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  #1601  
Old Thursday, April 18, 2019
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Default The fight for human rights

The fight for human rights


THE July 2018 general elections ushered in a new political party to power and with it — for many — the hope of a ‘new Pakistan’ that championed ‘justice’ above all else.

However, the noise created around the elections and in the months leading up to it led to the abandonment of other serious issues that were overshadowed by politicking, horrific bouts of violence, and the various controversies that ensued following the announcement of the results.

In its recently released annual State of Human Rights report, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan finds that the state of human rights deteriorated during the election year, as essential rights were trampled upon or ignored in the rush to power.

The advocacy group listed all the human rights violations that plagued the country in 2018, beginning with a clampdown on the press that holds power to account.

Other issues highlighted included the enforced disappearances of people; the alleged extrajudicial killings by law enforcement; the large backlog of cases and prisoners’ rights ignored, along with the prevalence of torture; the rampant violence against women and crimes committed in the name of ‘honour’; the sexual abuse and murder of children; child labour and the violation of labour rights; the ill-treatment and murder of transgender people; and the religious intolerance, discrimination and persecution faced by religious minorities.

It is worth remembering that most of these violations concerning the rights and dignity of individuals and marginalised groups precede this government, and indeed previous governments, as they are deeply embedded malaises in our society.

While noting the gains made by parliamentarians in pushing progressive legislation, the fact is that mindsets do not change easily and implementation of the law is poor.

For instance, despite the jubilation surrounding the passing of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act in May, 2018, which guarantees the transgender community the right to self-identify, the realities on the ground remain dismal as they continue to be subjected to violence, harassment and ridicule.

Pakistan has repeatedly affirmed before the UN its pledge to uphold, promote and safeguard universal human rights and fundamental freedoms for all.

Yet most citizens and even law enforcement remain unaware of people’s rights — or the concept of inalienable human rights, in general, which gets muddied in political rhetoric, or is perceived as an alien concept in a society not used to individual liberty and equality.

But the fight for human rights is essentially a fight for the powerless, the underrepresented and the ignored in a society where might is right. In the past, many governments have rejected such reports on human rights abuses.

This government, which came to power on the promise of ‘change’, must ensure human rights by listening closer to those on the margins of society. Only then can we truly say we’ve voted in a new Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, April 17th, 2019

Link: https://www.dawn.com/news/1476636/th...r-human-rights
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  #1602  
Old Tuesday, August 20, 2019
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Default Economy, one year on

8/20/2019 1200 AM
NE year into its term in power, and the PTI government has much to answer for. Take the management of the economy.

There is little doubt that the new government that took power after the July 2018 elections inherited an economy with severe stresses that had to be addressed rapidly and decisively as they were propelling the country towards a balance-of-payments crisis. At the heart of it were the rapidly depleting foreign exchange reserves that at one point fell to a level barely sufficient to cover a month`s worth of imports. If that level had continued to drop, Pakistan would have entered a financial crisis of the sort that we saw in 1998 and in 2008. Averting the slide was the top priority as was bringing the fiscal deficit under control. The deficit was touching 6.5pc of GDP, pushing government debt up, and complicating the effort to build up reserves.

This was a very serious situation, undoubtedly, and left to itself, the country was drifting dangerously close towards a crisis point.

The government`s response took long to take shape, giving rise to protracted uncertainty. There was resort to emergency financing measures worth just over $7bn from countries including Saudi Arabia, the UAE and China. On almost all fronts it seemed as if the government was in a state of policy paralysis, with the circular debt continuing to rise, the stock market plummeting, the debt markets frozen, CPEC in limbo, key decisions on more LNG terminals left dangling, revenue collection falling to historic lows despite two mini budgets, no major legislation on any subject, and so on.

Meanwhile, the government`s indebtedness shot up and net reserves plummeted to negative $16.8bn by May 2019, despite the emergency support provided by Saudi Arabia, the UAE and China.

