Monthly Archives: November 2011

Interview with Cherie Blair (Cherie Booth Q.C.) about Women’s Rights

The Cherie Blair Foundation for Women was set up in September 2008 in response to Cherie’s experiences meeting women around the world and her realisation that, with the right support, women could overcome the challenges they face, and play an important part in the economies and societies in which they work and live. Today the charity invests in women entrepreneurs, so they can build and expand their businesses – and in doing so benefit not only themselves but also their families and communities.

Her Foundation focuses its efforts on Africa, South Asia and the Middle East, in countries where women have made strides in education and have the potential to succeed in business, but lack the necessary support. We caught up with Cherie and found out why investing in women isn’t just good ethics, it’s sound economics…

What inspired you to get involved in supporting women’s rights?

I was inspired because of my background, both personally and professionally in my legal work, and my experiences when my husband was at Number 10. I have learnt that you never know what is around the corner and if, as a woman you don’t have financial independence and the ability to support yourself, life can become very difficult. Continue reading

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Mehlaqa Samdani: Memo-madness: Leaders gone wild or business as usual in Pakistan?

Pakistan is currently abuzz with a political scandal that threatens to destabilize the civilian government and cause further tensions between the military and civilian leaderships.  Rather than let the controversy play out in the media, the Pakistani government should launch a full-scale inquiry into the matter.

Dubbed ‘memo-gate’, the scandal surrounds a memo that was allegedly drafted by Pakistan’s civilian leadership and delivered by Pakistani-American businessman, Mansoor Ijaz, to former Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, following Osama Bin Laden’s assassination in Abbottabad, Pakistan on May 2.

In the memo, which has now been released by Foreign Policy magazine, the Pakistani civilian leadership, fearful of a military takeover, allegedly requests the assistance of the US government to prevent a coup.

In exchange it offers cooperation on a range of national security issues, including the reshuffling of top national security positions, the extradition of remaining militants in Pakistan (such as Ayman Al-Zawahiri, Mullah Omar and Sirajuddin Haqqani) and the elimination of the ‘S’ wing of the ISI (Pakistan’s intelligence agency), which purportedly deals directly with various militant outfits. Continue reading

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Filed under Al Qaeda, Pakistan, Peace building, United States

Dr Masuma Hasan: A Tribute to Nusrat Bhutto (1929-2011)

My memories of Nusrat Bhutto go back to her appearances in the media as the wife of the charismatic president, and then prime minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.  I came into direct contact with her only when the Movement for Restoration of Democracy (MRD) was launched against the dictatorship of Ziaul Haq. The MRD was a multi-party alliance. My husband, Fatehyab Ali Khan’s Pakistan Mazdoor Kissan Party was a founding member of the alliance and he eventually became one of its strongest pillars. Originally, there was some hesitation on the part of the more affluent older generation of politicians to allow a small leftist party, led by a reputed radical like Fatehyab, into the alliance.

Nusrat Bhutto, who had been impressed by Fatehyab’s courage in filing a constitutional petition against the radio and television programme aimed at influencing the Bhutto trial, Zulm Ki Dastan, came out on his side. The programme was stopped as a result of Fatehyab’s constitutional petition.

There was some reluctance also, among the older politicians, most of whom lived in palatial houses, to come to our simple home, opening on a run down lane, for a meeting of the MRD’s central executive committee. Nusrat Bhutto had no such qualms. Her arrival at the meeting in our house was a turning point for the politics of that time. Clad in a silk sari, she sat through the meeting in the rocking chair in our living room. Continue reading

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Fatheyab Ali Khan: The Constitutional Anomalies

There is a consensus in the country that the army should have no role in politics and that the military high command should be under the control of the highest political leadership. And there are no two opinions about the fact that there should be democracy in the country. However, there are different opinions about the kind of democratic setup that we should have and the manner in which the setup should operate. But there is no difference of opinion that the people should have the right to elect their government in a fair and transparent manner.

A constitution is the fundamental law of the land, and the basic framework for governance. The statutes must conform to the superior norms contained in the constitution. Pakistan’s rulers have not only amended the constitution but have hoodwinked the people by introducing far-reaching changes in the statutes such as the Political Parties Act, the Representation of People’s Act and Qanoon-i-Shahadat, thereby altering the superior law of the constitution itself.

