Category Archives: Women

The #MeToo Narrative in Pakistan

As the global feminist movement reaches Pakistan, it challenges the status quo and looks to encapsulate more than sexual harassment.

Pakistan is definitely not the most women-friendly country on earth. UN Women ranked it one of the lowest in the world in terms of gender equality. Violence against women has been widespread and an ever-growing issue. Rape, acid attacks, domestic abuse, forced marriages and, honor killings are rampant in the country even today. Disturbing realities are still reported. The 2015 Oslo Summit on Education and Development categorized Pakistan among the worst performing countries in terms of female education. Pakistani NGO, Movement for Solidarity Peace stated that there were thousands of women abductions for forced marriages, especially targeting minority women. Human Rights Watch estimated 1000 honor killings per year as latest as 2019. But one thing for women in Pakistan has certainly changed, the narrative for women’s empowerment has escaped from global conventions and election speeches to streets and internet. In today’s age Pakistan’s commitment to women rights is shown by its evolving narrative around #MeToo, women rights and, a growing anti-patriarchal attitude.

The role of women in Pakistan, since its inception, has been largely limited to households with much of the reason submerged in religion and culture. Pakistan’s main religion, Islam, has largely been interpreted as patriarchal; giving men an overarching edge over women in terms of rights and freedom. The small breathing space left for women liberation is swallowed by cultural values and societal norms that place further restrictions on women. Legislation has been equally, if not more disappointing. While the draconian Hudood Ordinance was repealed after years of blinkered discrimination against women in 2006, it was far from enough to rid the constitution of bias. In fact, only recently a province distributed burqas to female students to observe purdah (religious attire) within school. With such depressing status-quo, the recent advancements are notable and a sonorous display of modernization. Continue reading

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Filed under Accountability, Discussion, Human Rights, Islam, Pakistan, Politics, Women

Women and US-Taliban Peace Talks

Women of Afghanistan are still hopeful about a better future … 

On the surface, our world leaders protrude an aura of optimism when asked about the US-Taliban peace Talks. They talk about a world where the viral spread of terrorism by the hands of such militant groups is nothing more than a distant nightmare. An example of such portrayal is present in an interview given by the President of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, who said, that ‘For the first time, the possibility for peace is really at hand. The aim of the South Asia strategy is not to perpetuate war; it is simply put as a staple of understanding within a secure South Asia’. Recently, the President of the United States of America, Donald J. Trump said that he ‘believes that great nations do not fight endless wars. He wants to end 18 years of war and bring back the US military group from Afghanistan.’ The outlook of the peace talks is believed to be positive, it creates an illusion that our world is moulding into a suburban utopia where everything is perfectly conjoined with one another to make a seemingly flawless wonderland.

However, we forget that even the said utopian wonderland tends to break under the visual perfection of its existence. Upon closer inspection into the US-Taliban peace talks we observe how society causally undermines the suffering of the silent half of the Afghan population, the Afghani women. Prior to the Taliban take over and the Soviet occupation, Afghanistan was a relatively progressive country when addressing the rights of women. Afghan women made up 50% of government workers, 70% of schoolteachers, and 40% of doctors in Kabul. After the fall of the Taliban regime, things started to look a bit better for the Afghan women, at least on paper. In the year 2004, a new constitution was approved, and the country held its first presidential elections, proclaiming that Afghanistan is henceforth a democratic state that provides equal rights to men and women. Continue reading

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Filed under Afghanistan, Discussion, Peace building, Politics, Trump, United States, Women

Muslims face a harsh new reality after the Christchurch shootings

Now that the first of the victims have been buried Khadija Laghari explores what the Christchurch mosque shootings mean for Muslims … 

Friday, the 15th of March has been described as “One of New Zealand’s darkest days.” Indeed, Friday is also the holiest of the days during the week as Muslims offer Jumma prayers. The Mosques of Christchurch were full as the residents were looking forward to offer their afternoon prayers until they experienced what they had never imagined in the wildest of their thoughts; it was within a span of seconds that the men’s prayer room was attacked following the women’s prayer room, with a heavily armed shooter, shooting all over the Mosque. The first shooting took place at the Al Noor Mosque following a second shooting at the Linwood Mosque. There were several explosive devices attached to the vehicle of the shooter, who is under custody and has been charged. The city has been placed on a lockdown with all schools and offices shut. A climate change protest, which included young children, was taking place nearby. The Bangladesh Cricket team were extremely lucky to escape with their lives. The chilling attack was live-streamed. 