Given the numbers, it is not possible to argue that the delay in formulating a robust policy direction was in any way beneficial to the economy. Ultimately, the decisive step of removing the PTI`s core point man on the economy was taken in order to put policymaking on stronger rails. Nevertheless, many have questioned the appointment of Hafeez Shaikh as finance adviser to the prime minister, arguing that he represents the thinking of `purana` and not `naya` Pakistan. Aside from a ferocious macroeconomic adjustment, the budget brought no new ideas. The result is now there for all to see skyrocketing inflation, rising unemployment and collapsing investment and growth. Meanwhile, the economic managers are averse to disclosing the reality and continue to insist that things are moving in the right direction. It took one whole year for the PTI government to find its feet amid a sinking economy. In the year ahead, it must find the rest of its body too, and realise that running the economy requires more than slogans and loud claims.
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  #1603  
Old Tuesday, August 20, 2019
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Default IS in Afghanistan

8/20/2019 1200 AM
ACK-TO-BACK acts of terrorism in Afghanistan once again highlight the treacherous road that lies ahead in the warwracked country`s quest for peace. Multiple bombings struck markets and public squares in Jalalabad on Monday, causing dozens of casualties. No one had claimed responsibility until the time of writing. On Saturday, a suicide bomber found his way into a wedding hall in Kabul packed with guests, mainly from the Shia Hazara community. In an instant, a joyous occasion became the scene of carnage: over 60 people were killed and more than 180 injured. The Afghan Taliban, who are in the midst of negotiating an agreement with the US, denounced the attack, which was claimed by the militant Islamic State group. In the chronology of horror unleashed by IS, any place where men, women and children can be found going about their daily lives markets, educational institutes, hospitals, mosques, etc constitutes a legitimate target.

Aside from the fact that bringing an end to this protracted war is desirable in itself, the urgency of doing so is compounded by IS ambitions in Afghanistan which are aided by a situation where various power centres remain in a state of flux. The extremist group, relieved of the financial demands involved in administering and defending its so-called caliphate in Syria and Iraq, sees Afghanistan as a potential base to attract foreign fighters. It has even managed to attract some Taliban elements who were unhappy with their leadership`s talks with the US or were drawn to IS`s more extreme, transnational ideology. Facilitated by assets of around $300m it is believed to still possess, IS now has a presence in four eastern provinces: Nangarhar, Nuristan, Kunar and Laghman. The region comprises rugged terrain with high-altitude posts from where, as the US troops found when fighting the Taliban forces, it is fiendishly difficult to dislodge combatants. For Pakistan, this constitutes a menacing development, as three of the four provinces where IS has found a foothold are contiguous with its western border. This country has already experienced the outcome of a nexus between the terror outfit and its homegrown violent extremists. When militancy was at its peak in Pakistan, groups such as the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi as well as several TTP factions had pledged allegiance to IS and jointly carried out several attacks. It is critical that the situation on the ground not allow old links to be revived and facilitate a resurgence of militancy.
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  #1604  
Old Tuesday, August 20, 2019
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Default Mob mentality

MEN, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, one by one,` a Scottish journalist wrote in the 19th century. In modern-day South Asia, we have witnessed the insanity of the herd, time and again, whenever it rears its ugly head. In the most recent instance, a 16-year-old child, accused of stealing, was beaten to death by a mob in Karachi`s Bahadurabad neighbourhood.

He was stripped off his clothes and had his entire ordeal filmed on camera. This was not the first episode of its kind, and it is unlikely to be the last either. Who can forget the public killing in 2010 of two young brothers, Mughees and Muneeb, lynched on the streets of Sialkot with the police urging on the mob, while a crowd of spectators watched? Or the lynching of a Christian couple, Shama and Shehzad, accused of blasphemy by rabid villagers in Kot Radha Kishan, in 2014? Or the murder of Mashal Khan a bright, young man full of promise by his fellow students at Mardan University in 2017? When face to face with an enraged mass, individuals stand little chance of survival, let alone of getting justice. The names and locations of the victims may change, but what all these incidents point to is the brutalisation of society and a seething anger and frustration in the public psyche exacerbated by the steady erosion of its faith in the state`s justice system. But that is no excuse for the violence perpetrated by the collective against vulnerable others, and that too on the mere basis of accusation. Perpetrators of this recent act of violence in Karachi have been booked under the AntiTerrorism Act, which some argue is not the appropriate definition for the crime. Nevertheless, those who take the law into their own hands to brutalise others deserve harsh punishment to make it clear there is no place for mob `justice` in civilised societies.
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  #1605  
Old Tuesday, August 20, 2019
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Default

