farhana Afzal were also present.



The Express Tribune, November 24th, 2015.

KARACHI: Fifty girls from different parts of Lyari left Karachi on Monday morning for Islamabad for a week-long scout training.

This is the first time that young female scouts will be receiving such training from the Pakistan Girl Guides Association.

All these girls attend classes six to 10 at one of the Rose schools, a network of schools in Lyari’s Baghdadi, Nayabad, Moosa Lane and Agra Taj areas. The team is being led by head of the schools, Anwar Bhatti, and other female school teachers.

 “I have to show that talented girls live in Lyari,” said one of the students, Nafeesa Sikandar. “I want to help others but lack the training. I hope this scout training will improve my potential.”

Despite their young age, the girls are committed to helping out in their neighbourhood once they return from the training. “What I learn in Islamabad, I will apply in Karachi,” said class-six student Mahnoor, who lives on Fida Hussain Sheikha Road. She believed that she will be able to help people if there is an emergency in Lyari or any other part of the city. “One should be capable of helping others in times of difficulties,” she added with a smile.

Sania, another scout, admitted that violence is a bitter reality for people living in Lyari. She shared how she and her neighbours in Baghdadi suffer whenever there are clashes between gangs. “I feel this training will help me understand how to survive and help others in emergencies,” she said.

“The scout training teaches discipline and how to help others,” Sania pointed out, hoping that her team will be able to show how strong they are.

Initially, the girls were having trouble getting permission from their parents. Sidra and her fellow students are travelling outside Sindh for the first time. “It was difficult for my family to allow me to take such a long journey alone but they trust me and know my spirits,” she said.

Sawera Saleem’s mother, Zareena, was also upset as it was the first time her 12-year-old daughter was leaving Karachi. “She is my eldest girl and I believe she will bring respect for us and our Lyari,” she said. “Her father is sick and can’t work properly but he always encourages our daughters to get education.”

Most of mothers believe that it was necessary for their daughters to get such trainings and learn how to live in a civilised society. “Scout training will enhance their potential,” said Haleema, mother of Sonia and Uzma, both of whom left for Islamabad on Monday. “It will help them to live a comfortable and bold life.” As the girls boarded the train at Cantt railway station, they shouted slogans in support of Lyari. ‘Aik Lyari sab pe bhari[One Lyari to rule all]‘ rang across the platform as the parents and relatives waved them goodbye.

Sania Naz Baloch, the MNA from Lyari, also reached the station to see off the girls. She promised to meet them in Islamabad on Thursday. “These girls need moral support,” said Baloch. “I am with them and hope they will bring a positive image for our Lyari.”



The Express Tribune, November 26th,  2015.

ISLAMABAD: The gap between the number of male and female voters in the country is widening at an alarming rate, reveals a report published by the Free and Fair Elections Network (Fafen) on Wednesday.

It says registered male voters outnumbered their female counterparts by 11.65 million in September 2015, when the Election Commission of Pakistan updated its electoral lists ahead of local government elections in Punjab and Sindh.

In contrast, there were 10.97 million more male voters than female voters before the May 2013 general elections, meaning the gap has increased by roughly 68,000 over the past two and a half years. This is despite the fact that the number of registered voters increased by 6.83 million – 3.74 million men and 3.07 million women – between 2013 and 2015.

The increase in disparity appears more drastic when compared to earlier levels. In 2008, there were 82 female registered voters for every 100 male voters, according to the Fafen report. Currently, the ratio stands at 75 female voters for every 100 male voters.

Some statisticians have even contested the authenticity of the total number of registered voters in Pakistan as no census has been conducted in the country since 1998.

“I think there should have been between 20 million to 22 million more voters given demographic trends and population estimates in Pakistan,” an official of the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics told The Express Tribune. According to officials, half of the country’s total population should be above 18 years of age.

Alarmingly, the gap between male and female voters widened in all provinces and in Islamabad.

In Punjab, the difference in male and female registered voters increased from 6.16 million in 2013 to 6.5 million in 2015. It grew from 1.98 million to 2.1 million in Sindh, from 1.74 million to 1.88 million in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and from 491,000 to 494,000 in Balochistan over the same timeframe. The gap also increased from 46,113 to 55,308 in the Islamabad Capital Territory in that period.

Interestingly, the gap narrowed in the Federal Administered Tribal Areas between 2013 and 2015, going down from 549,549 to 536,239. When contacted, an ECP spokesman blamed the widening of the gap on fewer women applying for Computerised National Identity Cards (CNICs) upon turning 18.

He said under the new procedure adopted by the ECP, a person is automatically placed on the voters’ list upon receiving a CNIC.

Meanwhile, Fafen in its report urged the ECP and all political parties to undertake efforts to maximise the registration of female voters ahead of the 2018 general elections.

“With more than 11.5 million female eligible voters not registered, Fafen urges the ECP to declare a women voters’ registration emergency and to redouble efforts in cooperation with the National Database Registration Authority (NADRA),” it said.

“NADRA’s partnership is needed because one major reason for the growing gap between male and female registration is the unwillingness or inability of many women to acquire a CNIC,” Fafen added.



Dawn, November 28th, 2015

KARAK: A woman and her three children were killed when roof of a room collapsed due to a gas explosion in Banda Daud Shah tehsil here on the night between Thursday and Friday.

The local people said that the family had lighted a gas heater in the room they were sleeping in during the night in Kundi area.

But, as the heater was leaking, it burst and the room caught fire. As a result of the explosion, the roof caved in, burying the woman and her children alive.

Soon after the incident, the area residents rushed to the house and retrieved the bodies from the rubble.

The victims were identified as wife of Faqir Gul, four-year-old Sajjad Ahmad, three-year-old Sudais and one-year-old Saeed.



Dawn, November 28th, 2015

ISLAMABAD: The government launched on Friday a programme to impart information and communications technology (ICT) education to as many as 5,000 girls through 50 labs.

The programme, ICT for Girls, has “opened doors of IT and modern knowledge for future builders of Pakistan to become entrepreneurs and contributors to national development”, said Minister of State for Information Technology and Telecommunications Anusha Rahman while addressing a signing ceremony to launch the initiative.

“It is vital that women, who constitute 50 per cent of country’s population, should come forward, show their potential and contribute in socio-economic development,” she said.

The programme is a joint effort of Pakistan Baitul Maal (PBM), Universal Service Fund (USF) and Microsoft to help young girls from underserved areas.

The three organisations also signed a memorandum of understanding in this regard, under which USF in collaboration with Microsoft would establish 50 information technology laboratories in women empowerment centres running under PBM across the underprivileged areas for their skill development and economic empowerment.

In these centres about 4,000 to 5,000 girls would be provided IT training including web designing, networking and other skills to make them economically self-reliant.

Ms Rahman said it was resolve of the government to elevate abilities and information of Pakistani women in ICT to build their employability.

In this age of innovation and technological advancement, steps needed to be taken to ensure that benefits of ICT reach girls and women, the minister emphasised.

Women should focus on learning different IT and computer courses as Information Technology has assumed a pivotal role in every sphere of life. This will also lead to women empowerment, she continued.

Ms Rahman also mentioned other steps taken by the government, including a tele-centre project, and setting up of software technology parks and a tech city in Islamabad.

She said these initiatives have started to bear fruits as Pakistan has achieved fourth position in e-lancing, which refers to the trend where people work and earn their livelihood by taking freelancing work through websites.

Minister for Finance Ishaq Dar, who was chief guest on the occasion, said strengthening and enhancing outreach of social safety nets was being given priority as expenditures in this area have been increased from Rs34 billion to Rs102 billion during the last two years.

Despite taking hard decisions on economic fronts, no compromise was made in social welfare projects, he said.

Appreciating the initiative for girls, he said making women economically self-reliant was part of the PML-N’s election manifesto and the government was determined to fulfil its promises.

The government has also raised annual budget of Baitul Mal by 100 per cent to support deserving patients suffering from chronic diseases.

He said provision of modern IT labs would enable young girls to meet challenges of modern world besides learning new skills.

On the occasion, Universal Service Fund’s CEO Faisal Sattar highlighted the achievements of his organisation, saying that out of targeted 7,000 mauzas across the country, 4000 have been provided ICT services while optic fibre cable was also being laid to facilitate the remotest parts.

In his brief remarks, PBM Managing Director Barrister Abid Waheed Sheikh said that out of 150 Women Empowerment Centres (WEC) in Pakistan, Microsoft is setting up IT labs in 50 WECs.

“It is our duty to impart IT education to girls in order to enable them to earn their livelihood and contribute in national development,” he said.

Around 4,000 to 5,000 girls would be imparted training in ICT related areas in the first phase of the programme.

Microsoft Country Head Nadeem Malik expressed commitment of his organisation in promoting ICT and hoped the initiative would help materialise government’s vision to make Pakistan a digital country.

National Commission on Status of Women’s Chairperson Khawar Mumtaz said the ICT for Girls programme would help ensure women empowerment and make them productive citizens.

Later, heads of PBM, USF and Microsoft signed the document on behalf of their organizations.

CEOs of mobile phone and telecom companies, legislators and senior government official also attended.



The News, November 28, 2015

 BANGKOK: A Myanmar military offensive against ethnic rebels in the country’s east has uprooted more than 10,000 people, rights groups said, accusing the army of bombing schools and Buddhist temples, firing on civilians and raping women.

Since Oct 6, the army has shelled six villages, shot and injured three people, and fired on 17 villagers who are now missing, according to activists in Shan state.

The Shan Human Rights Foundation has documented eight cases of sexual violence since April 2015, including a 32-year-old woman gang-raped by 10 soldiers on Nov 5 while her husband was tied up under their farm hut in Ke See township.

“We are very concerned that there has been no public condemnation by the international community about these war crimes and these attacks on civilians,” rights activist Charm Tong told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, has fought ethnic groups in its borderlands off and on for decades, causing massive displacement within the country and forcing hundreds of thousands to seek refuge across the border in Thailand.

In 2010, the country’s ruling military junta was replaced by a military-backed civilian government, and the country embarked on reforms towards elections earlier this month, which saw opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy win in a landslide.

“We welcome a beautiful election on one side, but the other reality is that people are fleeing, dying, women are being raped,” Charm Tong said.

“Villagers are still not safe and are in a dangerous situation now because of the Burma army presence is increasing.

“The Myanmar government did not respond to requests for comment about the fighting in Shan state.

The government in October signed a ceasefire with eight armed ethnic groups, but the deal fell short of its nationwide billing, with seven of the 15 groups invited declining to sign, including the Shan State Army-North (SSA-North) and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).

Shan state, which borders Thailand, Laos and China, is rich in resources and the site of three hydroelectric dam projects.

The latest attacks come as villagers in the area prepare for the rice harvest.

Many are stealthily returning home to collect their belongings and tend to their rice paddies, but the situation remains unstable, the Shan groups say.

US Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel, after talks this week with Myanmar armed forces chief Min Aung Hlaing, described the military operations and fighting in Shan and neighbouring Kachin state as “very worrisome”. “We have concerns about the humanitarian crisis that is generated by the fighting.

We also have concerns that the fighting could set back the effort to build out a nationwide ceasefire to include non signatories,” Russel told Reuters in Yangon.

“While there are two sides to the conflict, I urged the Burmese military to exercise restraint and to work in an effort to promote reconciliation and peace.

“The United Nations is also concerned about the fighting and reported up to 6,000 displaced people seeking refuge in monasteries and temporary shelters, said Pierre Peron, spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).




The News, November 18, 2015

Fatima Zaidi

Karachi: Despite being an accomplished environmentalist and a member of over 10 international environmental governing bodies, it took two years for Dr Rahat Jabeen’s colleagues to recognise her as someone who had acquired the technical expertise needed to deal with the ever-complex issues of the water sector.