The shooter identified himself as a white man in his late 20s, born in Australia who was motivated to defend ‘our lands’ from ‘invaders’ and wanted to ‘directly reduce immigration rates’. Quebec, Canada also experienced a mass shooting two years ago killing six people at a Mosque. The end of 2017 experienced a rise in hate crimes targeting the Muslims in Quebec City. This could be described as a fear, hatred and hostility toward Islam, perpetuated by negative stereotypes resulting in bias, discrimination, and the marginalization and exclusion of Muslims from social, political and civic life. However, this type of discrimination has been long rooted in the New Zealand immigration policy from the late 1980s. Continue reading

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Filed under Discussion, Human Rights, Immigration, Islamophobia, New Zealand, Politics, Racism, Women

Ilhan Omar and Anti-Semitism

Ilhan Omar is the epitome of everything Trump hates, she is a Somali, a woman and she is also a Muslim …

Democracy – as we have been taught during our academic years – is a political order whereby one is allowed to voice their opinions about the matters they believe in or not believe in. But the United States perhaps has a very different meaning of democracy, or so it seems. One is only supposed to state what is in their country’s interest. The upshot of this ideology was recently unleashed when Ilhan Omar, a Somali Muslim refugee, who recently took her oath of office as a Democratic Representative in the US Congress, expressed through twitter how the pro-Israel lobby puts pressure on members of Congress to show “allegiance to a foreign country” for which she later apologized. To quote her exact words, “Anti Semitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes. My intention is never to offend my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole. We have to always be willing to step back and think through criticism, just as I expect people to hear me when others attack me for my identity; this is why I unequivocally apologize.”

“At the same time, I reaffirm the problematic role of lobbyists in our politics, whether it is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), The National Rifle Association (NRA) or the fossil fuel industry. It’s gone too long and we must be willing to address it.” Now anybody with a sane mind and rational perspective would vouch for the fact that what Ilhan Omar said was just a “fair criticism” of the harmful role lobbyists play in policy making and not bigotry. Not only this, the newly elected congresswoman is also being compared to the 9/11 terrorists by the republicans and called as ‘filth’ by an advisor to the President only for wanting to talk about how inequitable it is to have political influence of a foreign country which in turn convinces one to become biased and intolerant towards a certain race. Continue reading

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Filed under Anti-Semitism, Congress, Discussion, United States, Women

ISIS brides and the creation of second class citizenship in the UK

It is hard to attach the word ‘great’ with Britain because the citizenship of Reema Iqbal, Zara Iqbal and Shamima Begum has been revoked for national security reasons. But it is equally arguable that the UK has two classes for citizenship: one kind for the whites and another for children of immigrants. The two sisters left UK in 2013 and Shamima left in 2015 with her friends Amira Abase and Kadiza Sultana and all of them married Islamic State (ISIS) jihadists. The most likely reason of the cancellation of their nationality is their Asian descent which is common in all the surviving three women. Had they been of white British origin the Home Secretary Sajid Javid would have taken a different line but he did not hesitate to make these misguided/confused women stateless. Significantly, these Asian British women were not directly involved in crimes against Britain’s national security. Overall, these were not even isolated cases of people travelling to join ISIS or becoming jihadi brides.

