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WHAT IF THE DRIVER OF THE BUS IN KHAIRPUR ACCIDENT WAS A WOMAN

WHAT IF THE DRIVER OF THE BUS IN KHAIRPUR ACCIDENT WAS A WOMAN

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An major accident, took place in Khairpur near Teri bypass on November 11 where a bus collided head on with a truck, 60 people died and many more injured. The media was totally taken up by the news for a few days nothing else but this news was shown, stories of those who died, interviews of their relatives, officials, traffic arrangement, identification of the bodies, etc. I could not even get the name of the driver who basically was driving very fast and banged the bus straight into a truck while overtaking. His name was not even mentioned in the initial FIR despite that he earlier had a speeding ticket, he took too many passengers and the passengers said he went to sleep.

Show hosts said all the roads should be made a double lane roads, others blamed the quality of roads, some did say this new practice of mixing CNG and petrol to get a faster speed for these vehicles is bad, others said the highway officials are responsible.

My question is what if this was a woman driving this bus? The whole media would have talked about nothing but how irresponsible women can be. They have gone to all woman political leaders and women activists to say, “ab bataen??” (‘Now respond to this!!’) The main news would have been – aik aurat ke haathon 60 logon ka qatal (60 murdered at the hands of a woman). The talk shows would have discussed revoking driving licenses of women

Drivers. Religious scholars would have discussed the negative consequences of giving such liberties to women in this Islamic republic of Pakistan and would have suggested banning all women to drive and insisted that they should stay at home.

The family of the woman driver would have been interviewed, her relatives, her extra curricular activities and people’s opinion about her. In general the news stories and the discussion around it would have revolved around the woman and the fact if women of Pakistan have acceded all limits and if new laws should be made to curtail it.

In the actual reporting of the Khairpur accident the mention of the driver is pretty trivial with not even a name that is prominent in the news. Reasons for the accident reported in a media report after investigation reveal speeding as if the bus went faster itself and collided with the truck.

What I am saying is neither humorous not too far out. If you remember when during the elections one woman politician slapped a polling booth worker the media exploded with ‘what are these women doing’. Women politicians and women activists were interviewed with cynical questions, ‘ab bataen??” Implying that now that you have seen how women themselves can violate other’s rights you should never ever mention any talk of rights again ever. As if one woman’s act was a slap in the face of all men and gave an excellent excuse to all those who want this debate on women’s emancipation to end.

Why are women not seen as individuals who can do good and bad deeds? Why do we have to be clustered in the name of our gender when its time to beat us, yet there continues to be a societal blindness when it comes to gender based discriminatory patterns which should be seen in categories of men and women?

Among many of the male privileges in our society, one is that men are never glued to their gender and stereo typed in a way women are. No one will say ‘Oh! a man was driving no wonder the bus had an accident.’

 

 

 


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THANK YOU ! WE ARE TIRED OF THE OOZING MARDANGI IN OUR POLITICS

The narratives about womanlihood that are suddenly floating around on the political landscape are shocking. Sheikh Rashid calling Bilawal Bhutto Bilo Rani was enraging, and that too in crowds that are talking of a new Pakistan and in the presence of so many women. I am in a shock reading the criticism of Bilawal Bhutto after his debut rally in Karachi on the social media. Regardless of the content of his speech the criticism especially of educated people has focused on him not being a macho enough of a man for the taste of the macho guys around. It is the symbolism of manlihood, womanlihood and the mindset of the Pakistani political ethos right now, which is disgusting.

For many I would have to explain why I am upset at the putting down of a man calling her a woman as that might not be obvious to those who use such swear words in routine. Calling someone a woman or feminine as a put down is a slap in the face of half the population of this country. I would assume it is also a slap in the face of those aware men who do understand that this reflects the sick patriarchal and macho mindset that still prevails and thinks that woman is a lower being, a joke, a put down and a swear word. It is the same crowd that does not hesitate using swear words about mothers and sisters in their routine language and unfortunately modern education has not done anything for them in this regards.