It was precisely this lack of recognition that compelled the organisers of a two-day water conference, tiled “Securing Sustainable Water for All – Inclusion, Integration, Innovation”, to dedicate a session on Tuesday to highlight the services of female role models in the sector.

The session was presided by renowned women’s rights activist and resident director of the Aurat Foundation, Mahnaz Rahman.

Commended by the United Nations Environment Programme’s quarterly magazine Tunza, Dr Rahat was among eight women, chosen from across the globe, to have been given the title of ‘Super Woman’ for their exceptional competence in the field.

However, besides not receiving her due share of recognition, striking a balance between her home and work were, as is common, also cited as a daunting challenge by Dr Rahat.

“The increasing level of expectations from the men of the family for everything to be perfect at home makes things extremely difficult for working women.”

A firebrand women’s rights activist, parliamentarian Mahtab Akbar Rashidi said women were the largest stakeholders of the total water usage of a country, but had not been provided the space to partake in policy-making.

Referring to the recent surge in employment opportunities for women at multinational companies, the parliamentarian regretted that the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board had yet to hire a female employee.

Mahtab called for widening the scope of community-level awareness programmes in order to strengthen women residing in rural areas as they bore the major brunt of the society’s patriarchal values. Encouraging women to take a stand, she also cautioned them to not expect results overnight.

Elaborating the discussion, the CEO of the Interflow Group’s television channels, Seema Taher Khan, also called for engaging women socially and economically. However, she added, “For that to happen, we need to do much more than arranging conferences.” Speaking of her over 25 years of media experience, she said our entertainment industry direly needed an overhaul.

“It needs to stop reducing women to the typical Saas-Bahu roles and instead present them as heroes by highlighting the plethora of challenges that they have managed to surmount,” she added.

“A woman will fulfil her professional duties as efficiently as the 10 other responsibilities she takes care of everyday.”

An assistant professor at the Kings College UK, Danish Mustafa, said debates over both the genders being identified as equals were more often than not initiated without taking into consideration the historical background.

“Most of us don’t realise that there were no historical accounts of half of the humanity i.e. women, in our history books because everything had been narrated through a man’s perspective,” he added.

“We are told of kings and emperors severing heads of their enemies and of the size of an empire led by some more kings and emperors but nobody bothered to take into account the kinds of food or clothes they wore, since that was the women’s department.”

Ghazala Rehman, a professor teaching Sindh Studies at Szabist’s Sindh Abhyas Academy, also spoke at the session.



The Express Tribune, November 18th, 2015.

Zahid Gishkori

ISLAMABAD: The government has proposed amendments in four key provisions of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) of 1860 – a move which could resolve the longstanding issue of murderers pardoned by the heir of the victim under the Qisas (retribution) and Diyat (blood money) law.

Taking note of public outrage over two recent pardons by the heirs of Shahzaib Khan and Zain Rauf, the government has decided to make some amendments in the relevant laws.

 “It [Qisas and Diyat law] is a key part of our upcoming legal reforms agenda,” Ashtar Ausaf Ali, the special assistant to the prime minister on legal affairs, told The Express Tribune on Tuesday. “Laws are amended to act as stepping stones, not as stumbling blocks.”

To serve justice to the public, the government is also going to establish public defenders’ offices in all provinces, he added.

If the proposed legislation – likely to be tabled before parliament soon – is passed, then murderers would beg pardon after getting themselves convicted under Section 302(a) of the PPC, reads the draft of the proposed law.

Sections 309 and 310 are being amended, where legal heirs of the victim have the right to make a compromise with the offenders.

Under the proposed amendment, legal heirs can forgive the murderer without getting any monetary compensation in the form of Diyat, “after conviction of the offender under Section 302(a) of the PPC”.

Under the important inclusion in Section 311, “the court shall, having regard to the facts and circumstances of the case, punish an offender against whom the right of Qisas has been waived or compounded with imprisonment, which may extend to 14 years but shall not be less than seven years as Tazir.”

The purpose of this addition is to empower the judge to include the past conduct of the offenders to determine if they are considered a danger to society.

 “It’s a positive move,” said Council of Islamic Ideology member Allama Tahir Ashrafi. “Laws should be amended sensing changing trends in society. If amendments happen in good faith, by keeping Islamic values in mind, then there is no harm to review Islamic laws.”

Another important amendment in Section 338-E, which deals with waiver or compounding of offences, is the addition of definition of such offences: “Provided if the principle of ‘Fasad fil Arz’ is attracted, the court shall, having regard to the facts and circumstances of the case, punish the offender against whom the offence has been waived or compound under Tazir, according to the nature of the offence. In case of international murder, the sentence shall be imprisonment, which may extend up to 25 years but shall not be less than 10 years.”

The law ministry has also cleared the following proposed laws: ‘Criminal Law (Prohibition of Jirga/Panchayat Amendment) Bill 2015’, ‘Bill to Prevent and Combat Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children 2013’, ‘Reproductive Health Care and Rights Bill 2014’, ‘Domestic Violence (Prevention and Projection) Bill 2014’ and ‘Christian Marriages (Amendment) Bill 2014’.

The purpose of these bills, said Ashtar, is “to provide easy justice to the masses. Justice should not just be carried out but it should be seen in accordance with the law”. The government, under the new reforms, is also looking into criminal matters, civil matters and legal education.

Sessions courts will be empowered to decide criminal cases at the level of first instance. The post of magistrate, as with the post of civil judge, shall be abolished in favour of additional session judges, and better pay scales and perks shall serve as incentives. Regarding civil matters, district courts will no longer enjoy revisionary powers. The full trial procedure via evidence and affidavits will remain, but sans any burdensome procedures that exist only to increase litigation.

As for legal education, the curriculum shall be overhauled and updated, and a new set of performance indicators with higher bars will be introduced for induction into the legal community.



The Express Tribune, November 18th, 2015.

ISLAMABAD: Chronic malnutrition among women of child bearing age is one of the major reasons behind 750,000 preterm births recorded every year across Pakistan. 

Dr Saima Rizwan, Health Specialist, Maternal and Child Health at United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) while talking to The Express Tribune in connection with World Prematurity Day which is observed every year on November 17, said, “a malnourished mother ultimately gives birth to a premature baby due to poor health condition. Adequate maternal nutrition is critical for foetal development.”  Pre-term birth is defined as a live birth before the full 37 weeks of pregnancy are completed.


She said malnourished mothers suffer from micro-nutrient deficiencies such as iron deficiency which leads to anemia while iodine, vitamin A, folic acid and calcium deficiencies among others render them unable to deliver healthy children well on time.

However, Dr Rizwan further stated that there are also numerous other reasons which could be attributed to preterm births in Pakistan such as early child marriages, domestic violence, severe stress, lack of antenatal checkups, unskilled birth attendants among others.

“In Pakistan majority of adolescent mothers give birth to premature babies mainly because they are unaware of nutritional needs during pregnancy, importance of antenatal checkups and quality care required during delivery of a premature baby” she said.

Globally, fifteen million babies are born preterm each year and over 1 million children die before their fifth birthday from related complications. Pakistan, India and Nigeria account for more than 60 per cent of the total number of babies born prematurely each year and 50 per cent of deaths due to preterm complications according to a statement issued by UNICEF.

“It is estimated that the survival of around 85 per cent of premature babies could be ensured if they receive quality care at home such as initiation of early breastfeeding,” Dr Rizwan said, adding that usually a premature baby grows up facing lifelong disabilities like hearing, visual and learning impairments.

She also highlighted acute shortage of skilled birth attendants and community mid-wives (CMWs) in the country.

Meanwhile talking to The Express Tribune, Director Nutrition in the Ministry of National Health Services, Dr Baseer Khan Achakzai, said Pakistan is among top 10 countries with 16 per cent premature babies which is alarming.”



The News, November 19, 2015

CHARSADDA: Five persons including two women were killed in separate honour-related incidents in parts of the district, police officials said on Wednesday.

They said that Hubab Ali, a resident of Battagram village, shot dead his sister and a cop Muhammad Bilal over an honour-related issue. The accused managed to escape after committing the crime.

The second incident, the police officials said, took place in Tangi area where Muhammad Ayaz gunned down his maternal uncle Fazal Rehman.

They said later Muhammad Fayyaz, brother of Muhammad Ayaz, shot dead Muhammad Ayaz and his aunt.

The officials said that Muhammad Ayaz had illicit relations with his aunt and he had killed her husband Fazal Rehman at her behest.

Meanwhile, the police recovered the bullet-riddled body of a man in Battagram.

The police officials said that unidentified gunmen had killed Toor Khan and dumped his body in the fields.



The Express Tribune, November 19th, 2015.

Sehrish Wasif

ISLAMABAD: A woman was allegedly attacked with acid by her husband’s first wife. She was admitted to the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims) burn care centre on Wednesday, where she remains under treatment for burns to her face and neck.

A Pims official, while requesting not to be named, told The Express Tribune that Fatima Javaid, 22, was brought to the burn centre by Rescue 1122.

 “She has suffered severe burns to her entire face, neck and a small part of her shoulder after acid was thrown over her. She is out of danger but is still in the intensive care unit (ICU),” he said.

He said the victim is a resident of New Katarian in Rawalpindi, and had claimed that her husband’s first wife had thrown acid on her.

The official said that Fatima told the burn unit staff that the alleged attacker had also sexually abused her in the past.

He said Javaid had told them that after she threatened to tell their husband about the abuse, the alleged attacker took her somewhere and gave her something to drink, which made her pass out. She then awoke feeling like her face was burning.

However when The Express Tribune contacted her husband Javaid Ghouri, he said he had no idea who the attacker was, but denied that it could have been his first wife.

On the other hand, Margalla SHO Asjad Mehmood said that Fatima has identified the first wife as the attacker in the official statement the police had recorded. He said she later requested to change her statement after consulting her husband.

Mehmood further said that Ghouri has refused to register an FIR and said he would take her wife from the hospital as soon as possible.

Acid crimes are non-bailable and non-compoundable — cases cannot be settled through an out of court compromise.

According to a report issued by Acid Survivor Foundation, the total number of acid victims reported since 2007 stands at 1,231, with 675 female victims, 386 male, five transgender, and 165 cases where the gender of the victim was not available.



Dawn, November 19th, 2015

KARACHI: Habib Bank Limited on Wednesday launched ‘HBL Nisa’ platform to facilitate women’s banking in Pakistan, said a press release.

The bank hopes to cater to women unique needs and aspirations, and become their preferred banking destination. The launching event featured talks by aviation adventurer Tracey Curtis and mountaineer Samina Baig.



The Express Tribune, November 20th, 2015.

PESHAWAR: Police arrested seven people and foiled an attempt to sell off a 14-year-old girl for marriage in Lajbar Kala area of Daudzai police station.

Speaking to The Express Tribune, Daudzai SHO Ijaz Khan said the force raided Lajbar Kala area and arrested seven persons, who were residents of Punjab and were looking to buy a minor girl for marriage.

“Rubina*, a student of class seven, tried to lie and mislead us during interrogation but eventually told us the truth,” Ijaz said. “She also told us that her father had sold her mother repeatedly,” he added. “The man had adopted this as a profession.”

According to Ijaz, Rubina said, “My mother was sold by my father into a marriage in Punjab from where she escaped after some time and returned home.” She added her father then sold the woman again and shifted her to Afghanistan. The SHO said this time, the man sold his daughter and told her to go with an “aunt” who was in fact the agent. “She was sold for Rs0.15 million,” he said.

Ijaz added Rubina was produced before a magistrate where she declined to go with her father and was sent to a child protection unit instead.

 “This group is a professional one which buys and sells girls who are trained as brides,” Ijaz added. “It is still unclear whether the girl was the real daughter of the man or not.”



The Express Tribune, November 20th, 2015.

