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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

coach-truck-collide-head-on-58-killed-1415743308-9012

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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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. 

 


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Don’t Negotiate Women

http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-9-231831-Don’t-negotiate-women

While we women welcome the initiative of talks taken by the Government and stand in full solidarity with them, we would like to clearly state that women will not be a negotiating chip this time. We have over a decade of experience in dealing with the Taliban and centuries of experience in dealing with the traditional feudal mindset and patriarchal system. Whether it is in the name of Islam or in the name of tradition, it all falls on our heads. Either in the pretext of sharia or under the garb of making peace, we will not let the women of Pakistan be used as badl-e sulah. 

It should be clear to the leaders of our country and the negotiating team that this time if they try to make a deal like Nizam-e-Adal in Swat or Shariah, as demanded by Maulana Abdul Aziz in Islamabad, women will not agree to be the sacrificial goats.

TTP and other militant groups have a history of being obsessed by women. TTP after its takeover of Swat ruled that all families should marry off their daughters as soon as they reach 16 or else the taliban will take care of it for them. When the proposals of taliban were rejected of young girls, they turned it into a morality issue. The case of Chand bibi, who was flogged in public, is said to be a similar scenario. They burned over 600 girls schools and announced severe punishments for women who would appear in public. Kishwar Naheed’s poem comes to mind, woh jo bachion se bhi dar gaey…   Is it obsession or fear? Whatever it is, the horror stories go on.

When the Taliban took over Afghanistan in 1996 they stripped women from all their rights. They banned them from working or getting education. Women could not leave home without being accompanied by a male relative. They were beaten and punished severely on any minor violation of these rules. Pakistani Taliban have been quite inspired by these standards. They were able to introduce a code of morality under the garb of Nizam-e-Adal where the so called Qazi decided whatever he felt was in the ambit of Islam. Immediately after our Parliament gave them a green light, they started shaving young men’s heads and flogging women on the streets without even a facade of a legal system. Only the MQM abstained from the vote, with all the other parties approving the imposition of sharia under the name of Nizam e Adal in Swat. Those wounds are still raw for us.

There are many militant groups other than TTP all over Pakistan.  Each has a varying degree of control in the areas they operate in. They clearly have used their influence to curb women’s mobility and visibility without any checks from the administration. They are equally violent and dangerous. Will there be a strategy to root them out also?

The last time Pakistani Taliban came for peace talks (2009), their delegation came to Peshawar to discuss the pact with the cabinet members of KP. The first thing they objected to was the presence of a woman. Sitara Ayaz who was a well-respected Minister was asked to leave.  This time at least we won’t have that problem as there is no woman in the delegation. The only assurance we want from our Government is that they will not let women of Pakistan down and they will not compromise the rights of Pakistani citizens in the name of peace negotiations. We want to feel confident that they won’t. We are in solidarity with our Government, we would want our Government to be in solidarity with us!

The writer is a women’s rights activist who has worked on women’s issues for over 25 years.


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HOW PAKISTANI LEADERSHIP CAN AVOID A POSSIBLE CIVIL WAR

taliban pic Decades of indecisiveness about taking an action against the militants in Pakistan in a comprehensive manner has led people to be mistrustful of the main institutions of the country: the military, the government, the parliament and the judiciary. While all make big statements against the Taliban, all have had instances where they looked the other way or showed a soft corner for them. People are puzzled by a half-baked strategy where partially our institutions supported the enemy, partially looked away and partially acted against them to keep a pretext of fighting the war.  Last week’s strikes on Waziristan by our military were a sudden change from the peace talk mantras going on for a while. People waited in vain for a comprehensive explanation from the government announcing this change of policy, outline of a future strategy and instructions for people to position themselves in the context of what is about to happen.  Meanwhile, many people evacuated from Waziristan to Bannu in anticipation of more attacks.

A vacuum of decision making at the highest level, gaps in communication with the people, no joint stance of political forces and seemingly erratic attempts of retaliation can give wrong signals to the powerful and deeply entrenched militant enemy at this point. Such conditions can lead to a civil war if not handled properly. Recent announcement by the PM to form a four member committee is a good step forward. Here are some critical points to consider if Pakistan wants to avoid going into a civil war.

Bringing political leadership together: 

The current attacks in Waziristan seem to be led by military decision makers, with elected leadership giving it a civilian cover. These might have played the role of a catalyst in pushing the Government in making announcements of their next steps, but it should not be seen as the basis for future long term strategy. The government should actively seek consensus on the strategy of all political parties and bring them on one page. Merely announcing a negotiating committee or the beginning of a process is not enough. The consensus building should take place within the Parliament and not outside so that this institution gets stronger. The stronger the ownership of the political leadership the better they will be prepared when the negative consequences come. Later they will not be blaming each other and playing political games by saying this was not a good decision. The religious political factions who are sympathizers or pro-militants might not come together fully, but at least the main popular parties should join hands and build solidarity.