My second point is that we are sick and tired of the macho manliness, thank you very much! In a country where muscular body, big mustache and a turban in case of rural and a big muscular body, empty brain and macho talk of women in case of urban areas is the cool standard of masculinity, we are tired of men killing their daughters and wives. We are tired of men raping 2 -6 years old girls. We are tired of men blowing bombs; we are tired of men beating women, even their life partners. Rather than respecting the mother of their children, raping and brutally murdering them. I am not talking of ‘criminals’ I am talking of men who are very proud of being a MAN and are very proud to be killing their family women for so called “honour”. I am sorry but there is something very wrong with the way our society has painted the “masculinity”.

I am reminded of Shaan, the actor, when he started his acting career. Before him Punjabi hero never sang or danced, he always was with a gun or a dang. When Shaan joined he was modern looking , clean shaved, singing and dancing. We were very happy with this transformation of the Punjabi films but someone must have started criticizing him or his directors, because soon he was back in Sultan Rahi macho mode. The same style of speaking with big mustache, guns and dangs to stay afloat. He had to work hard to make his space.

It is time we stop seeing the manlihood in aggressive, violent and macho sense and start appreciating a civilized attitude, non aggression, good manners and intelligence as good attributes for men to have. I do not have much hope for Mr. Shiekh Rashid but the new generation of men might take a different route than its predecessors. It is also time for male politicians and our educated lot to start respecting women and stop using them for put downs and swear words. Enough of Bilo Rani, enough of using phrases like ‘wearing bangles like a woman’, enough of phrases like dopatta pehen lo (wear a veil). If social scientists and gender experts and so many women failed to change the men then brain surgery might be the answer.

 

Fouzia Saeed

Pakistan Fellow at Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

Washington DC   @FouziaSaeed

 


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Can we craft a new electoral system in Pakistan?

A colleague of mine wrote this article which i thought was very timely. While a big uproar has engulfed the country on unfair elections of 2013 and the PTI supporters are gearing for a long March, some people are taking steps to come up with proposals or at least set up a process to review the election mechanism. The initiative of the Parliament to set up a committee to come up with recommendations of reforms is a step forward.

Can we craft a new electoral system   by Zafarullah Khan

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

With the formation of a 33-member Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reforms (PCER) the ball has finally arrived in the political-and-parliamentary court.

Electoral reforms primarily belongs to the political domain; in the past it tried to plug some holes via computerised electoral lists based on ‘one CNIC-one vote’, a full time Election Commission appointed through parliamentary scrutiny and insurance for continuity through a neutral caretaker setup. Judicial activism also tried to check the use and abuse of money, media and muscle.

These piecemeal transplants over an archaic electoral system based on outdated statutes didn’t yield enough dividends, yet the country witnessed its first ever civilian to civilian transition and transfer of power. The slightly improved system also demonstrated its capacity to expose ‘electoral thieves’ and subsequently generated demands for electoral reforms in public and political spheres.

Effective democratic architecture is founded on undisputed electoral legitimacy determined through clean votes, therefore responding to rising political temperatures and calls for audit of Election-2013, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif wrote a letter to the speaker of the National Assembly on June 10, 2014 to constitute a parliamentary committee to address the issue.

According to the motion adopted on June 19, 2014 in the National Assembly the PCER is mandated to evaluate shortcomings of previous elections and make recommendations for electoral reforms for free, fair and transparent elections within three months from the date of its notification. Meaning thereby, the PCER has to work day and night for 92 days to complete its task of preparing comprehensive reforms package or suggestions to completely overhaul the system by October 25, 2014.

The odd thing is that mere constitution of the committee consumed 45 days. Similar lacklustre attitude will be fatal during the agreed short life of the PECR. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), which emerged as the harbinger of electoral reforms, has already cautioned that the PCER shall not be used as a ‘delaying tactic’ to defuse their struggle – which otherwise is gaining momentum. To alleviate fears a parliamentary pledge has been made that the timeframe given to the committee will not be extended at any cost.