LAHORE: The Special Monitoring Unit’s Law and Order Wing on Thursday launched a campaign for raising awareness on gender-based violence and harassment on streets through a campaign named Women on Wheels (WoW). The campaign is aimed at increasing women’s mobility and presence in public spaces by providing them free lessons in motorbike driving.

An information session was held at the Traffic Police Driving School. As many as 70 women from lawmakers to domestic workers, attended the event. SMU’s Salman Sufi, Chief Traffic Officer Tayyab Hafeez Cheema and MPAs Farhana Afzal and Marie Gill addressed the participants of the training. The speakers encouraged the participants and highlighted the advantages of learning to ride motorbikes.

Sufi said the SMU initiative aimed to empower women and make public space more accessible. This campaign is part of the United Nation’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence from November 26 to December 10.

Under the programme, female traffic wardens will conduct training sessions with flexible timings. In December, a WoW motorcycle rally would be organised on Shaukat Khanum Road.  Registration for training for the motorbike rally has begun. Women wishing to join the rally were directed to send an email with their name, their CNICs and phone numbers to SMUCMO@gmail.com after which short-listed candidates would be contacted and provided with free training lessons.He said the traffic police had extended support for the exercise. A public announcement for the rally will be held on December 20 at Traffic Police Driving School, Thokar Niaz Baig. He said Honda had rented out 11 motorbikes for the training at reduced rates.

Sufi said the Department for Women Development has also been taken on board. He said the department would give preference to women participating in the rally in December for provision of scooters as part of their Women Empowerment Initiatives.

The lawmakers said that for far too long, Pakistani women had been embarrassed, assaulted and harassed in public.

They said it was time for women to reclaim public spaces. “Their mobility should not be hindered. They should feel independent,” lawmakers said.

Salman Sufi said women could also contact them through the Women on Wheels Facebook page.

He said the WoW aimed to increase women’s mobility by challenging the social perceptions that women cannot or should not travel alone.



The Express Tribune, November 21th, 2015.

KARACHI: According to the annual report published by War Against Rape (WAR), most of the sexual violence cases reported in Karachi between 2011 and 2014 were of victims between the ages of six to 11 and 12 to 17.

WAR claims that though the number of sexual abuse cases against children have increased but many still go unreported. Its programme officer Rukhsana Siddiqui stated that most of the reports of sexual abuse against children were received from slum areas located in Korangi, Landhi, Neelam Colony and Gulshan-e-Iqbal. “These cases have grown in number in the past few years,” she claimed. Siddiqui added that many cases of sexual violence among children and women usually go unreported. She said the reasons for this are that the children are not being taught and the taboo associated with the topic, which makes children reluctant to discuss these matters, even with family members.

The report stated that, in the year 2014 alone, the organisation held eight community meetings in different areas of Karachi and visited different schools in slum areas to conduct workshops and trainings for students and teachers.  A total of 121 sessions were held between 2011 and 2014 in order to create awareness among women and children.

The report stated that, in 2014, WAR investigated 45 rape cases, while from January 2011 to December 2014, a total of 152 cases of sexual violence were investigated by the WAR team. Out of these, 28 cases (18.42 per cent) were taken to court, while 124 (82 per cent) were not taken to court for various reasons, including external pressure on families to pardon the accused and threats. A total of six cases were won during 2011-14, whereas three cases were lost during the time frame.

The number of cases taken to court by WAR has decreased during the specified time period, as compared to 2007-2010, when WAR was able to take 64 cases to court.

Various factors were highlighted in the report that attributed reduction in the number of reported cases of sexual violence to biased and judgmental investigations, poor documentation of medico-legal examination findings and poor quality of court proceedings. The conviction rate for sexual violence cases is less than four per cent.



Dawn, November 22nd, 2015


PESHAWAR: Junior officers have long been managing the women education system in all districts of the province except one due to the elementary and secondary education department’s failure to appoint the BPS-19 district education officers (female).

The relevant officials told Dawn on Saturday that currently, all the 25 districts of the province had DEOs (male) but there was only one DEO (female), who was posted to Abbottabad.

They said junior women education officers (BPS-18) had been given the additional charge of DEOs (female) in districts other than Abbottabad for around three years.

The officials said by the end of 2012, a single male executive district officer (education) serving in BPS-19 used to work as the executive head of education department at district level along with two deputy district education officers (male) and (female) in BPS-18.

They said the deputy DEOs (male) were tasked with handling affairs of boys schools and DEOs (female) those of girls schools.

According to the officials, after the ANP government partially implemented the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Local Government Act 2012, the administration of the district level education was divided into male and female ones on January 1, 2013.

At that time, the E&SE department decided that BPS-19 officers both men and women would be the executive officers (male) and (female) in their respective districts.

Thereafter, the education department posted all male officers as BPS-19 DEOs. They’re already appointed for the purpose to the management cadre.

However, only one deputy DEO (female) was appointed DEO in Abbottabad.

The officials said since January 2013 when the administration of men’s and women’s education was segregated, the education department hadn’t appointed DEOs (female) in all other districts.

They said the education department had tasked junior women DEOs with supervising senior principals of high and higher secondary schools had distributed the education department hierarchy.

The officials said in the absence of permanent DEOs (female), the senior most principals of the girls’ high and higher secondary schools serving in BPS-19 and BPS-20 were answerable to juniors i.e. acting DEOs (female).

An educationist said one couldn’t expect good administration under the current circumstances when juniors were tasked with monitor seniors.

He said currently, the education department’s hierarchy (female) at district level stood disturbed.

When contacted, E&SE minister Mohammad Atif Khan said the department had been considering different ways to resolve the issue, including appointment of competent women officers in BPS-19 to promote girls’ education.

“A proposal is under consideration to appoint officers with qualification in management sciences as DEOs (female),” he said.

The minister said the previous government had introduced the management cadre in the education department for managing things at district and directorate levels but all the appointees were teachers instead of the people having degrees in management.

He said the criteria made by the last government for the appointment of officers to the management cadre was faulty.

“We have planned training of the management cadre officers to enhance their capacity,” he said, adding such officers had never undergone office management training.



Dawn, November 22nd, 2015

HYDERABAD: A mother and childcare week will be observed from Nov 23 to 28 and around 19,149, 645 persons out of the total Sindh population will be covered during the week throughout the province.

This was stated by National Programme for Family Planning and Primary Healthcare’s Sindh coordinator Jay Ram Das on Saturday at a press conference held at the local press club. Programme’s Deputy Coordi-nator Dr Abdul Hakeem Dhamra, Progra-mme Moni-toring Coordinator Dr Pir Ghulam Hussain and others were present on the occasion.

The National Programme for Family Planning and Primary Health Care, also known as the Lady Health Workers Programme (LHWP), was launched in 1994.

The coordinator said this week was marked twice a year while the same (this week) had been observed in June this year.

He said the Sindh health ministry’s LHWP was in coordination with the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef).

Quoting a survey conducted in Pakistan, he said that after deliveries, around 276 out of total 100,000 mothers died in Pakistan. While 54 children out of total 1,000 died in their first week of birth, he said, adding that 78 children died in the first year and another 94 fell prey to death in five years.

He said that mostly deaths of both mothers and children took place because of unawareness, lack of facilities, malnutrition, delivery complications and pneumonia and other diseases.

He said that on the special directives of Sindh Health Minister Dr Jam Mehtab Dahar, this week would be marked from Nov 23 to 28 with a view to controlling mortality rates. Activities of the entire campaign would be examined from the provincial level to the level of each union council through a monitoring plan, he said.

He said 22,000 lady health workers (LHWs) and 755 lady health supervisors (LHS) would actively participate in this drive.The coordinator said that during the week, 223,413 pregnant women would be given medicines of abdominal diseases, 229,796 children under the age of five years would be administered polio drops and 168,416 children under the age of two years would be vaccinated. He also said medicines of abdominal diseases would be provided to 1,723,468 children from two to five years old.

Around 22,341 pregnant women would be vaccinated against tetanus while LHWs and LHS would disseminate a message of healthcare to around 1,865,352 persons through health education sessions (HES) which would be held at houses of a locality within the jurisdiction of each LHW.

Earlier, Sindh health department officers and low-grade employees led by Dr Jay Ram Das held an awareness rally outside the local press club.



The News, November 22, 2015

Mansoor Ahmad

LAHORE: Working women in Pakistan face the dual burden of not only performing their duties satisfactorily at work, but also to excel as housewives doing all the chores of cooking a meal, laundering the clothes, and looking after family.

 “There is heavily loaded lip service by the government planners on gender parity,” said social worker Dr Kishwar Dhingra. She said in view of cultural norms, the women are supposed to look after the children and other family members. She said the least the government could do is to establish creditable childcare centres to provide peace of mind to the working women.

She said most of the time women are forced to leave the job till the time their children grow up. Many, she added start a promising career but drop out on the birth of their first child due to social pressures.

She said in developed economies both husband and wife share the burden of household chores. It is considered unmanly in Pakistan for a husband to wash dishes or clean the house.

She said the companies that hire a woman expect her to perform her duty as efficiently as her male counterparts and rightly so.

However, she added the capability of a woman to perform at her best is marred if after duty she has to cook the food for the family, clean the house, wash dishes, and look after children. “By the time she goes to bed, she is completely exhausted,” she said, wondering why well educated liberal looking husbands fail to share the domestic burden to provide some relief to the working women.

Financial analyst Amina Usman said the exclusion of women from economic mainstream is one of the reasons that has kept Pakistan’s growth low. She said Pakistan has the highest level of gender disparity in the region.

Pakistan and Bangladesh are the two countries in the region where social norms are similar. However, she added in just 25 years, Bangladesh has taken a great leap in reducing gender parity. The garment industry is the largest provider of employment in Bangladesh, which dominated by women workers. She said Grameen Bank empowered Bangladeshi women through prudent micro loaning. In Pakistan, majority of the workers in garmenting industry are male, though the largest percentage of women in manufacturing sector is in garment industry.

Amina said at the corporate level, one can count the number of women in high positions in Pakistan. She said women business leaders in Bangladesh are rapidly raising. In India, she added it is compulsory to appoint at least one women director on the board. “Why can’t we do the same?” she asked.

She said gender equality gets a lot of attention these days particularly in developed economies where the population is aging rapidly. These economies cannot survive if all their working age population is not included in economic mainstream. She said in countries like Pakistan, a large number of working age youth are unemployed. Another drawback that Pakistan faces is its low literacy rate. She said is it not criminal to deprive educated girls of employment and instead hire less qualified males due to gender bias. One bias that has some justification is that employers think that a well qualified girl, if given a chance today would probably leave midway through her career after gaining a lot of experience.

Social worker Sofia Asif said that the government should open institutes to impart the right skills to women. The skills chosen should be the ones where less education is needed and the demand is high.

She said government should open as many garment training institutes equipped with best machines for the girls. She gave the example of state of the art institute opened by TEVTA in Gajumata Lahore which imparts three month training to 100 women. The training is conducted on machines used by the best companies in Pakistan. She said all the 100 women get employment in the factory of their choice after receiving a certificate from the institute.



The Express Tribune, November 22nd, 2015.

RAWALPINDI: A 24-year-old woman was allegedly raped before being killed by a man in the jurisdiction of Rawat Police Station.

According to the police, Chakwal-resident Tehmina Kausar was thrown out of the window of a residential flat in Bahria Town, Phase-8. The alleged murderer, UI alias Makki, was arrested by the police. Interestingly, Makki was shifted to a local hospital for medical treatment as he also sustained injuries.

DSP Sajid Gondal said that an initial report suggested that the girl was raped before being thrown out the window. Police say they are waiting for the final medical report. A case has been registered against Makki on the compliant of the deceased’s brother.