Get Experts in the team:

Pakistan is not the first country to face such a problem. Insurgency, militancy and such guerrilla warfare is something many countries have dealt with over decades. There is a whole field of study around conflicts.  Security experts around the world are available for their opinions and insights to contribute to the strategy for countering militants & negotiating with them. Many of these are Pakistani also. There are also local experts within Pakistan with good knowledge of the militant groups, their members, even knowing which members can be approached and who are the hard liners in these gangs. Pakistan has its local experts, among civil society, academia and journalists, who should be included in the closer circles and teams. Civilian government should not only count on military intelligence but should have its own civilian base of expertise who know and understand these groups and can guess their reactions. Sharing secret information from other countries involved in this war might be useful for the civilian government rather than restricting themselves to a few traditional sources of information.  In addition, the members of the negotiating team should not be all conservatives or taliban sympathizers. Pakistan has made this mistake many times, for example, Ijazul Haq,  son of dictator Zia ul Haq, was sent by the last Government to negotiate with the management of Lal Masjid and he came back after giving them a personal donation of one lakh rupees for the illegitimate madrassa built upon land that was not even theirs.

 Military Operation and citizens: 

It is important to have a buy-in from the people of Pakistan. The state has created high levels of confusion over the authenticity of the insurgency so have people romanticize Mujahidin and protect Taliban. The Kashmir affairs cell in PTV never stops working and the propaganda of showing Mujahidin martyrs and Taliban as anti USA and therefore ‘heroes’, is never ending on our media. The coverage of Hakimullah Mehsood is the most recent example where he was shown as a hero by the newspapers and many leaders. If there has to be a direct confrontation with Taliban we need to have Pakistani people join hands also. A clear message from the government and the State is necessary to clearly define the enemy and get the backing of the people, as was done in Swat. This will help the masses face the negative consequences if any in the form of internally displaced people, killing of innocent civilians, in case the negotiations fail.

The enemy is difficult to define:

It is easiest to fight an enemy outside. An enemy within the boundary of a country is difficult to fight. But it is most difficult when the enemy is not definable. As in some countries, this is not a fight between different ethnic or religious groups. Some may think that our enemy could be identifiable by big turbans and big beards holding guns and bombs but that is not so. The ‘taliban phenomenon’ is complicated. There are those who undermine the government through violence. There are those that pave the ground through propagation of a pro-taliban ideology and develop a volatile religious wicket to play on and gain power. There are those that have infiltrated into every sector, media, civil service, judiciary, police, political parties, civil society, business community and the military. These people continuously undermine the State and the Government and propagate the narrative of the militants. It is very difficult when the supporters of the enemy are deep into every institution of ours. In addition criminal elements have also joined the militancy in many cases who have different objectives to be in the fight. It could get difficult to separate out the militants and the purely criminal elements who are using the situation to gain their own benefits.

The present Government has come with a strong mandate. People are looking towards them for the required leadership. With the other political players they do need to take a lead, develop a strategy, not piece meal but a long term strategy with back up actions ready. They should have teams of experts dedicated to different parts of that strategy. The Prime Minister should talk to the people and build the motivation needed to take this enemy on. It is the elected Government that has to move ahead and the people should back them up regardless of which party they belong to.


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OUR POLITICIANS SHOULD LEARN FROM A 15 YRS OLD BOY IN HUNGU

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Aitizaz Hasan, 15, standing outside his school in Hangu, one of the most underdeveloped area of Pakistan, saw a militant with a bomb and recognised that he meant destruction for his fellow students. He did everything in his power to stop him. Aitizaz was successful in saving lives and stoping the bomber at the price of his own life. How can a 15 year old from Hungu  be smarter than our politicians to recognise what is bad for his people. These politicians  have gotten good education, some even went abroad for it. They have decades of experience of dealing with all kinds of people and have been exposed to all sorts of challenges. Why then they cannot see that militants, bombs, guns… are bad for their people and these militants should be stopped otherwise there will be many dead bodies. Even seeing dead bodies over the last so many years has not made them realise that militants need to be stopped. Can this be any more simpler!!! What we have seen is any attempt of someone else killing militants is strongly objected to by dharnas. We see nothing but protecting and apologising for militants. Finding excuses for them and at times even calling them shaheed. Yes countering militants might not be that easy but there are many countries in the world that have dealt with insurgencies. We are at a stage where even the intention has not been there to stop them. Short term gains are far more important for our leaders than joining hands against this menace. The responsibility has been claimed by Lashker e Jhangvi. What will our leaders do about it?