The scope of work of the PCER includes, but is not limited to, making recommendations to ensure free, fair and transparent elections, adoption of the latest technology, proposing necessary legislation or constitutional amendments, if required. One expects that with this explicit mandate the PCER will opt for out-of-the-box solutions and instead of relying on fixing the old system here and there, it will come up with a modern electoral system that will be compatible with the technological possibilities of electronic-voting.

Perhaps it is time to shift from manual to modern technological e-voting, e-voter registration plus verification, e-counting and swift electoral grievance redress mechanisms in Pakistan. In this way, with the change of electoral software, the hardware of country’s electoral machinery – more specifically the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) – would require a different kind of leadership and human resources to internalize reforms and vanguard nation’s political wealth. In the past despite efforts the ECP couldn’t reclaim its original soul and spirit because military regimes used it as an instrument to earn legitimacy for usurpers through fraudulent referendums in 1984 and 2002.

One expects that the committee will also dedicate its energies to democratise qualification and disqualification criteria enlisted in Article 62 and 63. The minimum will be to delete dictatorial clause inserted during General Zia’s regime as they have confused the political narrative in the country. The committee shall also revisit the Political Party Order-2002 as it was promulgated by yet another military regime and falls short on fixing any spending limit on parties and a proper audit of parties’ financial statements. The law is totally silent about the formation of election alliances and this lacuna has been exploited well by banned outfits that contested previous election.

This politics-led indigenous initiative for reforms must take into account the country’s international obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and many other pledges that assert citizens’ right to be governed democratically and be able to participate and run for an elected office.

There is a significant body of knowledge on what ails Pakistan’s electoral system. The list of problems is long – ranging from ghost polling stations to troubles in trustworthy counting and record keeping. The Standing Committee of the National Assembly on Law has done lot of homework. The Special Committee on Election Issues in the Senate also held public hearing and series of consultative meetings. The PCER shall also hold public hearings or at least solicit citizen’s suggestions for electoral reforms. In this regard political parties are the main stakeholders and those who are currently out of parliament and continue to create chaos shall also be consulted to make this process more inclusive. Over the years international donors have also spent millions of dollars to fix the fractured electoral system.

Dissection of the composition of the PCER reveals that out of 18 political parties with representation in the National Assembly only three single legislator parties – the Balochistan National Party-Mengal, the National Party of Dr Malik Baloch and tthe All Pakistan Muslim League of General Musharraf – have been denied berth in the committee comprising 16 parties and independents from Fata.

The single-senator National Party has also been ignored by the Senate, which contributed 11 members to the PCER. The committee includes nine legislators who had been members of the Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional Reforms that cobbled the 18th Amendment. There are four women legislators from the lower house but there is no representation of religious minorities. The speaker is empowered to replace any member of the committee on the request of the parliamentary party leader concerned. The leading parties must consider inclusion of those who have been excluded in the first notification.

Nevertheless a window of opportunity has been created to reform the country’s electoral system to make it more inclusive and transparent. This moment must be seized because a trustworthy electoral system along with an independent judiciary and free media will be the key to a better democratic future. This will be happening amid a climate of political confusions and chaos characterised by calls for marches and so-called revolution. Only time will tell whether the political class will be able to ward off any future coup de grace against the fragile and transitory democracy or complicate the matter further.

The writer is an Islamabad-based civic educator/researcher with an interest in federalism and democratic development.

 

 


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Welcome to the new Chief Justice in Pakistan

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Justice Nasirul Mulk was sworn in as the 22nd Chief Justice of Pakistan. Although we all are excited about a person who is very honest and committed on fundamental human rights in this position, we are concerned about the challenges he will have to face in a crisis prone environment and power brokers in every sector. he was among the judges who were deposed and suffered equally with the judges who took a stance on the illegitimate Martial Rule.