In a statement recorded with police, the accused claimed he was married to Kausar, but failed to produce a marriage certificate to support the claim. The killer also claimed Kausar suffered from various diseases. Police say the statement is baseless and believe Makki is trying to cover up the crime. They say the accused also told police that four friends were also present at the flat the night before.

Police said the deceased came to Rawalpindi from Chakwal on November 18, along with her grandfather. She stayed back in the city, telling her mother she had to collect her educational documents from Quaid-i-Azam University.

She is then believed to have gone to Makki, whom she had contacted through social media some two years ago, and developed friendship.

According to the police, Kausar had not informed her parents that she knew Makki, adding that they will obtain physical remand of the alleged killer and investigate further.



The Express Tribune, November 22nd, 2015.

LAHORE: Speakers at a panel discussion on Saturday urged women to join political parties to struggle for equitable sharing of power and resources in the country.

“Women need to realise that meaningful change can be attained through influencing legislation and policies. We need to access the house where laws are debated and enacted,” said politician Mehnaz Rafi. She urged women to join political parties of their choice. She said political space in the country had been captured by capitalists to serve their own interests. “Socially and economically marginalised groups have been pushed out of politics,” she said.

Rafi lamented that none of the mainstream political parties had taken a stance against indirect election on seats reserved for women at local-, provincial- and national levels.

She was speaking at a panel discussion on The Need for a Feminist Movement/Collective Identity: Way Forward at Shirkatgah’s Convention on Building Transformative Feminist Leadership.

The three-day convention has been arranged as part of Shirkatgah’s Women’s Empowerment and Leadership Development for Democratisation Programme. There were more than 125 women politicians and activists from all over the country including the Jamni Auratien – a team of grassroots activists so described on account of the purple dupatta worn by them.

Awami National Party (ANP) leader Bushra Gohar shared her experience of striving for greater representation of women in the ANP and the Parliament. She said women’s struggle was not restricted to the political sphere. “One must be prepared to fight the odds at home, in the party as well as in other public spaces,” she said. “These are necessary if we are to bring about meaningful change in the society,” she said.

Gohar said she and other women activists in the ANP had succeeded in reforming the party’s constitution as well as changing the mindset of other members. “We have attained 50 per cent representation of women on leadership positions within the party,” she said.

Pakistan Peoples Party leader Bushra Aitezaz said that over the past couple of decades there had been visible progress in the country in terms of establishment of institutions like the National Commission for the Status of Women and enactment of women-friendly laws and policies. However, she said effective implementation of these laws was still lacking. “Let’s not wait for the government to implement these laws. Women should take a stand at all available fora on issues that concern them. In our struggle, we must benefit from official policies and state institutions” she said.

Woman Action Forum’s Nausheen Ahmed seconded Aitezaz’s suggestion. She urged women activists to forge alliances with like-minded groups to expand the women’s movement in the country.

“There are lessons to be learnt from successful movements like the lawyers’ movement. There was no stopping the movement once lawyers were joined in their struggle by a wide spectrum of social groups and organisations including trade unions, minority and women’s rights groups and civil society organisations.

Rights activist Tahira Abdullah raised the issue of growing misogyny in the society. She said the achievements of women’s struggle ought to be celebrated but the activists should also ponder upon the causes of rising misogyny in the society and come up with ways to tackle it.

Abdullah also lamented the targeted killing of activists in the recent years. “Too many good people like Parween Rehman, Sabeen Mahmud and Rashid Rehman have become targets of a campaign of hate. They were killed for speaking up against oppression,” she said.

Shirkatgah executive director Farida Shaheed, who chaired the discussion, praised the grassroots activism of Jamni Auratein. She said the activist’s resolve for building a feminist movement in their communities was commendable.

“The Zia years were horrific in terms of suppression of religious minorities, women and trade union activists. We have learnt our lessons and we know very well that our struggle is political. We need concerted efforts to take it forward.”



Dawn, October 11th, 2015

HYDERABAD: Leaders of the Women Action Forum (WAF) have said that if state institutions support tyrants and become collaborators in crimes against women then victims will never be able to get justice.

Every member of society would have to come forward and raise voice against such dastardly crimes. If perpetrators of crimes against women went unpunished innocent women would continue to be killed in the name of honour, they said.

The WAF leaders Amar Sindhu and ArfanaMallah, president of QaumiAwamiTehreekAyazLatifPalijo and others said at a press conference at Khanabadosh writers’ cafe on Saturday that society must raise voice on women’s issues.

MrPalijo said that under Article 9 of the Constitution it was the state’s responsibility to protect its citizens and if any woman or girl was killed on the pretext of karokari it was the state that had to punish the accused.

He said that the state was also required to provide protection to those who opted for marriage of their own choice. In case of murder in such cases, the state, politicians, elected representatives and other functionaries were responsible for it, he said, adding that QAT would support WAF’s struggle.

Amar Sindhu said that atrocities against women continued unabated in Sindh. According to reports, 2,185 women were killed in the province last year, which showed that five women were killed every day, she said.

She said that if people remained silent on these excesses it meant that they too were abetting the crime. Therefore, she said, everyone needed to come forward and raise voice on the issue. Not only the state but society itself was silent on such murders, she said.

ArfanaMallah said society would have to vehemently oppose such dastardly crimes. If state institutions became collaborators in the crime then victims could not get justice, she said, adding political leaders, writers and intellectuals would have to become part of such a struggle.

Peasant leader PunhalSario that many incidents of honour killings were reported in Sindh but the perpetrators always went unpunished. Women’s murders had become a big issue and society should take it up, she said.

Parents of karokari victims from Sukkur, Badin and Larkana also attended the press conference.




Published in Dawn, October 8th , 2015

ISLAMABAD: The government and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) are launching a three-year programme today (Thursday) aimed at increasing enrolment and improving retention and quality education for girls in eight remote districts of the country.

The programme would target some of the most disenfranchised and hard-to-reach areas where access to quality education for girls is most challenged along with high illiteracy rates among adults, particularly women.




To promote this idea, a press conference was organised by Home Net Pakistan (HNP) on Friday at Karachi Press Club. HNP’s capacity building programme is aimed at engaging and motivating women to join in the upcoming elections. Eighty-five female pioneers from 22 locations of Punjab and Sindh participated in the capacity-building session and demonstrated their full backing for female participation.

Presiding over the conference, HNP’s executive director UmmeLailaAzhar said, “Local government is considered the nursery level for future governance and leadership; moreover it provides women an invaluable experience so it is really important for women to get recognition in the local government.”

HNP strives to empower home-based workers to realise their strengths and rights in the field of economics, politics and society through the adoption of fair trade practices and improvement in their living conditions, explained Azhar.

Currently, there are more than 12 million home-based female workers in the country and of them about five million work in Sindh in different departments, including glass work, garment sector, textile mills and agriculture.

“It’s important to change their perspective. The major barriers to women’s participation are the old culture and socio-economic issues, so this issue should be raised to greater levels,” said MehnazRehman of the Aurat Foundation. “Women should be given their rights and respect, which is what they deserve the most,” she said.

Speaking at the conference, Farhat Fatima a representative of PILER added that the “local government runs on four principles”. According to her, the first are municipal issues such as water management, sanitary problems and health. Property supervision is second and local conflict resolution is third, while the last is the expenditure of resources.

“All these issues are related to women and I can easily say that women can do much better in these departments,” claimed Fatima.

Female involvement is important to foster the local government, as women are dedicated towards their work and can fight for those poor women who suffer domestic violence and other circumstances, Fatima further said.

Representatives from the district action committees of Hyderabad, Sukkur, Sangar, Dadu and Thatta were present at the event, to show their support for the programme. One of them said there are two ways to solve our issues, one is a functional government who takes responsibility to sort out issues and the other is to find a way with the collaboration of stakeholders.




HYDERABAD:A*, newly married at the time of her cold-blooded honour killing in July this year, was subjected to a grisly death. Twenty-one Kalashnikov bullets were drilled through her body, including her head, while seven others hit the wall in her home in Jamshoro, which boasts of its status as an educated city.

The viciousness of the incident is evident, yet the alleged culprits, the girl’s father, an uncle and other relatives, have evaded arrest despite being nominated in the FIR.

But A* is not the only victim being denied justice. The Women’s Action Forum (WAF) organised a rally on Sunday to garner support for these women. They shared several similar cases at a press conference at Cafe Khanabadosh on Friday.

“The civil society raises its voice to protect the dying peacocks of Tharparkar, the hunting of houbara bustard and Indus river’s blind dolphins, but the killings of women in the name of honour and their rape don’t evoke such a response,” lamented Sindhu at the rally, in which hundreds of people took part.

According to the WAF’s data, 1,447 cases of violence against women were registered in the last 12 months. These included 212 killings, 117 abductions and 58 gang rapes.

The declaration read out at the rally demanded the setting up of special courts for the trial of cases pertaining to the victimisation of women. They also called for incriminating the elected representatives, feudal lords and others who convene jirgas and the enforcing of the ban on jirgas as well.

“We want the Sindhi society to take up this cause [of preventing crimes against women] as determinedly as they struggled for issues such as the Kalabagh dam, Sindh’s control over its natural resources and conspiracies against Sindh’s division,” said DrArfanaMallah, a Sindh University teacher who heads the WAF.

A*’s aunt, ShabanaBabbur, claimed the actual cause of her killing was property. “She was married to our brother’s son, Ali Hassan Babbur. But my brothers, Ghulam Mustafa Babbur [A*’s father who is also a police sub-inspector] and Ali Nawaz Babbur, accused her of being a kari [having an extra-marital affair] and killed her,” she explained.

The initial police case was registered against A*’s husband, Ali Hassan, and father-in-law, Ali SherBabbur, but that FIR was later quashed and a new one was registered nominating her father, uncle and others. Shabana, a mother of four, three of whom suffer from a mental disability, says her husband was also killed by her brothers five years ago. Since then she has been staying at Madadgar Helpline’s shelter home in Karachi.

In November 2013, a young woman, K*, was allegedly shot dead while resisting rape by a landlord in the Bachao Bund area near Umerkot. The incident’s FIR was registered against KhadimBuxShar, according to her mother, DargahKolhi. But the peasant Kolhi family was pressured to withdraw the case and they finally relented, allowing the arrested accused to be freed from prison after being incarcerated for over six months. “Our men were being threatened. We were under pressure from many landlords to settle the matter by accepting compensation,” said the woeful Durgah.

Amar Sindhu, owner of Cafe Khanabadosh and convener of the WAF, demanded that cases of rape and killing should either be tried by the ATC or by a separate court. “The delays in court processes and weaknesses in the prosecution compound the victim’s miseries,” he said.

There were other victims’ families at the event. They all appeared to have one thing in common; a victimised young girl or a woman searching for justice.




KARACHI:“Some lose heart after suffering defeat, but I don’t care whether I win or lose. The important thing is that I have challenged a feudal lord who has always ignored women, considering them lesser mortals,” said Fatima Majeed, a fisherwoman who has challenged Jan AlamJamote, a feudal of Ibrahim Hyderi, in the upcoming local government elections.

The influence of the Jamote family in the coastal villages of Karachi can be gauged from the fact that even men would think twice before talking against them.

The plight of women, injustice and lack of education has compelled 36-year-old Fatima to contest the elections against Jamote, a former mayor of Bin Qasim Town, whose family has always won the provincial assembly and local bodies elections from the area. “They have always won the polls from Ibrahim Hyderi, the biggest settlement of fishermen, but don’t even heed to the basic problems of its citizens,” lamented Fatima, pointing towards women carrying heavy cauldrons of water on their heads. “Look at these women. I have a dream that these women and young girls should stop fetching potable water in pots and use portable vessels instead.”