After the departure of Nawaz Sharif and suspension of the Constitution by General Musharraf, political parties in the opposition have been demanding restoration of the constitutional structure existing prior to October 12, 1999. At the same time, they have been describing it as the unanimous Constitution of 1973. These parties should tell the people in clear words which constitution they want to be restored, because before October 12, 1999, it was not the unanimous Constitution of 1973 but Ziaul Haq’s constitution which was in force. Compare the two documents — the unanimously adopted Constitution of 1973 and the constitution as it stood in 1985 — and the extent to which Ziaul Haq had mutilated the 1973 Constitution becomes clearly evident. Continue reading

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Filed under Constitution 1973, Discussion, Fatehyab, MRD, PIIA

Mehlaqa Samdani: Consensus and conflict at the Istanbul Conference

The U.S. government and its NATO allies have, in recent months, scrambled to mobilize regional and international support to advance stability in Afghanistan following significant international troop withdrawals in 2014. The most recent of these efforts was the Istanbul Conference held in Turkey last week. The meeting was organized to prepare the groundwork for Afghanistan’s political, security and economic transition.

At the conclusion of the day-long Istanbul meeting, which included a whole host of regional countries as well as representatives from Europe and the United States, analysts dismissed the conference for ‘lacking substance’ and having achieved little in terms of a coherent framework for Afghanistan’s transition. And yet, despite discouraging reviews, it is worth noting that the conference as well as what followed saw progress on at least a couple of fronts.

First, it appears that a regional and international consensus has emerged with respect to Afghanistan’s economic future.

At the conference, the United States introduced its economic vision, the ‘New Silk Road’ project that involves the construction of an extensive network of transportation links across central and south Asia, designed to turn Afghanistan into a regional economic hub. The United States also strongly endorsed the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline that is supposed to meet the energy needs of India and Pakistan and “could provide significant transit revenues for both Afghanistan and Pakistan.” Continue reading

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Filed under Afghanistan, Discussion, Peace building, Taliban

Barrister Afzal Hussain: Proposed legislation on acid violence

Acid violence is a reprehensible crime and it is prevalent all over South Asia. It involves criminals committing violence – overwhelmingly against women – by throwing acidic substances at victims. This not only causes disfiguration of victims’ faces, but also causes lasting psychological problems.

Generally, offenders deliberately commit such crimes after careful planning – the free availability of acid makes the crime easy enough to commit. Although this crime can be directed against everyone (women, children and men), it is most frequently directed against women. The effects of acid violence are tragic and include disfigurement of the face, loss of eyes and limbs, damage to organs, and subsequent infections – victims and their families also suffer psychological damage over and above such physical injuries. In addition to mental trauma, survivors also face social segregation and exclusion which further injures their confidence and acutely undermines their public and private lives in a permanent manner. It is, therefore, unfortunate that in Pakistan – until now –  there  was no express legislative measure which selectively combatted the menace of acid violence. Continue reading

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Filed under Acid attacks, Criminal law, Legislation, Women

In Memoriam: Fatehyab Ali Khan 1936-2010

Fatehyab Ali Khan, Chairman of the Council of the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs from 1995 to 2009, passed away on 26 September 2010. He was a legendary figure in the public and national life of Pakistan. A visionary in politics, his struggle for democracy, fundamental freedoms, justice in society and the rule of law forms a glowing chapter in the history of our country. His support for the cause of the oppressed and under-privileged will long be remembered.

Fatehyab’s family migrated from Hyderabad Deccan to Pakistan after the Partition and settled in Shikarpur and Karachi. His bold stand against injustices in the local education system made him prominent at a very early age. Gifted with unusual organizing skills, persuasiveness and charm, he joined the National Students Federation and soon assumed leadership roles in the student community. He was elected as Vice President of Islamia College Students’ Union (at that time the president used to be an official), President of Karachi University Students’ Union and Chairman of the Inter-Collegiate Body. He was a brilliant debater.

During the students’ movement against Ayub Khan’s martial law, when political parties were quiet spectators, Fatehyab shot to fame as a national figure. He was tried as Accused Number One and convicted by a military court in 1961. After he had served his sentence, along with other activists, he was twice externed from all parts of the country, except Quetta. In course of time, he took up law as his profession in Karachi. Continue reading

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Filed under Fatehyab, Pakistan Horizon, PIIA