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 While the draconian Hudood Ordinance was repealed after years of blinkered discrimination against women in 2006, it was far from enough to rid the constitution of bias.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
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
Media coverage as well as the response to the Sudan crisis has been abysmal
Since the talks between the Transitional Military Council (TMC) and the Alliance for Freedom and Change have broken down, Khartoum has been plagued by violence. When the military capitulated to popular demand and brought an end to the 30-year long oppressive rule of Omar al-Bashir, the people rejoiced. Sudanese spirits were at a high much like the same demonstrators who managed to overthrow despots during the Arab Spring Uprising. Unfortunately, after that uprising it soon became clear that the military is often as authoritarian as its governmental counterpart. It cleverly employs a tactic of appearing to appease the people, allowing the dust settle which is then followed by strict military rule. Fortunately, the Sudanese appeared to have learnt from history as the Alliance for Freedom and Change called for a total civil disobedience campaign after the military’s very brutal crackdown on a protestors’ camp on 3 June when it refused to hand over authority to a civilian administration preferring to concentrate power in its own hands.
There have been serious human rights violations as the Central Committee for Sudanese Doctors (CSSD) has put the death toll at 118 victims while hundreds have been injured. About 40 “bloated” bodies have been recovered from the Nile- an attempt by the military to lower the official death toll. Additionally many women have suffered from rape with numbers likely understated due to the societal stigma attached to such an offense. Much of the atrocities have been committed by the paramilitary force known as the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) headed by General Hamdan. It is this same force that was responsible for the genocide in Darfur for which Mr. Bashir has been indicted by the International Criminal Court and gives rise to the question: why are similar crimes currently committed by the same force not being taken seriously by the international community? Continue reading
“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
Filed under Accountability, Climate Change, Cyber Warfare, Disarmament, Discussion, Human Rights, India, Islamophobia, Pakistan, Pakistan Horizon, Palestine, PIIA, Politics, Racism, UK, United States, Women
This year, The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs, which is the oldest think tank in Pakistan, is celebrating 70 years of its founding. It was established as an independent, non-political, not for profit association in 1947, devoted to study and research in international relations, economics and jurisprudence. To mark its seventieth anniversary, PIIA is holding a regional conference on Peace in South Asia: Opportunities and Challenges on 15 and 16 November 2017. Scholars from leading think tanks, academia and diplomats in the region are being invited to participate in this conference. South Asia, comprising Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan is the most densely populated region of the world. Its population of 1.8 billion comprises one-fourth of the global population and almost 40 per cent of the population of Asia. The President of Pakistan, Mr Mamnoon Hussain will inaugurate the Conference. The programme is available here. The proceedings can be live streamed here.
‘There is nothing in the Quran which says that a man should marry a young girl … It is not in the best interests of a girl to be married off early. Early marriage robs a girl of her childhood,’ argues Dr Reeza Hameed.
The All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama (ACJU) is opposed to making any changes to the existing Muslim family law. Mufti Rizwi, who is a member of the Saleem Marsoof Committee appointed to look into reforms to the Muslims Marriages and Divorces Act (MMDA) of 1951, has made the oracular pronouncement that the law is ‘perfect in its present state’ and required no reform. Mufti Rizwi also presides over the ACJU. Regrettably, the views expressed by the Mufti and his outfit are anachronistic and obscurantist. Matters relating to Islam and Muslim law ought not to be the sole concern of the ulema. In this comment I have touched upon some issues in the hope that it will contribute to the debate on the need for reform. In Muslim law marriage is not a sacrament but a civil contract. Neither religious ritual nor having it done in a mosque is essential to confer validity to a marriage. A Muslim marriage is contract like any other in Islamic law. Parties to a marriage should have legal capacity to enter into the contract.
There has to be an offer and an acceptance of that offer with the intention of establishing a marital relationship. There must be consideration given to the wife known as mehr. All the schools of law recognise that a person has freedom of choice to enter into a marriage and that he or she cannot be forced into one. The age at which a young Muslim acquires legal capacity to marry has been a contentious issue. The traditionalist view adumbrated by classical jurists is that a person acquires the legal capacity to marry on attaining puberty. In the Hedaya, the manual on Hanafi law, the earliest age at which puberty is attained by a girl is 9 and by a boy at 12. A similar view is adopted by the Shafi School, which is followed by a majority of Sri Lankan Muslims. The presumption of Muslim law as applied in India and Sri Lanka is that a person attained puberty at 15. Continue reading
‘Hillary’s rise to fame as a presidential candidate was paved by the struggle of many women before her’ argues Dr Masuma Hasan.
Hillary Clinton lost the US presidential election on 8 November against the prediction of so many experienced political pundits. She said all the right things and raised all the right issues during her campaign: unity in diversity, inclusiveness for all races and communities, building bridges instead of walls, health care and social security, equal opportunities for women, tolerance for all faiths, especially for the endangered Muslim community, reaching out for the marginalized and the poor, protection for women’s reproductive rights and the rights of gay and lesbian groups. Donald Trump, her adversary, scandalized with his crude references to women, his attacks on Muslims whom he promised to debar from entering the United States, on Mexicans to prevent whose entry he would build a wall along the Mexico-US border, calling them rapists, his determination to dismantle Barack Obama’s health care scheme, cut taxes for the rich, which would lead to more investment and jobs, protect ownership of weapons, and thereby make America great again.