Fatima, who is the vice-chairperson of the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF), a representative organisation of fishermen in Pakistan, started her career as a social worker after completing her college education. Her father, MajeedMotani, a fisherman who was arrested by the Indian Maritime Security Agency in 1988, is her main source of inspiration.

Fatima is said to be the first woman of Malir, and even the costal belt of Karachi, to be contesting the election for the slot of union council (UC) chairperson from the Ibrahim Hyderi UC that falls in the Karachi district council. The latter comprises 38 UCs of Malir and district West. “Though we work hard through the platform of the PFF to bring change, there are a lot of problems that can only be addressed through mainstream politics, which is why I have stood up and challenged the bigwigs,” she said, adding that there can be no better task than to fight injustice. “These landlords have always won the MPA, MNA and district council chairperson seats from our area but have done nothing for us. One should take bold decisions, which is why I have challenged them,” she said.

In view of her popularity among the fishermen, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has allotted her a party ticket to contest the polls against the Jamote Panel. “My father has always won the councilor’s seat from here and the majority of the people in our community have encouraged me,” she said.

Fatima’s family members still rely on fishing and many of them live on islands near Karachi. Her father said they used to spend ten months of the year on islands and would return to Ibrahim Hyderi only when there was a high tide, especially in the months of June and July. He said that the elected representatives of the coastal belt have always taken votes, promising to bring change in the social lives of fishermen, but all in vain. “They visit us only on the days in the run-up to the elections. Now we have decided to field our own candidates in the local bodies’ elections, instead of toeing the line of these landlords,” he said.




The writer is UN under-secretary-general and UN Women executive director.

WE have recently celebrated the peace deal struck between the government in Colombia and the main guerrilla group. The deal reached on justice issues represents the clearest sign yet of a possible end to five decades of conflict. Less is said about the multiple constructive ways in which Colombian women have participated in, and influenced, these negotiations or mobilised for peace, including the many meetings held by women survivors with the women in both negotiating teams.

Similarly, few people know that last year also saw the end of another decade-long conflict in the Philippines between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, in peace talks where more than a third of negotiators were women; far above the norm in official peace talks, which are typically either all-male affairs or include very few women. Their participation was built on a long history of women’s leadership at the local and national levels in the Philippines over the years, including under the leadership of two women presidents.

As tensions threaten Burundi’s fragile peace, Burundian women organized themselves in a nationwide network of women mediators to quell or mitigate the myriad local disputes and prevent escalation. In 129 municipalities across the country, they addressed, by their count, approximately 3,000 conflicts at the local level in 2015, including mediating between security forces and protesters, advocating for the release of demonstrators and political prisoners, promoting non-violence and dialogue among divided communities, and countering rumours and exaggerated fears with verifiable information to prevent widespread panic. UN Women has been proud to support these efforts.

These are not isolated stories. A comprehensive study prepared for the 15th anniversary of Security Council resolution 1325, a landmark resolution that recognised the role of gender equality and women’s leadership in international peace and security, makes the strongest case to date that gender equality improves our humanitarian assistance, strengthens the protection efforts of our peacekeepers, contributes to the conclusion of peace talks and the sustainability of peace agreements, and accelerates economic recovery after conflict.

It compiles growing evidence accumulated by academic researchers that demonstrates how peace negotiations influenced by women are much more likely to end in agreement and to endure. In fact, the chances of the agreement lasting 15 years goes up by as much as 35pc. Where conflict-affected communities target women’s empowerment they experience the most rapid economic recovery and poverty reduction and greatly improved broad humanitarian outcomes, not just for women and girls but for whole populations.

In a world where extremists place the subordination of women at the centre of their ideology and war tactics, the international community and the UN should place gender equality at the heart of its peace and security interventions. Beyond policies, declarations and aspirations, gender equality must drive our decisions about who we hire and on what we spend our money and time.

It is clear that we must strive for tangible changes for women affected by war and engage the grossly underused capacity of women to prevent those conflicts. Countries must do more to bring women to the peace table in all peace negotiations. Civil society and women’s movements have made extraordinary contributions to effective peace processes. We know that when civil society representatives are involved in peace agreements, the agreements are 64pc more likely to be successful and long-lasting. It is time to put a stop to the domination of peace processes by those who fight the wars while disqualifying those who stand for peace. It is time to stop the under-investment in gender equality. The percentage of aid to fragile states targeting gender equality as a main goal in peace and security interventions is only 2pc. Change requires bold steps, and it cannot happen without investment.

Now that time has come. On Sept 25, the countries of the UN adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which expresses determination to “ensure that all human beings can fulfil their potential in dignity and equality” and to “foster peaceful, just and inclusive societies that are free from fear and violence”. Two days later, 72 heads of state and government attended our Global Leader’s Meeting to underline top-level support for gender equality and commit to specific action. And today, the Security Council will celebrate the 15th anniversary of resolution 1325.

In a world so afflicted by conflict, extremism, and displacement, we cannot rely only on the ripples of hope sparked by the extraordinary acts of ordinary people. We need the full strength of our collective action and the political courage of the leaders of the international community. Anniversaries must count for more than the passing of years. They must be the moment for us to turn words into action.



The Express Tribune: October 14, 2015

MULTAN:A young woman set herself on fire on Tuesday to protest police’s refusal to register a case against her alleged rapists. The 20-year-old woman, *S, resident of DeenPur village in the impoverished Muzaffargarh district of Punjab, committed self-immolation in front of the city prison.

Relatives said the woman had gone to the house of a close relative, QayyumDasti, where she was allegedly gang-raped by Dasti and his friends.

The distraught woman approached the City prison to lodge a complaint but ASI Noor Hussain allegedly refused to register the case. Disillusioned by the apathetic attitude of the police, the woman doused herself with petrol and set herself on fire outside the police station.

Critically injured, the woman was rushed to the District Headquarters Hospital where medics said that she had received 80% burn injuries. She expired during the course of treatment.

The victim’s name has been changed to protect her identity




The attitude of law-enforcement agencies and those given the responsibility to uphold the criminal justice system is a major hindrance for women (and men) who want to come forward with complaints of sexual harassment and rape. Victims, no matter how courageous, instead either have to face apathy or judging gazes, adding to the insecurity already being felt — and are then pushed to do the unthinkable. The Punjab chief minister has offered monetary compensation to the girl’s family as well as a job for her brother. This system, while it may financially aid the girl’s family, has no bearing in serving justice. One hopes fervently that the anti-rape Bill will one day help not only in taking to task the perpetrators in this particular case, but also the police officers responsible for the victim’s suicide. In a society where even parents end up exhorting their children to keep silent on matters of sexual harassment for the ‘sanctity’ and ‘reputation’ of the family, the role of the police and other keepers of justice becomes even more paramount for helping survivors.




LAHORE: As many as 43 women and 102 non-Muslim candidates in Lahore are contesting local government polls on general seats, according to data released by the Election commission of Pakistan regarding the elections scheduled for October 31.

More than 7,000 candidates are in the field for chairman, vice chairman and general councillor in 274 union councils across Lahore. As many as 124 women will contest the elections in 12 districts where the polls are being held in the first phase. Out of these, 15 are in the race for chairman, seven for vice chairman and 102 for general councillor.

Most of the women candidates in the province are running from Lahore. Seven of them are vying for chairman, three for vice chairman and 33 for councillor. In Faisalabad, five women are candidates for chairman, four for vice chairman and 20 for councillor. There are no woman candidate from Lodhran and Bhakkar. “Women are not considered serious candidates… still many are willing to take up the challenge,” says MPA AzmaZahidBukhari. She says the low number of women candidates contesting on general seats is indicative of political parties’ priorities. “Political parties are to blame for this. There is no constitutional bar on women contesting elections to general seats,” says Bukhari.

“If the parties sincerely wanted greater women participation in mainstream politics, they would have fielded more women candidates for these seats.”

“Women are often sidelined,” says Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf MPA Nausheen Hamid. She says there is an impression that they would not win general seats. “Merit cannot be ignored but women are usually limited to seats reserved for them.” Hamid says the PTI encouraged women participation in the elections. Three women are contesting for chairman and vice chairman seats in Lahore on the PTI’s platform, she says.

As many as 204 non-Muslim candidates are in the race in the first phase of the polling. Of them, 18 are vying for chairman, 30 for vice chairman and 156 for councillor seats. Most of such candidates are in Lahore, followed by Faisalabad, Kasur, Vehari and Nankana Sahib. No non-Muslim candidate is contesting a general seat in Gujrat, Chakwal, Bhakkar and Okara.

Of the 102 non-Muslim candidates in Lahore, 78 are candidates for councillor and 12 for chairman and vice chairman.

Parliamentary Secretary for Minorities Affairs and Human Rights Tariq Masih Gill says minority communities are unhappy with their lack of adequate representation. “Minority communities want to be treated as equal citizens… there is a sense of confusion regarding how to go about it,” he says. In the case of the Christian community, he says there is confusion within the clergy on whether to demand inclusive elections or separate electorates.

MPA ShanilaRuth who opposed a recent amendment to the local government law providing for indirect election to reserved seats, said the legislation aimed at marginalising the already marginalised. “The problem is that your fate in terms of representation lies in the hands of someone else.” Regarding participation of non-Muslims on general seat elections, she says party tickets were mostly awarded in areas where non-Muslims were in majority. “Bahar Colony and Youhanabad are some of the areas where a number of non-Muslim candidates are contesting for general seats.”

“It is logical to award non-Muslims tickets in areas where they are in a majority,” she says. Contesting general seats in Muslim majority areas remains a challenge, she says.




A large number of the activists assembled outside the press club here on Saturday to protest against the kidnapping. Holding banners and placards, the protesters shouted slogans against the kidnapping and for the recovery of the girls who hailed from Awaran district.

The girls were kidnapped from outside their home in Bhangoria Goth in Karachi’s Azizabad area.

According to reports, the girls have been taken to Shikarpur where they are allegedly in the custody of an influential landlord.

Addressing the protesters, JamilaBaloch of the Balochistan National Party condemned the kidnapping and called upon political parties and rights organisations to raise their voice against it.

JavedBaloch, a students’ leader, accused the Sindh government of doing little in recovery of the girls.

Advocate Sabira Islam said the girls belonged to a poor family.

The speakers called upon the chief justice of Supreme Court to take suomotu notice of the kidnapping.

Sami Zarkoon, organiser of Civil Society Balochistan, also spoke.




ISLAMABAD: As many as 98 per cent of the cases filed by acid attack victims are never decided due to existence of various loopholes in the law. All the stakeholders, including police and medical professionals, should be trained and awareness should be increased within the public to ensure the implementation of the law.

This was stated by legal expert AftabAlam during a consultation to brainstorm the possible ways to combat acid violence organised by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) on Saturday.

The event was held to get recommendations for an HRCP report.

MrAlam said the Criminal Law Amendment Act 2011 only acknowledged that acid throwing is a crime.

“There are three important stages, after the crime, which have to be addressed: crime reporting, investigation and prosecution,” he said.

Officers are not specially trained to investigate such cases

He said that typically, one investigation officer had many cases going on at once. Besides these officers are not specialised to investigate cases of acid violence, which is why the investigation process has to be modernised.

“Medico-legal reports play an important role in the investigation, but sometimes acid victims reach the hospital very late and at times the cases are not reported at all,” he said.

MrAlam cited the example of India, where the state pays compensation to an acid attack victim, and said that compensation should be part of the law since the victims suffer from the impact of the attack for the rest of their lives. He said the compensation should be equal to that given to a victim of terrorism.

“In addition, witness protection laws should be made because witnesses are under threat. In the Wali Khan Babar case, a journalist, witnesses and even the investigation officer were killed,” he said.

He suggested that the capacity of all the relevant offices should be enhanced.

Centre for Civic Education head Zafraullah Khan, who was the moderator of the session, said that it was the state’s responsibility to provide security to every individual, and therefore compensation should be given to acid violence victims.