Mukhtara mai’s gang rape case became an icon for the struggle of women against violence. It went on for 8 years and finally met a disappointing fate at the Supreme court. Only one rapist was convicted all the others equally guilty in the gang rape went Scott free. Among the three judges on the Panel on Justice Nasir wrote a note of decent and fully supported Mukhtara Mai’s testimony. the decision of the case resulted in nationwide protests but at least women were happy that one of the three judges understood the social pressures women have to go through to file a case of this nature and the social dynamics around such cases. His historic note makes him popular among women and at the same time the expectations from him are more than it would have been from another justice.

He comes from the Swat Valley  and was brought up in a politically and socially aware family. His father was a Senator and so was his brother. He did his law degree from Peshawar in 1972 and his higher studies from London. He became the chief justice of Peshawar high court and was appointed as a Judge of the supreme court on 15 April 2005. Being the most senior Judge after the retirement of the last Chief Justice he has been appointed as the new Chief Justice. This smooth transition helps Pakistan’s judiciary to become stronger.

We welcome Justice Nasirul Mulk as our Chief Justice, a person with unblemished record, with the hope that he will keep the Judiciary independent. We need this support to stabilise our democracy.

 


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My experience of working with the women’s ministry

Elitist NGOs, some high-flying consultants and the top brand of development donor agencies still miss the Federal Women’s Ministry. It was so nice to have that small club for women’s issues, mutually beneficial to all players — well, except the women of Pakistan. Long after the Eighteenth Amendment devolved this subject to the provinces, nostalgic sentiments came surging back and small groups continue to lobby with donors to pressure the government into bringing the ministry back. The donors nod profusely in agreement, as going to the provinces is cumbersome. They question the government’s ‘commitment to women’s issues’. Of course, hardly any of these donor countries have a women’s ministry at home, yet all of them have critical women’s issues of their own to address.

Let’s look at the history of the ministry.

The Division of Women’s Development was founded in 1979. Please remember that the most devastating laws against women, the infamous Hudood Ordinance, were brought out in the same year. The division was created right before going to the United Nation’s Second World Conference on Women in Copenhagen in 1980. With all the restrictions and black laws against women, the government wanted to improve its image for the international audience. However, the government continued to trample on women’s rights for a decade while this division became a part of the establishment.

The division was upgraded to a full ministry by Benazir Bhutto’s government in its effort to revive women’s rights. The intention was good and some projects were initiated, but moving the bureaucracy was a serious challenge as it remained resistant to women’s empowerment throughout its existence. The social stigma attached to working at the ministry made this the last choice for postings. As a result, most secretaries were placed there as their last stop before retirement, with a turnover of up to four secretaries a year. With the exception of Salim Mehmood Salim, the others were least bothered about their portfolio.

This ministry was not based on substantive themes, like agriculture, for example. It was also never intended to be an implementing ministry, but to advise other ministries on women’s issues, which almost never happened and its influence on national policy was close to zero. In the 35 years of its existence, the ministry has hardly anything to show as its own initiative. The list of achievements in women’s empowerment were pushed by either strong political leaders or by civil society networks.

By and large, conservative men occupied key mid-level positions and hardly any of them supported the idea of women’s empowerment. They stalled on all progressive measures advanced by political leaders and continuously undermined the National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW), established in 2001. Each chair of the commission had to fight with the bureaucracy to get access to their allocated budget and staff. The ministry’s own staff blocked amendments to the NCSW’s law for seven years until 2012, when the commission got its independence in the last government.

While the commission was still intact, the donors who had women’s empowerment as a priority steadily poured funds in the ministry’s bottomless pit to ‘build its capacity’. One after the other, ministry officials set up units inside the ministry with highly paid consultants who would act on behalf of the ministry, hosting big events, so that donors could be consoled that the ministry had improved because of their efforts. These consultants departed as soon as the funds dried up, leaving the ministry with the same bitter men. Over the years I have seen at least six donors engaging in the expensive exercise of ‘capacity building’ and repeating each other’s mistakes. I used to call this ‘propping the ministry with toothpicks’. One heavily funded project on large-scale gender mainstreaming placed in the ministry turned out to be such a disaster that most of the funds were never used. The project evaluation had to be revised thrice so that the donor would not look so bad.