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Originally Posted by ayeshamehreen View Post
An absence of war

OF late, senior Indian and Pakistani politicians have been trading threats and accusations like Federer and Nadal exchanging ground-strokes from the baselines. Although lacking the tennis champs’ elegance and athleticism, our leaders are still slugging it out in the media as they have been for decades. The only comic relief in this dull scenario was provided by a pigeon, now cooped up in an Indian jail on suspicion of spying for Pakistan.

This hilarious episode serves to underline how old animosities are now hard-wired into the relationship. ‘Kashmir’ and ‘terrorism’ are the two key words that figure in speeches and press releases wafting from Islamabad and New Delhi like some noxious miasma. Over the many years I have been writing for this and otherpublications, I doubt if I have written on any other topic as often as I have about the need for normal relations between the two neighbours. But increasingly, I have come to see this won’t happen in my lifetime.

There was a time when I blamed Pakistan more than India for dragging its feet over the normalisation process. But now I see Indian policies and posturing as the bigger hurdle. Ever since Musharraf’s out-of-the-box proposal to settle the Kashmir problem away from the old UN formula was rejected by India, there has been nothing new to break the stalemate.

Indian public opinion against Pakistan has hardened. Except that India has now fastened on terrorism as an excuse to obfuscate:

its demand that Pakistan must curb the terrorist groups on its soil as a precondition for talks hardly helps matters. Granted, the 27/11 Mumbai attacks were traumatic for millions of Indians. But it cannot have escaped the notice of policymakers and the media that Pakistan is (finally) engaged in a life-and-death struggle to eliminate terrorism. Basically, India is quite comfortable with the status quo, and the only downside for New Delhi is the relatively minor inconvenience of not being able to trade overland with Afghanistan and Central Asia. Pakistan has made it clear that its borders will be opened to Indian trucks after a comprehensive settlement of outstanding disputes. And while bilateral trade between India and Pakistan would be good for both economies, and make life a little better for millions of their citizens, such considerations have never mattered much to our ruling elites. Travel between the neighbours remains as difficult as ever; in fact the two countries are now further apart than ever. There was a time when the Pakistan military establishment needed the threat from India to justify its huge budget. But with jihadi groups supplanting India as our enemy number one, there is no longer any need for raising the Indian bogey. India, too, has China to justify its vast military spending. So on this count, at least, Islamabad and New Delhi could think of normalising ties. But the mindset developed over decades of enmity dies hard. Talking to a serving general a few years ago, I said it was difficult to imagine an unprovoked Indian attack. He replied that the military looked at a potential adversary’s capabilities, not his intentions. I can imagine an Indian general saying something similar about China. One thing that has changed is the hardening of Indian public opinion against Pakistan. Mostly, this has been fuelled by hyper-nationalistic Indian TV channels with their mind-numbing chat shows. In this, the two countries have much in common. For a reality check of how much the mutual hatred balance has altered over recent years, take Pakistan’s 2013 elections as an example. Here, Nawaz Sharif was able to mention normalisation of ties with India as one of electoral promises. Such a stance in an Indian election today would be a sure vote-loser.

Recently, an Indian participant at a conference in Islamabad wrote about being overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity she came across in Pakistan as soon as people discovered she had come from across the border. She concluded her article with the sad observation that Pakistani visitors to India would never encounter the same warmth and hospatility.

Had this been the extent of the problem, it would not matter much, especially to younger Pakistanis and Indians who are largely indifferent to our shared history and culture. But given the vast arsenals and armed forces on both sides, there is every reason to worry. Indeed, the introduction of nuclear capability into the equation is a cause for concern across the world.