“There is a disparity in facilities, which should be provided in remote areas. Moreover, there are federal and provincial laws, but the sale of acid is purely a district-level issue, so there should be a good, strong district government system,” he said.

Punjab representative DrHumayunTanveer said that the capacity building of medico-legal officers (MLOs) was very important.

“In some areas, women MLOs are not available due to which the bodies of deceased women are shifted from one city to another for the postmortem. A separate burn victim assessment form should be created, and doctors should begin medical treatment immediately instead of waiting for the police report,” he said.

DrYahya Ahmed said the police should respond positively to victims of acid violence, and that evidence should be collected properly.

“Unfortunately, it has been observed that even relatives of the victim try to hide the incident because there is a general impression in society that the victim must be guilty,” he said.

A group leader, SumairaAshfaq, said women should play a role in raising awareness and that victims of acid violence should be documented.

“We have to admit that acid violence is a big issue in society,” she said.

DrAnila Khan said that there should be counseling for acid attack victims, because while they believe they will be able to recover fully post surgery, this is not always possible.

Between 150 and 400 cases of acid attacks are reported in Pakistan every year. As many as 80 per cent of the victims are women, and almost 70 per cent are below 18. Such attacks are not used to kill the victim but to cause disfigurement, and can often cause blindness, hearing loss and

physical and mental pain.




KARACHI: War is a phenomenon attributed to men and a woman’s role is usually overshadowed by the massive show of gallantry by her male counterpart.

This is one of the motifs that Svetlana Alexievich —  the Belarusian writer who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in Literature for the year 2015 —  has explored through her work. Her first book, War’s Unwomanly Face, published in 1983, is one such platform where the role played by women in wars is emphasised. Alexievich interviewed over 200 women to chronicle the Soviet war, and spent four long years working on the book, visiting over 100 cities and towns, settlements and villages to record the stories and reminiscences of women war veterans.

These women spoke of how they had dreamt of becoming brides but became soldiers instead and fought on the frontline in the Second World War. More than 500,000 Soviet women participated in what has been deemed as the most gruesome war of the 20th century. “Women not only rescued and bandaged the wounded but also fired a sniper’s rifle, blew up bridges, went reconnoitering and killed… They killed the enemy who, with unprecedented cruelty, had attacked their land, their homes and their children,” reads the book’s prologue.

However, do not mistake Alexievich’s work as just a record of the role played by women in wars. Her work is a perfect amalgam of the perils of war and its effects on everyone, be it a child or a man fighting the war on the frontline. She humanises something that everyone has detached themselves from. That is an attribute I hold the nearest to myself, as the true face of war is hidden behind the victor, the fighter and the economical jargon.

War’s psychological aspects are hardly ever discussed in the news. And that is what the Belarusian writer discusses in her books. The Swedish Academy, announcing her win, praised Alexievich’s “polyphonic writings”, describing them as a “monument to suffering and courage in our time”. She is the 14th woman to win the prize since it was first awarded in 1901. She is also the first journalist to win the award.

Building on the momentum of her recent win, the Belarusian Minister for Education Mikhail Zhuravkov announced that Alexievich’s work will be making a comeback to Belarusian curriculum. It would be made mandatory for students in 10th and 11th grade to read Alexievich’s work. However, he said that it would be “inappropriate” for elementary school students to study such “heavy” literature.

But whatever the case, hats off to Zhuravkov for including such an important piece of the past in the school cirriculum. Alexievich’s work had disappeared from the compulsory Belarusian curriculum in the early 2000s. Now that it is back, students will have a fair chance at learning about the true face of war — the ugly face that wrecks people’s hearts that nobody wants to talk about.

WAF Hyderabad is inducting women workers and activists onto its forum to fuse the ideological politics with the energy and skills of the millennial activists towards a stronger overarching women’s protest movement

Protest used to be simpler in the 1980s and 1990s. The practice of taking to the streets to promote causes, demand justice and reclaim public spaces was an expression of the people’s dissent against the state. Positions were sharp, slogans and groups were ideological and strategies were pre-planned. The measurement of success depended on how many activists would end up in jail rather than the size of the protest or how many pictures get posted on Facebook.

In the new millennium, the state remains the target of protest but it has steadily outsourced so much of its oppressive powers that it no longer seems to have a core. These colluders of/by the state are themselves further so fragmented, that it has become challenging for protesters to even find the head or tail of this Hydra.

Today, the source of oppression may be a state-sponsored religious outfit, a Jirga headed by a member of parliament, an intelligence agency, a toxic waste spilling industry founded by a capitalist-minister, a sexist member of the Council of Islamic Ideology or, a hyper-nationalist, bigoted, embedded TV anchor. In knee-jerk and perplexing fashion though, protesters from the left to right spectrum still seem to end up at the usual venue of local press clubs.

This is because once upon a time, the media used to be an ideological player. But we forget that now the media is completely market-driven, politically homogenous and a social consumer product. Most of today’s media heads believe that the dumbing down of ideas and opinions into digestible sound-bites is a virtue. Moreover, the fourth estate or pillar that used to serve as a means of amplifying issues and dissent has crumbled into little pebbles in the interactive media age. This has encouraged a new generation of self-defined citizen journalists and venting protesters whose careers are born, bred and blogged in a virtual medium — cyberspace.

This shift has affected the identities of political collectives in Pakistan. We seem to have made a transition — from collectivist politics of ‘the people’ to a more contained, ‘civil society’ to an undefined and individualistic, blogosphere — and we have done so without questioning its effects. One clear impact of the discontents that have come with this shift can be seen in the way it has affected the main debates and issues regarding women’s movements around the world but in Pakistan, too.

At a time when Women’s Action Forum Pakistan was running out of energy and members earlier in this decade, a new chapter was founded in Hyderabad under the activist-scholars and poet-writers, Amar Sindhu and ArfanaMallah. WAF’s policy has been to focus on its collectivism rather than male-defined hierarchal politics or ego-tripping leadership issues and so, it remains a fluid, office-less forum with no chosen leader.

Hyderabad WAF has managed to mobilise women and men across many cities in Sindh to join one of its secular causes of protesting and assisting in cases of violence against women particularly, in its expression through honor-based crimes. The political methodology and message of their campaign and approach to cases is class-based and feminist. Social media is not a substitute but simply one small cog in their activist efforts.

In this regard, last week, WAF Hyderabad held a rally to highlight the cause of victims of Karo-Kari and other forms of violence. Many political parties’ representatives (with a bias of left and nationalist ones) participated, as well as members of the Karachi chapter of WAF.

One of the advantages of these rallies is that these are opportunities not just for solidarity and cross-exchange of ideas and strategies and sharing the burden of cases and costs but also, for reflection. WAF Hyderabad shared some of its new strategies for its campaign.

Here are some from which we may learn. The preparations included actual sewing of the banners and flags by supporters in the build up of campaign momentum. The activists mobilised people in communities and neighbourhoods by driving on a rented van and broadcasting their planned rally, rather than relying on invitation letters or social media only.

This methodology of inclusiveness and involvement is crucial in protest politics rather than the new age protests of ‘walking for a cause’ and taking lots of selfies. There were almost an equal amount of men to women in the preparations and actual rally. These young men were not voyeurs but actively organising the male contingency that followed behind the women participants of the rally as it led through the city of Hyderabad. Women led the march and called the slogans and these were all in Sindhi. None of the male political leaders played anything but a supportive role in carrying the banners in the march.

The protest march was not a token 20-minute stroll — it was a two-hour and fifteen minute trek through the city. Each representative spoke for an equal amount of exactly 2 minutes when the rally congregated at the Press Club. The women were young and old, mixed in terms of class background and there were no victims presented as tokens.

In critical retrospect, despite the vibrancy and diversity of the well-organised event and its heavily political symbolism, the target of our protest remains undefined. Our urban jungles today prioritise commuter convenience rather than expression of rights. This means, police and administrative permissions marginalise rallies down to orderly conduct rather than spontaneous public protest.

After the massacre of the APS schoolchildren in Peshawar by the Taliban, instead of the press club, WAF Karachi held protests outside the offices of those religious parties that did not clearly condemn the Taliban. WAF called on them to clarify their support or severance from the militants’ jihadism. This evoked a far more direct engagement and was effective in getting a response — even if it was the usual false accusation that WAF was an American-sponsored imperialist feminist organisation misleading the women of Pakistan and that it should be ignored. But the protest aimed to pressurise and confront one source that feeds the conflict narrative.

The other lesson is that the creeping distance between theory and activism has grown wide. A rally is different from a protest, sure. But, it was an opportunity to link the message that all forms of violence against women have a foundational connection. The state is a main protagonist and accountable and the legal system is answerable and responsible in these cases, certainly. But given that there has been so much academic interest and findings by (repeat and replicated) donor-led research studies on the subject, there could have been more substance to educate participants.

Understanding the political economy of honour crimes, its links with property and ownership, marriage and community ties may help us target our activism beyond legislative reform. Creative ways to break the codes of honour or get communities to redefine these, need to be formulated urgently instead of waiting for justice from the state. The Punjab CM may visit victims too late but Sindh’s is under no pressure to do even that.

Interesting international debates have taken place on crimes of violence that continue to hold victims responsible for their own brutalisation. Some women’s movements have responded by subverting this shaming and blaming of women for their wardrobe or behaviour, by displaying their sexuality more overtly and rejecting modest dressing (SlutWalk movements). Others have criticised this as the ‘pornification of protest’ or, the overuse of spectacle instead of focusing on the substance and political message.

Sadly, rather than engaging with these kind of gaps, examples and opportunities to radicalise our efforts, feminist protest politics in Pakistan is still only being criticised for the tired, jaded and nearly always, misplaced accusations of it being Westoxified and imperialist or bourgeois. Unfortunately, the source of criticism is no longer just the Islamists but often found through social media-based observations and in long-distance “analysis”.

Meanwhile, WAF Hyderabad is inducting women workers and activists onto its forum and WAF Karachi is collaborating with young media activists as part of its revitalisation. The idea is to fuse the ideological politics that define WAF’s foundational activism with the energy and skills of the millennial activists towards a stronger overarching women’s protest movement. The alternative is the risk that activism will simply be reduced to being judged by appearance, defined by ‘likes’ and emoticons and eventually, falling into some virtual ideological abyss.




COLOMBO: The Maldives’ highest court has overturned an unprecedented sentence of death by stoning for a woman convicted of adultery, a crime in the Muslim island nation, media reports said Monday.

The woman, identified by local media as a mother of five, was convicted by a local judge on a remote island in the Maldives, a popular tourist destination that has seen a rise in extremism.

The Haveeru news site said the woman had confessed to the crime after giving birth on the remote equatorial islet of Gemanafushi, about 400 kilometres (250 miles) south of the capital Male.

The Supreme Court annulled the case on Sunday night, ruling that the judge had failed to consider the legal as well as Islamic procedures of the nation of 340,000 Sunni Muslims, the Maldives Independent website said.

The Maldives, a popular Indian Ocean honeymoon destination, observes elements of Islamic Sharia law as well as English common law.

Sex outside marriage is against the law in the Maldives, although the ban does not apply to tourists visiting the upmarket holiday destination.

The sentence was unusually harsh even for the Maldives, which has frequently sentenced those convicted of extramarital sex to public flogging.

However, the country is not known to have carried out the death penalty.

The UN Human Rights Council has repeatedly asked the Indian Ocean atoll nation to end the practice of flogging women convicted of sex outside marriage.

In 2013, the government intervened to overturn the conviction of a 15-year-old rape victim sentenced to 100 lashes for pre-marital sex after an international outcry.

The girl had been repeatedly raped by her own father, who was later charged along with her 29-year-old lover, who was given 10 years in jail.