Trump became the subject of disgust as one woman after another came forward to accuse him of sexual assault. He had no experience whatever of public office or governance, he had never been a member of either house of Congress. He surprised his fellow Americans by lack of knowledge of world affairs, and by praising Vladimir Putin. On the campaign trail his vocabulary was so limited that he could not string three consecutive sentences coherently. Continue reading
Human rights must not be ignored when doing business overseas …
Speaking at The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA, Watch Video), Dr Bärbel Kofler – member of the German Bundestag – said that because of high levels of exploitation of labour in the developing world, consumers in the west are willing to pay more for products which are produced using labour inputs under a system where people are fairly treated and paid for work. In interesting times when both internally and externally Angela Merkel is on the back foot for letting in a flood of refugees – who are usually dubbed “economic migrants” by right-wingers – Dr Kofler argued human rights in business are heavily debated in Europe and Germany, especially after unfortunate incidents in recent past, which include the Rana Plaza tragedy in Bangladesh and in Karachi’s Baldia Town fire factory incident. Germany’s National Action Plan (NAP) for economic cooperation is based on UN guidelines on Business in Human Rights.
In an era of globalization, the UN guidelines oblige states to protect the human rights of every citizen and they equally oblige business entities to respect those human rights. This post gathers the details of the event from the Internet and Farhan Khan’s excellent coverage is reproduced from the LiveRostrum news agency. Dr Kofler said that the UN guidelines have three pillars. First, states are obliged to protect citizens from human rights violations. Second, it is also the obligation of the business Continue reading
The region is an ‘enigma wrapped in a riddle’ … the Saudi Arabia-Iran spat is ‘a hot potato’ … Pakistan should not lean to one side and should play the role of a conciliator, peacemaker.
When asked whether he agreed with Donald Trump that president Putin ate “Obama’s lunch” over Syria, former Pakistani ambassador Karamatullah Ghori replied “yes”. Ghori, who is retired and presently lives in Canada, served as Pakistan’s envoy in numerous Middle Eastern countries, including Iraq and Algeria. His talk was chaired by the chairman of The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA), Dr Masuma Hasan, who served as Pakistan’s ambassador in Vienna and also as cabinet secretary. Ghori began his hour-long lecture, which packed the PIIA’s historic library, by emphasising that the Middle East is the most sensitive part of the world. The recent mass beheadings in Saudi Arabia, which demonstrate the sheer brutality of the regime in that country, remained his alternative point of departure. Alive to the “new” Middle East crafted by the western powers – which is based on a dictatorial model of capitalism – he noted that our relationship with the oil rich kingdom is important because of the remittances sent by 1.5 million Pakistanis employed there.
However, he did not think that it was enough to make Pakistan lean in Saudi Arabia’s favour. In a two-day visit, Saudi foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir arrived in Islamabad arrived on 7 January to discuss Pak-Saudi relations with Pakistan’s leadership. The visit, the second by the Saudi minister in the past 12 months, also explored Pakistan’s potential role in Saudi led alliance against ISIS and terrorism. It is an oddity that Continue reading
Filed under Al Qaeda, Discussion, Events, Human Rights, Iran, ISIS, Islam, Israel, Karachi, Pakistan Horizon, Palestine, Politics, Russia, The Arab Spring, The Middle East, United States
The EU is stretched to its outer limits in tackling issues thrown up by the economy, migration and terrorism. Tory politicians such as British prime minister David Cameron – who has been accused of extreme debauchery and profane and illegal behaviour by his former friend Michael Ashcroft in the upcoming biography Call Me Dave – are hell bent on “renegotiating” their country’s relationship with Europe. As we are already aware, the controversial and impending “in-out” referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU is a hotly debated matter. It is also very interesting to observe that the UK’s Electoral Commission, which is required by the Political Parties, Referendums and Elections Act 2000 to consider the precise wording of the referendum question and publish a statement of its views as to its intelligibility, has said that the question needs to be changed. Notably, in the European Union Referendum Bill as introduced into the UK parliament the proposed referendum question is: Should the UK remain a member of the EU?
The Electoral Commission suggests that the questions should be changed to: Should the UK remain a member of the EU or leave the EU? Answers: Remain a member of the EU – Leave the EU. But as we see in this post on the EU’s vision for gender equality and women’s empowerment, as an institution the Union is a very positive thing and it would be fair comment that people such as the European Commission’s president Jean-Claude Juncker and his colleagues do not like the Tory party’s stance on Europe. On 21 September 2015, the European Commission and the European External Action Service adopted a new framework for the EU’s activities on gender equality and women’s empowerment in EU’s external relations. The New framework for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment: Transforming the Lives of Girls and Women through EU External Relations (2016-2020) (see press release and see here) aims to Continue reading