The fact that Pakistan has recently inducted short-range nuclear-capable missiles is an indication of a suicidal strategy. Such weapons might check an invading Indian column, but would cause heavy civilian casualties as well. And the soil would be contaminated for decades.

So, yes, peace between India and Pakistan remains a goal worth pursuing. Sadly, the constituency for peace is rapidly shrinking. Given the poison being spread by an irresponsible media and immature politicians, the best we can hope for is an absence of war.

Published in Dawn, June 20th, 2015
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  #1606  
Old Wednesday, August 21, 2019
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Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Goher Shah View Post
MEN, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, one by one,` a Scottish journalist wrote in the 19th century. In modern-day South Asia, we have witnessed the insanity of the herd, time and again, whenever it rears its ugly head. In the most recent instance, a 16-year-old child, accused of stealing, was beaten to death by a mob in Karachi`s Bahadurabad neighbourhood.



He was stripped off his clothes and had his entire ordeal filmed on camera. This was not the first episode of its kind, and it is unlikely to be the last either. Who can forget the public killing in 2010 of two young brothers, Mughees and Muneeb, lynched on the streets of Sialkot with the police urging on the mob, while a crowd of spectators watched? Or the lynching of a Christian couple, Shama and Shehzad, accused of blasphemy by rabid villagers in Kot Radha Kishan, in 2014? Or the murder of Mashal Khan a bright, young man full of promise by his fellow students at Mardan University in 2017? When face to face with an enraged mass, individuals stand little chance of survival, let alone of getting justice. The names and locations of the victims may change, but what all these incidents point to is the brutalisation of society and a seething anger and frustration in the public psyche exacerbated by the steady erosion of its faith in the state`s justice system. But that is no excuse for the violence perpetrated by the collective against vulnerable others, and that too on the mere basis of accusation. Perpetrators of this recent act of violence in Karachi have been booked under the AntiTerrorism Act, which some argue is not the appropriate definition for the crime. Nevertheless, those who take the law into their own hands to brutalise others deserve harsh punishment to make it clear there is no place for mob `justice` in civilised societies.
Such a nice piece of writing. Stimulating and engaging for a reader.

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  #1607  
Old Wednesday, August 21, 2019
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Default Another term for the army chief

8/21/2019 1200 AM
HE extension of tenure given to army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa had been predicted by many observers. The move, when it came, was justified by a reference to the `extraordinary circumstances` that apparently could not allow another general to be elevated to the position of chief at this juncture. However, even though it was an expected decision, the move was certain to draw criticism over a couple of important points that have long been a hot topic of debate in the country. The first of these involves the absolute necessity of establishing a tradition of uninterrupted succession in an institution which is widely hailed as probably the finest in the country. The principle of a smooth change of command merits utmost respect, otherwise there would have been no room in the rulebook for the provision of succession. But it seems that instances of a routine transition are hard to come by in our case.

When Gen Ashfaq Kayani got an extension in 2010, the country was in the middle of a terrible war against militants for everyone to see and factor into any discussion related to Pakistan`s security.

However, even today, the situation is far from peaceful. The Americans may be planning to withdraw from Afghanistan, but we now have a very tense situation with India, especially with the Kashmir crisis exacerbated by the Modi government. Given the long history of turmoil in the region, it is unlikely that the situation will ever be perfect, but if regular, unhindered succession at the top is a worthy enough objective, the political leadership and the country`s arguably most organised and efficient institution will have to learn the ways of allowing the normal process to go on, even in times of regional troubles.