Although I have engaged closely with the division, and then the ministry, since 1987, I learned the details of its operations during the advocacy for the sexual harassment policy and legislation. From 2001 to 2010, I noticed, via first-hand exposure, how this ministry had become a major hurdle in the path of women’s empowerment. In the years 2008 to 2010, when the Alliance Against Sexual Harassment was lobbying for the anti-sexual harassment bills, the ministry did everything in its power to quash the bills. It was only the political leadership that saved the day. At the tail-end of the process, in 2009, I watched the secretary, like a child who could not have his way, purposefully presenting the bills to a Cabinet meeting in such negative way that former information minister Sherry Rehman had to cover it up with her positive comments.

I thank the Eighteenth Amendment Constitutional Reform Committee for pushing against the vested interests in the donor, NGO and consultant community to rid us of at least one of the big hurdles to women’s empowerment. To the policymakers, I ask, if all social sectors have been devolved then why should the women’s portfolio be returned as a federal subject? With the capacity of the federal level openly witnessed in the past decades, they should not raise questions on the provincial capacity. For donors, the Economic Affairs Division is sufficient to channel your funds to emphasise gender issues in sectoral projects at the provincial level. It is rather difficult for us to structure our country to suit others’ convenience.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 20th, 2014.

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INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY: Legislations Passed – The Silver Lining

Read My Article: http://tribune.com.pk/story/680052/international-womens-day-legislations-passed-the-silver-lining/

Today is a day to highlight the most pertinent issues confronting women, to celebrate our achievements, to identify the  gaps and, most of all, stand in solidarity for change. Today is not a Hallmark day to merely say, “Happy Women’s Day!”
The most prominent achievement for women in the past few years has been the passage of new progressive legislation for women. Perhaps this is the time to reflect on well we have utilized those advances. How many steps forward have we taken and how far back have we slipped. On the whole, we can say that regardless of the passage of good legislation, we cannot move forward unless we all are willing to make it work.
Taking a quick look at the progress made on the implementation of the seven laws passed over the last four years, it seems that the highest marks can be given to the Benazir Income Support Program, the anti-sexual harassment legislation and empowering the NCSW. Although quite different in nature these are the only ones that have an organised mechanism for implementation.
The Benazir Income Support Program Act culminated in a project that made its mark by directly assisting thousands of women to develop themselves. Although there were concerns that the new Government might allow it to lapse, a wise decision last year will allow the program to continue and build upon its achievements.
On the sexual harassment front, within the first year after passage, over 1000 cases were filed and the figure has steadily risen.  However, many complainants are facing increased pressure to drop their cases and several accused have been able to save themselves through high level connections. Nevertheless, the banking sector, including the State Bank, several federal government agencies, such as NADRA, as well as HEC and many universities have shown outstanding results, setting a precedent for the future. At a ceremony in December last year, awards were given to eight organisations and individuals that had built exceptionally supportive work environments. While these achievements might appear limited, the change in people’s attitudes has been revolutionary. Although the private and government sectors are steadily improving, the offices of the Anti-Sexual Harassment Ombudsmen in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad, established to support the victims of this crime, have been working below expectation. Collectively, they have employed an insensitive working model that has failed to support victims by making unnecessary delays and failing to understand either the legislation or the issue.
The National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) was re-established early last year under a revised Act. The revised legislation provided a stronger legal basis for the Commission, which is the national watch dog body on women’s issues. However, while the legislation provided autonomy for the Commission, the bureaucracy got its revenge by making the the passage of the implementing rules an unnecessarily long and drawn out affair. As a result, the impact this institutional reform is yet to be seen.
As the devolution aspects of the18th Amendment gather momentum, the provinces have been gearing up their new legislative agenda. Although women’s issues have not been seen as a major priority, there have been some commendable efforts. Sindh started off by passing its domestic violence bill.  Passage of this bill by a province was a bittersweet victory as civil society had failed for nine year to get it passed by the federal parliament. Balochistan followed suit, but with a weaker version. Nevertheless, we give them high marks for their intention and action as an amendment has been promised to fix some critical gaps in the text.
Despite world-wide attention on Pakistan, the amendment to the PPC that criminalized acid burning has not made much difference on the number of cases registered or convictions obtained during the last year. The reason is that this was supposed to be a set of two pieces of legislation, an amendment in the PPC, plus a comprehensive law that fully tackles the full challenge faced when filing a complaint, collecting evidence, and conducting a judicial inquiry. That comprehensive bill was never passed and now must approved by each province individually. Although one feels that In the face of the gravity of this crime, you might wonder who would oppose such a badly needed law, nevertheless the provincial governments have not yet considered it important enough to be taken up for a vote.
The implementation on the PPC amendment on anti-women practices, covering such crimes as forced marriage, exchanging women to resolve local conflicts and preventing women from inheriting their rightful share, has only seen limited results since being signed in December 2011.  Such issues, deeply rooted in the patriarchal nature of our society, have strong backing from the local social elite. Faced with such powerful resistance, the resolve of our state machinery quickly withers.  As with acid burning, domestic violence and rape, these are crimes are committed as an expression of power over women. These will not disappear merely because they are now illegal.  Their impact will be diminished only when our society condemns their perpetrators.
While reviewing the progress in recent years, one point stands out clearly: Implementation of pro-women laws, where it is done at all, results from the efforts of committed groups or individuals that push the process.  In many cases, these committed individuals are themselves complainants who have felt empowered by the new statutes, no matter how painful their journey might be.  These activists know they are cutting against the grain of our society, but they continue to struggle in order to reduce the pain our society inflicts on its own women. These activists are resolute in their efforts because the people in power, who should take it upon themselves to implement these laws, fail to do so because they are too busy resisting or covering their own tracks.