The sentence of death by stoning is the latest blow to the international reputation of the atoll nation, which has been in the grip of political unrest since the toppling of its first democratically elected leader, Mohamed Nasheed.

The former president was jailed for 13 years in March after being convicted under the country’s terrorism laws for ordering the arrest of an allegedly corrupt judge in 2012.

The UN has said his rushed trial earlier this year was seriously flawed and a UN panel has ordered his immediate release along with compensation, but the government of President Abdulla Yameen has refused to comply.




Karachi More than 50 percent of the Pakistani population comprises females, but the majority of them have become isolated due to lack of education and social vision.

“They are the neglected segment of society and it is direly needed to provide them education and vocational training,” said Professor DrNasreenAslam Shah, chairperson of the Department of Social Work, University of Karachi, on Monday. She said the Pakistani woman should be equipped with state-of-the-art facilities so that they could take part in strengthening the country’s economy and performing social responsibilities.

“The authorities must establish training centres in every district of Karachi to train and educate woman so that they can open home industries which would bring economic prosperity and confidence in their lives.”

Shah, who is also the director of the Center of Excellence for Women, KU, was addressing a lecture entitled “Need and Significance of Social Research in Karachi” in the KU.

Dr Shah said women in the rural areas were deprived of basic necessities, and claimed that there were no healthcare centres and schools, posing big challenges of harassment and other issues to the women.




Rafia Zakaria

The writer is an attorney teaching constitutional law and political philosophy.

LAST Thursday, the Indian Air Force (IAF) announced it would allow female fighter pilots within its ranks. “Women fighter pilots will soon touch the skies with glory,” announced the Times of India triumphantly. Other Indian newspapers waxed lyrical too, some noting that around 3,000 women are already in the IAF but had not previously been allowed combat roles. By June 2017, however, all of this is going to change, when the first batch of female fighter pilots currently training at the IAF Academy will graduate.

Pakistan welcomed its own first female fighter pilot, Ayesha Farooq, with similar praise a bit over a year ago. At 26, Farooq became one of 19 female fighter pilots who have qualified over the past decade in the country, and over 30 are currently under training in the Pakistan Air Force.

In one interview, she confessed that the training facilities where she usually trained often did not even have bathrooms for women. It is undoubted that she, and other Pakistani women in the military, just like the Indian women who will now become fighter pilots, have broken many gender barriers. In doing so, they are acclaimed for having survived and thrived in a patriarchal and male-dominated environment. In being ready to fight and die for the nation, it seems they have transcended their more problematic reality: the fact that they are women.

This last statement is a controversial one; Indians and Pakistanis (and Americans and everyone else all over the world) pretend that the incorporation of women into militaries is a significant inroad into breaking gender barriers and into the achievement of equality in general. Even as the Indians were rejoicing at their own gender breakthrough, the American news website The Daily Beast published the profile of a female drone pilot. Boastfully entitled ‘She kills people from 7,800 miles away’, it tells the story of a Las Vegas-based drone pilot whose daily tasks include unleashing remote-controlled catastrophe on nameless, faceless others thousands of miles away.

A female fighter pilot, or drone pilot, is a clever ploy to disguise the fact that most women are far from equal.

Like many such profiles of fighting women, the piece emphasised this lethal woman’s femininity, its second sentence reading, “She pulled her chestnut hair into a bun”. Pakistani profiles of pilots have similarly made note of “olive-coloured hijabs”. The idea beneath all of them is simple: the feminine can be transformed into the powerful by the addition of bombs, fighter jets or remote-controlled drones. The addition of these instruments of destruction, then, is removed from the killing that they cause and seen as a prescription for empowerment.

Underneath the celebration of women as killers in this or that military is, therefore, this premise: that becoming equal in waging war somehow signifies recognition of female equality in general. Nothing, of course, could be farther from the truth, whether the place being spoken of is the US, India or Pakistan. Even while the greatness of newly anointed female soldiers, drone pilots or fighter pilots is being feted by media outlets high on nationalistic fervour, the status of women in the countries for which women are now fighting continues to plummet.

Recently, the Wall Street Journal reported that men’s earnings in the US were growing at twice the rate of women’s earnings. Women working full-time in that country were, according to the latest statistics issued by the US Labour Department, 81 cents to every dollar earned by a man. The figure, which is an improvement over previous decades, is rarely juxtaposed against the gushing praise awarded to women in the military.

The reason is simple: a female fighter pilot, or drone pilot, is a convenient figurehead, a clever ploy to disguise the fact that most women, the large majority of women, are very, very far from being equal. The lie works in the US; it works even better in India or in Pakistan. Everyone is clapping so hard for the female fighter pilots that all the rest of the state’s inaction on women’s issues — from wage equality, to legal equality, to law-enforcement training for assault, to preventing trafficking — is conveniently pushed aside.

Let’s all be happy for the winners, the women who have endorsed the state’s rhetoric such that they have become instruments of its defence; after all, Indian men have been fighting Pakistani men for so long, the entrance of women into this game of perpetual hatreds could only be a good thing.

It is not, in fact, a good thing. Women and girls, in Pakistan or India or the United States, must be wary of a state that celebrates only those women who are willing to buy its positions on which violence is and is not justified.

The definition of an empowered Pakistani or Indian or American woman must not be reduced to a woman who is willing to kill, whether via remote control or fighter jets. Implicit in this definition of femininity is the exclusion of dissenting women, the premise that women who give life in a far more literal sense than men may disagree on the taking of lives.

The ‘inclusion’ of women in the killing machines at home and abroad can, if this last fact is considered, be a clever ruse of insisting that the dissenting woman, one who may not believe in the kinds of killing endorsed by a military, is an inadequate woman, never the heroine who is willing to kill.

Women in Pakistan, in any and all societies, should be vigilant about these clever sleights of hand by militaries or militant groups that seek to present definitions of empowerment that pivot in some crucial way on the willingness to take human lives. The grant of licences to kill via jets or drones, long available to men, may not be progress but further constriction, the sly silencing suggesting that the unwillingness to kill reflects a disinterest in gender equality or empowerment — a new sort of unworthiness and deficiency that can now be pinned on women who dare to disagree.




Dawn, October 25th, 2014

RAWALPINDI: The Holy Family Hospital has had a breast cancer clinic in Surgical Outdoor Patient Department (OPD) Unit 1.

Rawalpindi Medical College Principal and Allied Hospital Chief Executive Prof. Dr. Mohammad Umar inaugurated the Clinic on Friday.

Prof. Mohammad Idrees, Dr Jahangir Sarwar and other faculty members, students, nursing and paramedical staff were present on the occasion.

The RMC principal said in Asia Pakistan had the highest incidence of breast cancer. One in 8th women in Pakistan faces breast cancer during her life, he added.

“Breast cancer is the most common cancer in Pakistan as different studies show it kills nearly 40,000 women every year. According to World Health Organisation, breast cancer rates are getting worse and it is not sparing even younger age group,” he said.

“Women in the developing countries, like Pakistan tend to die at greater rates than in more developed countries because the disease is generally detected when it is in its advance stages,” he said.

Prof Bushra Ahmed said that in Pakistani society there were multiple factors associated with late detection of the disease.

HFH gets breast cancer clinic

One of them is social setup, where women are reluctant to undergo their medical checkup and expressing their medical issues. If women are being diagnosed with breast cancer, they don’t even share the news with their family members, he said.

Prof. Mohammad Idrees said Surgical Unit-1 was general surgery department in tertiary care hospital which was affiliated with Rawalpindi Medical College. It has a busy OPD, 24 hours emergency service along with a 60-bed indoor facility.

“We deal with a wide range of general surgery cases including significant number of patients with breast diseases,” he said.

“Keeping in view the increasing number of cases, we have established a breast clinic in the OPD which will provide the awareness regarding early detection of breast cancer, screening for breast cancer and treatment facilities for patients. Through this clinic we will be in a better position to collect reliable data regarding current situation of the disease in our society,” he said.

Prof. Fahmeeda said in our society it was considered immoral for women to go to the hospital for screenings and checkup or discuss the cancer even within their family. Most of the patients comes to hospital when the diseases is at advance stages. Initially patients ignore growing tumor in their breast.

“Many patients first go to a traditional healer and by the time they visit a reputable doctor, the disease becomes untreatable,” she said.

Dr Jahangir Sarwar said October is breast cancer awareness month internationally. We decided to celebrate it first time in Holy Family Hospital. This year our objective is to increase the awareness among general public regarding the importance of early detection.

“Our mission statement is Early Detection, Save Lives. He said that keeping in view poor outcome associated with late diagnosis of the disease, we want to help women by increasing awareness regarding early detection of breast cancer through our support services. We need to educate women about self-examination and the need to see a doctors if they feel a breast lump,” he said.

He said that breast cancer did not affect only a women but whole of the family bears the consequences in terms of social and financial impacts.


Breast cancer kills 40,000 women in Pakistan every year: experts

Dawn, October 28th, 2015

KARACHI: Experts at a seminar held on Tuesday to create awareness about the dangers of breast cancer warned that the number of deaths caused by the deadly disease was on the rise in Pakistan, with 83,000 such cases reported and around 40,000 women dying of it every year.

They said breast cancer was the most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second leading cancerous cause of death.

“In Pakistan, one in nine women will develop breast cancer at some stage of their life,” said DrIqbalAfridi, head of the department of psychiatry and behavioural science at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre. He shared this information at a seminar organised by the Pink Ribbon, Medionix, Sindh Maternal, Sindh Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (MNCH) programme and Jinnah Sindh Medical University (JSMU). It was held at the JSMU auditorium.

Pakistan, like the rest of the world, observes October as the breast cancer awareness month.

DrAfridi said one million women worldwide were diagnosed with breast cancer every year. In Pakistan, he added, “we do not have such a case registry at a national level.”

DrAfridi said several studies and reports suggested that among the Asian population, Pakistani women had the highest risk of breast cancer (after non-Arab Israeli women).

SughraParveen, a professor of surgery, reiterated that Pakistan’s breast cancer rate was the highest in Asia, “which claims 40,000 lives annually”.

The audience was informed that in breast cancer some cells begin to grow abnormally; they divide more rapidly than healthy cells and metastasise (spread) to other parts of the body.

Speaking about the cause of the disease, experts said the exact mechanism is still unknown, but it causes damage to the cell’s DNA.

At the seminar the signs and symptoms of breast cancer were discussed to raise awareness. Experts said that any change in how the breast or nipple felt, tenderness, rooted lump or thickening in or near the breast or underarm area were some of the symptoms to look out for. Also, a change would be visible in the skin texture or an enlargement of pores in the skin of the breast, or even discharge from the nipple — particularly clear or bloody discharge.

DrParveen said the disease manifested itself with a change in appearance — unexplained changes in the size or shape of the breast with dimpling. Besides, other symptoms included “unexplained swelling of the breast (especially if only on one side); unexplained shrinkage of the breast (especially if only on one side); nipple that is turned slightly inward or inverted and skin of the breast, areola, or nipple that becomes scaly, red, or swollen.”

Experts said the increase in the cases of breast cancer was also because most patients delayed getting help. They consider it against society’s norms to inform others about the disease, or delay seeking help due to psychological barriers. Most of such cases, experts believe, can prove fatal.

According to Pink Ribbon, having breast cancer in Pakistan, no matter what stage or severity it was of, carried with it a stigma. Furthermore, due to lack of awareness many women denied their condition and refused to go for any kind of breast examination.

Senator DrKarimKhwaja in his keynote speech said awareness about breast cancer should be effectively created across the country and that he would also present proposals in the senate to carry forward the task.

Prof Afridi said many people were influenced by certain misconceptions about breast cancer, which deteriorated the patient’s condition and entrapped her with additional psychological disorders.