The second, much-discussed point pertains to the political class. In 2010, the then-PPP government drew a lot of flak for allowing Gen Kayani to stay for an additional three years. Among the strongest critics of the move was the current Prime Minister Imran Khan, who argued that under no circumstances was such a departure from principles justified. That was then. In power since August 2018, Mr Khan has taken so many steps against his own, earlier principled positions that indulging in any kind of defence of his stance now would be a sheer waste of time. He has indeed come a long way since the days when he struggled to appear unhurt by criticism about his alleged U-turns. At this time, his government has a number of pressing concerns to deal with. Surely, it must try and live up to its own vision of itself as a powerful setup that is capable of taking on all challenges that previous governments before it dared not not least because of the proximity between the prime minister and the army chief.
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  #1608  
Old Wednesday, August 21, 2019
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Default Trump`s efforts

| 8/21/2019 1200 AM
S PRESIDENT Donald Trump`s advice that Pakistan and India must `work towards reducing tensions` in the wake of the abrupt cancellation of the special status and autonomy of India-held Kashmir shows just how grave the situation is between the two nuclear-armed states. For historically, the Americans have only woken up and rushed to the region when the two neighbours have been on the brink. And this is exactly where, Pakistan insists, the problem lies. `A tough situation, but good conversations`, is how Mr Trump described the current state of affairs in this region through his tweet on Monday, after speaking by phone to the leaders of the two countries in the space of a few days. Many on this side of the border would have taken Mr Trump`s latest attempt to disentangle Pakistan and India as a rudimentary effort at firefighting not quite the mediation he offered over Kashmir during Prime Minister Imran Khan`s visit to the White House last month. It is intended to de-escalate present hostilities to avert a potential war in the region that would have long-term repercussions for the entire world. It is not aimed at facilitating a resolution to the decades-old Kashmir dispute.

This is not for the first time that America has intervened to ward off possible military conflict in the region. But this time, Washington should play a more proactive role and make good on Mr Trump`s `offer` to mediate on the Kashmir dispute for long-term peace. A constructive American engagement with both sides focused on finding a solution to the Kashmir dispute is important to ensure lasting peace in South Asia for the sake of its people as well as for international security and order. The world has seen the two sides not being able to resolve the issue bilaterally. The composite bilateral dialogue initiated in the late 1990s with the active facilitation of the world powers, including the US, is dead with no chance of its resurrection. There is no doubt that India, which has always been averse to any suggestion of mediation over the Kashmir dispute by a foreign power or even by the UN, will put up strong resistance to such efforts. Nonetheless, it is important to convince New Delhi to listen to the voice of reason once the international community, led by America, realises that peace and an improved relationship between India and Pakistan is in the best interest of all those with stakes in this region.
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  #1609  
Old Wednesday, August 21, 2019
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Default More than statistics

8/21/2019 1200 AM
ODAY, the second International Day of Remembrance of and Tribute to the Victims of Terrorism, represents an opportunity to recognise, honour and support the individuals, families and communities impacted by this evil scourge. The world over, terrorism remains a serious challenge to lasting peace and security.

In countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq, deadly attacks continue to plague all aspects of civilian life from markets to workplaces, schools to places of worship, sporting to election events. Only days ago, the Shia Hazara community in Kabul was targeted yet again; turning a wedding celebration into a mass tragedy in an instant. It is not inaccurate to say that the world will soon forget about these casualties. All too often, we hear statistics, and move on.

So it is within Pakistan too. While terrorism in our country has decreased significantly in recent years, tens of thousands of lives have been cut short or forever altered by the lasting impacts of such attacks. Yet, while the apparatus exists for supporting the families of our fallen servicemen, a holistic, institutionalised response mechanism for civilian victims still eludes us. Pakistan often prides itself on its resilience, but it might be more accurate to say that we are inured to violence. If one of the objectives of terrorists is to alienate and divide communities, a befitting response would be to honour our bonds by providing long-term financial, legal, medical and psychosocial support for survivors and victims` families. If terrorism thrives in the absence of justice, it is our moral duty to not only provide peace, but to preserve and protect the rights of victims by upholding the rule of law, ensuring transparency and accountability, and building victim-centred mechanisms into our criminal justice system. And, if individuals and communities scarred by terrorism are made involuntary experts by virtue of their experiences, including their voices in conversations about counterterrorism is essential. Today, let us pay tribute, pledge support and justice, and listen to victims of terrorism.
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