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CHANGE THE NARRATIVE: TEN STRATEGIES TO COUNTER MILITANCY

The discussion on countering militants was earlier framed as either ‘peace talks’ or ‘military operation’. Now that the talks have failed or have gone no where, the discussion has been framed around military operations and their consequences. I think there is a dire need to look at this scenario in a broader, and more realistic, framework. Only attacking the militant bases without a solid policy shift will not bring any change. Baitullah Mahsud was replaced by Hakeemullah Mehsud, who was replaced by Fazlullah. Continued focus on eliminating militant leaders without any thoughtful and sincere policy shift will not get us anywhere. What will bring peace back to our country? An impression has been created by the taliban apologists that the answer is with the taliban and that the talks would reveal the magic steps. The nation looked to them for an answer, but only found continued trickery and violence. The real question is what are WE willing to do to bring back peace. The onus is on us. To start off the discussion I am giving ten strategic points for consideration: 

1) Target Military Operations in places where militants are concentrated.

2) Issue official orders (for real) to break the friendly ties between law enforcing agencies (including intelligence agencies) and the militants and authorize them to apprehend the militants in the other parts of the country also, through investigation and inditement.

3) Expedite the inditement and conviction of the militants already captured. 

4) A clear policy by our leaders (political, military, religious or bureaucrats) to prevent any one from supporting, quietly protecting, or making backdoor deals with any banned groups of terrorists

5)  Change the narrative: separate Islam from militancy. Stop overplaying the sharia smoke screen, stop helping taliban reinforce their fake religious front. (This one especially is for the media) 

6) Change the narrative from taliban, jihadis to MILITANTS, so that the attention is not only focused on TTP, but on all the militants in the country.  

7) Put those using a religious front or pushing an ideology of hate under the garb of religion on the defensive. Strict action should be taken against all illegitimate militant hideouts in the form of “madrases” and “humanitarian organizations” and anyone who uses fatwa or incites people using Islam. 

8) This is OUR WAR and our mess and we have to clean up our house. We can sit together and blame USA or others later, but lets focus on protecting and cleaning our own house right now.  

9) Citizens must stick together through this roller coaster regardless of whichever party they support. This is not a time to divide ourselves and play politics. This is a time to focus on reclaiming our country. 

10) The national political leadership, and not the ISPR, should give briefings to media and to the nation.