He said the disease was not just being witnessed among elderly women, but it was increasingly affecting younger women despite the fact that 80 per cent of the patients’ families had no history of breast cancer.

Surgeon RufinaSoomro said the risk for breast cancer increased with age as approximately 77pc of women with breast cancer were over the age of 50 at the time of diagnosis.

According to the data compiled by Pink Ribbon, Pakistan has the highest rate of breast cancer in Asia.

JSMU vice chancellor, Prof Tariq Rafi, director, MNCH, DrSahibjanBadar, Prof NailaZaheer and Dr Mohammad Ali Memon also spoke at the seminar.



Dawn, October 30th, 2015

THE Tehreek-i-Niswan and SheemaKermani have always been at the forefront when matters of peace are at stake. Many performances by the Tehreek have been directed at protesting the brutality of violence against and oppression of women. Hence it was quite in keeping with its character that the group convened a ‘peace table’ on Oct 15, at the Karachi Arts Council. Here hundreds of women and also men assembled to reinforce the widely held, but unimplemented, belief that female involvement in peacemaking improves the chances of lasting security.

A landmark resolution (1325) was adopted by the UN Security Council 15 years ago calling for women to be included in decision-making positions at every level of peacemaking. It has so far made a nominal impact. The head of UN Women, PhumzileMlambo-Ngcuka, admits that globally “women’s participation at peace tables is still symbolic or low”.

Hence the global campaign to boost Resolution 1325 that was initiated last year by a Philippine women’s group should be welcomed as it will hopefully create more awareness. We need to recognise the significant role women can play not only in promoting peace but also in bringing peace in times of conflict.

A ‘critical mass’ of female presence must be in government.

‘Peace tables’, as these conferences were dubbed, were organised on the same day in 11 countries to create a strong and informed public opinion. More are expected to join later. It is a matter of satisfaction that a section of our women are conscientized enough to take the lead on peace issues and demand inclusion in peace negotiations when they are calculatedly sidelined.

It is generally said that women are excluded from peace processes because of the absence of political will, lack of financing and accountability and because of patriarchal attitudes. All these factors apply in Pakistan’s case as well where no woman is generally included in peace talks. But there is an additional factor that Sheema decided to focus on, namely the very low status of women in Pakistan.

The peace table held sessions on education, women’s economic empowerment, violence against women and women’s participation in politics. The fact is that women who are not empowered in these terms cannot be peacemakers at any level.

In some cases, women who have been victims of violence and rape ultimately emerge as stronger persons and their strength enables them to play a positive role in crisis situations. But we also know that such women are an exception and to make their courage and character the norm there is the need to empower women generally.

Similarly, a woman who has been denied education can hardly ever hope to create public space for herself and develop the skills to make herself economically independent and assertive.

Eventually, what emerged from the peace table, as pointed out by political and social activist SalehaAthar, was that the role women play in politics determines their effectiveness as peacemakers. Saleha was spot on when she said that the awam were not involved/interested in decisions taken by political leaders to serve the interest of the capitalist class with which leaders were hand in glove.

In this scheme of things, women are disadvantaged on three fronts. They are pushed against the wall by patriarchy, the class divide and religion. The few who manage to reach the higher ranks of leadership — Benazir Bhutto was specifically mentioned — are not free to work for women’s rights especially when there is a clash with capitalist-vested interests.

This has been a global problem. Women in a minority in government have had to submit to the male interest for their political survival. They have had to act like men. For change to be effected it is important that a ‘critical mass’ of female presence be created to initiate and then to sustain collective action of a distinct kind to protect women’s interests.

After so many years of feminism, one would have thought the entry of even a handful of women in any institution should have given them the elbow room to open the doors of opportunity for many more. This should not have been impossible given the spread of education among a cross-section of women without compromising on merit.

Regrettably, this has not happened thanks to the dynamics of the class divide and the religious forces that SalehaAthar talked about at the peace table. The gender factor has been overtaken by class considerations and religiosity. Without the critical mass of women, the change one had hoped for has not materialised in politics.

Without the emergence of women in politics in sufficient numbers UN Security Council Resolution 1325 remains on paper only. As two delegates to a conference in New York — one from Libya and the other from Syria — sarcastically observed, the only qualification a participant needed to be included in a peace conference was to be the wielder of a gun. And women generally didn’t carry one.



The Express Tribune, November 2nd, 2015.

We are told that activists of the IslamiJamiatTalba (IJT) attacked some girls at Karachi University for the crime of playing cricket on the university campus while they were waiting for their transport to take them home.

KU Student Advisor Prof DrAnsarRizvi told the media that he “rushed to the spot” along with KU Security Advisor Dr Muhammad Zubair and shifted one student to the varsity clinic for first aid after the clash.

He said the students, who were from different departments, were playing cricket near the van stop along with their male classmates. The IJT workers showed up and demanded that they stop. The boys then questioned the identity of the IJT workers, leading to an exchange of heated words.

“They beat up the boys who argued with them and injured one of them,” Prof Rizvi said, adding, “We rushed the injured boy to the varsity clinic where he disclosed that some girls were also injured in this attack. It was then that the advisor rushed back to the spot with an ambulance and asked the mob that had gathered about the girls.

In the meanwhile, Sindh Rangers Major Ali, along with his team, reached the place and took the four IJT workers in his custody. However, the arrested workers were released by the Rangers after half an hour.

This is not the first time that the IJT has tried to bully and harass students at different campuses. Who can forget how acid was thrown on female students who dared to come to campus wearing sleeveless clothes in the 80’s and 90’s.

Student groups, whether the IJT or the APMSO, or the PSF or others on different campuses across the country have bullied, harassed and dared the university administrations time and again. Teachers have been kidnapped, students have been held hostage by different student groups. And yet the university administration as well as the Rangers, have repeatedly left them off the hook.

Now compare this with another decision taken by the University of Karachi (KU) which cancelled the admission of a student of Public Administration department, accusing him of ‘damaging’ the prestige and reputation of the institution.

Although the university did not mention the reason which led to the rustication of student, it was told that Araib Khan was expelled for inviting model Ayyan Ali to the university. The registrar of university, Dr. Moazzam Ali Khan, issued a notification in this regard.

Spokesperson for the university, M Farooq, said that the administration had earlier issued a show cause notice to Araib Khan but he failed to submit a satisfactory reply after which the decision was taken to cancel his admission.

He further informed that university has banned the entry of a former student Abdullah RizwanShaikh on university premises, since he was also found guilty of damaging the institution’s reputation. Both the students will not be allowed to take admissions in any course or department of KU in future.

There was much talk on social media and news channels when photos of supermodel and singer Ayyan Ali emerged after her visit to the Department of Public Administration.

As the chief guest, she was invited to inaugurate a fast food joint, a venture of Araib Khan and Abdullah Rizwan Sheikh, students of the DPA, who intended to donate a certain part of the revenue generated to the disabled.

Khan completed his Master’s in Public Administration from KU with a grade-point average of 3.56. He was enrolled in a diploma programme in supply chain management when he was expelled.

Khan shed some light on his campaign for which he had invited a series of celebrities as guest speakers. ‘Chips and Dips’ was a venture that he started with his friends to support disabled persons. They sought the department’s permission to carry out their campaign in the department and raise money for the cause, he said.

One cannot understand the double standards of the university. Those who use force are let off while those who make a mistake in the eyes of the administration are punished.

How long will we continue to be held hostage to the whims of thugs who pose as student groups? Instead of letting them off, the students who attacked the girls playing cricket should have been rusticated and FIRs registered against them.


The Express Tribune, November 2nd, 2015.

Changing trends in politics and governance, technology use, economics, and availability of natural resources pose serious obstacles to the future of many livelihoods. These changes impact the availability of assets and opportunities to transform those assets into a living. Chambers and Conway describe a livelihood as something that comprises the capabilities, assets and activities required for a means of living. A livelihood is sustainable when it can cope with and recover from stress and shocks and maintain or enhance its capabilities and assets, both now and in the future, while not undermining the natural resource base.

The concept of alternative livelihoods, when taken within the context of coastal communities, applies when coastal natural resources come under increasing pressure and current use patterns are no longer sustainable. Alternative livelihoods therefore can be considered to exist outside the traditional or established activities for coastal communities.

Climate change, among other things, is affecting the resources and has added many social and environmental burdens on already stressed communities. With increased frequency of extreme weather events, livelihoods of coastal communities are now at a much greater risk. The Karachi coast is dotted with coastal communities that are at high levels of vulnerability when it comes to both their exposure and capacity constraints in meeting with the consequences of coastal hazards. Their livelihoods, based almost solely on fishing-related activities, are already paying diminishing dividends and exposure to a sudden and extreme weather event is likely to make things much worse.

When it comes to assessing livelihood vulnerabilities, the poor are the most dependent on natural resources and, therefore, the most severely affected when their access to natural resources is limited or denied. It is not just their economic activities that are tied to this access; their capacity to engage in economic activities can be affected by resource degradation. Disaster affected populations have identified livelihoods as their greatest recovery priority. New, more comprehensive assessment tools have been developed to better understand livelihood needs and guide disaster livelihoods work.

In this case, the vulnerability data on communities at risk is missing. There is an urgent need to collate secondary data on the environment, socio-economics and household studies, while at the same time initiating a drive to collect primary data. Whenever mechanisms have to be developed for facilitating sustainable alternative livelihoods, stakeholders need to be adequately identified and roles sanctioned, while at the same time identifying external influences that affect communities.

When it comes to identifying stakeholders, a neglected area for consideration is women empowerment. It is now established that women play a significant role in the socio-economic well-being of their families and communities. In this case, however, women face numerous challenges because of their restricted mobility due to patriarchal and feudal social set ups. There is a need to enhance the productive capacity of local women within our coastal communities, in skills such as traditional craft making, baking, better stewardship and preservation of natural resources, without challenging their cultural values.

This can be done by providing them technical and vocational training and, at the same time, instituting a system in which their products are marketed. Such measures would not only create a buffer to sustain the economic shock of a disaster but also supplement family incomes.

Women in fishing communities are already mobilised in assisting in the activities related with the fishing trade. However, the fishing sector as a whole is faced with an ongoing crisis and the contribution of the womenfolk does not deliver the dividends that are worth the time and effort put in, while compromising on health. Such diversification can potentially improve family incomes, lead to better health and education for the entire family and serve as a sustainable financial coping mechanism when faced with a natural calamity.



LAHORE: A large number of women working in informal settings face health problems resulting from work, participants of a seminar held to launch the Global Week of Action for Safer Workplace said.

Dozens of home-based workers and rights activists attended the event held at the Lahore Press Club.

Ume LailaAzhar, the HomeNet Pakistan executive director, said that the government should take up legislation on occupational health and safety policy for home-based workers at the next session of the assembly.

“The government has notified the Provincial Occupational Safety and Health Council. It now needs to take proactive action with regard to the protection of women working in various sectors,” she said.

Referring to a study on social protection and vulnerability of home-based workers in South Asia, she said that the general state of health of women in the informal sector was dismal. “They suffer from various medical conditions. Around 62 per cent of the aliments last for over two years. The study looked at the condition of HBWs in Lahore and Karachi along with other South Asian cities,” she said.

Azra Shad from Women Workers’ Helpline said that in progressive societies women had excelled in every walk of life. “The achievement is due to certain attitudes relating to the treatment of women in the workplace,” she said.

She said that due to adverse circumstances, a large number of women having education skills were reluctant to work or do business in Pakistan.

AimaMehmud from the Women Workers’ Union discussed the issue of sexual harassment at workplace. She said women-friendly laws were required to make the environment more conducive to women.

Women workers from several sectors highlighted issues related to conditions at their workplaces. They said they suffered from hypertension, stress and diseases due to a weak immune system, TB, hepatitis B and C due to exposure to dangerous chemicals during their work.