According to the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure, UK’s national security is hampered by cyber crimes, espionage for other states, terrorism, organized crimes and spreading weapons of mass destruction. And of course as many as 350 jihadis have already returned to the UK after fighting in Syria. Are Reema, Zara and Shamima bigger threats than them? Shamima Begum was a minor when she left for Syria, therefore should she be held accountable for her actions? Albeit, we also heard Shamima justifying the Manchester bombing but that was a naïve statement by her. Those angry people who are supporting the UK government’s deprivation of her citizenship must know that Sajid Javid did not order the cancellation of the citizenship of white British jihadis supporting the terrorism and suicide bombing in the UK. Continue reading

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Filed under Discussion, Europe, Human Rights, ISIS, Pakistan Horizon, Politics, Statelessness, UK, Women

The Impact of Soviet Labour Camps on Society: The Legacy of the Gulag

The Gulag played an important role throughout Soviet Russia and is a major point that is brought up when discussing the history of Russia from 1919 to 1960. To this date when one talks about Russia or its most infamous Soviet era leader Joseph Stalin, one recalls the Gulag even if one has only the basic knowledge about it. The system is renowned because through it, various individuals inflicted harm on millions of people. The Gulag was a part of the Soviet Russian System of governance and touched every person who lived in that era. Even today, in modern day Russia people recall the Gulag and its perpetrators with dread and horror. The Nazi concentration camp system and various other concentration camps that were similar mainly existed to exterminate their prisoners and had a brief lifespan. The Gulag however, lasted over decades and played a huge role in the industrialisation brought in by Stalin. It was a system that embedded itself in the penal system and the culture and society of the people in Russia and its effects can be seen to this day. 

It is a vital exponent of Russian history that cannot be ignored if one wants to understand the culture, society and politics of that nation. GULAG is the Russian acronym for The Chief Administration of Corrective Labour Camps and Colonies of the Soviet Secret Police and has come to signify and represent the soviet slave labour in all forms and varieties as well as the repressive system and tyranny of the Stalin Era. The system was first established under Vladimir Lenin as an alternative to prison during the years immediately following the Bolshevik Revolution. Although it functioned from 1919 to 1960, the Gulag generally denoted the entire penal labour system in the USSR. It served as the Soviet Union’s main penal system for robbers, rapists, murderers, and thieves. Vast numbers of camps of all forms and varieties (labour camps, punishment camps, criminal and political camps, women’s camps, children’s camps, transit camps) were located mainly in the remote regions of Siberia and the Far North. Continue reading

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Filed under Criminal Justice, Discussion, Genocide, Human Rights, Russia, Women

Reportage on PIIA’s Peace in South Asia Conference 2017

“The current policies of the United States of America for South Asia can disrupt peace in the region” – President Mamnoon Hussain at the 70th Anniversary Conference of the PIIA.

Donald J Trump’s election to the White House demonstrates the extremely vulgar nature of American society. And it is difficult to disagree with the assessment that the American president really is a “deranged dotard”. Heaven knows, despite the tyrannical nature of his own country, North Korea’s insane “little rocket man” might even be making a valid point when he calls Trump’s sanity into question. Trump’s totally crazy brinkmanship with Pyongyang shows that he is willing to put the safety of billions of people at risk by his recklessness. But perhaps it is all just a charade to deliberately divert attention far away from emerging domestic problems connected to Robert Mueller’s investigation, the Sword of Damocles hanging over Trump and his cronies’ heads, about the Trump campaign’s collusion with the Kremlin to rig the election. Overall Trump is a sexist and a racist. He never tells the truth and serially dismisses all accusations of sexual misconduct/offending against him. Against American and British interests, he retweets from Britain First – a racist and neo-Nazi organisation.

His hatred of Muslims is so severe that he has even declared Jerusalem to be Israel’s capital. Clearly, he is deliberately destabilising the Middle East. Trump is a danger to the world and it is hard to disagree with the soft speaking figure of president Mamnoon Hussain that the present American administration is a threat to peace in South Asia (and indeed the rest of the world). The reckless and inflammatory rhetoric manifested by Trump can only bolster Hindus’ hatred for Muslims in India where killing Muslims for “love jihad” (or having a Hindu girlfriend or boyfriend) is seen as a force for good. In such testing times, The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) organised a regional conference which was held last month in Karachi. Esteemed speakers from all walks of life addressed the lively audience. Continue reading

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Filed under Accountability, Climate Change, Cyber Warfare, Disarmament, Discussion, Human Rights, India, Islamophobia, Pakistan, Pakistan Horizon, Palestine, PIIA, Politics, Racism, UK, United States, Women