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jan/09/pakistani-boy-suicide-bomber-hero

http://en.shiapost.com/2014/01/06/shia-student-embraced-martyrdom-foiling-suicidal-attack-on-school-in-hangu/

http://tribune.com.pk/story/657330/aitizaz-hasan-to-be-honoured-with-sitara-e-shujaat/


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Five-year quick analysis of Pakistan’s Situation & Happy 2014

TEN THINGS PAKISTANIS SHOULD BE PROUD OF OVER THE LAST FIVE YEARS

  1. Devolution of powers and legislative authority given to the Provinces. Re-distribution of finances, NFC award and strengthening of a Federal structure.
  2. Taking off 58 2B and retuning powers of the Prime Minister from the President
  3. Completion of five year govt & a smooth and respectful transition to the next civilian government, without any intervention of the armed forces.
  4. Passage of pro-women legislation (7 laws between 2010 to 2013 after a gap of 50 years). Teaming up of civil society with the Parliament and a clear political active role  of women parliamentarians.
  5. Pakistani nation never voted more than 10% for the religious right.
  6. Active engagement of Pakistani public in elections in the face of violence and death.
  7. Willingness and initiation of peace talks with neighbours  (India).
  8. The beginning of a transition from a Military to Civilian Rule
  9. (eg. military budget-lines discussed in the parliament, court cases on ex ISI head and Chief of Army Staff, no overt interference by military since 2008).
  10. Strengthening of Election Commission and Council of Common Interests
  11. Continous progressive and democratic movement with brave people who would sacrifice anything for the country and the wellbeing of their people.

TEN THINGS PAKISTANIS SHOULD BE CONCERNED ABOUT 

  1. Our pattern of self bashing and disrespecting ourselves as a nation.
  2. Bashing the politicians only- increasing risk of instability and not standing behind our democratically elected governments.
  3. Lack of joint strategy of all stakeholders on militancy – including citizens themselves
  4. Lack of recognizing and unintentionally participating in the narrative of pro-militancy that is seeping into every sector. (trying to delegitimize Malala, organizations that work for progressive change shift focus on drones vs Taliban attacks, increasing moral bashing, who is a good Muslim and who is not. giving every debate a colour of religion.
  5. Continuous isolation in the international scenario which leads to suicidal tendency. very egocentric view of issues. not understanding the vulnerability of our country
  6. Lack of accountability for bureaucracy
  7. Lack of joint front of Pakistanis internally and diaspora, with a joint strategy of putting Pakistan-first and influencing the international dynamics.
  8. People get swayed by ‘selective justice’ which doesn’t always build the institution of justice. Lack of accountability of justice system, especially at the lower and mid level, which should be the backbone of the system
  9. People have learnt to criticize more and active participation less. Capacity of a country is collective. Lack of teaming up of citizens with the government or within themselves to come up with solutions and lobby for them. We need a shift from complaining to engagement mode.
  10. People become gullible to little information & propaganda by media or agencies. Transparency of how much money is coming from countries like USA for the military, government budget support, NGOs etc. (‘amriki agent’, or ‘anti islamic’ have become the most common beating sticks for whoever tries to talk sense).

HAPPY 2014!


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Unending woes: The naked truth about fishing

World Fisheries Day is celebrated across the planet on the 21st of November, and is marked by celebration and solidarity of all fisherfolk.

In most countries, the key issues revolve around over-harvesting, marking international water boundaries and sanctioning countries that refuse to follow international conservation norms.

However, our Pakistani fisherfolk are still struggling for basic personal dignity. Extortion by the coast guards is a daily routine for those going out to fish every morning. Villagers are forced to comply to extortion demands or face serious harm and humiliation.

About one week ago, a few fishermen grew tired of this daily extortion and refused to pay. In return, they were forced to strip naked in public, saying they needed to check if they were Muslims or Hindus. When they again resisted, they were beaten until they stripped.

On November 19, the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum organised a huge rally near the coastal village of Ibrahim Haideri to protest the illegal actions, but no action has been taken against the offending Guardsmen. Unfortunately, the norm in Pakistan is for the victim to be punished for complaining of abuse. So, instead of being worried about this open protest, the Coast Guardsmen have increased their harassment of the fishing community.

The Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum is headed by Mohammad Ali Shah with members from all over the coast of Sindh and Balochistan. In the past, the Forum struggled against abuse by Rangers who had been given monopoly over fish trading contracts by the Government. The fishing communities were not allowed to sell their catch to anyone but the Rangers at whatever price demanded. After nineteen years of struggle the PFF was finally able to end the exploitative arrangement with this official mafia, only to find that the Sindh government had given similar contracts to landlords in Manchar, Shahdadkot, Badin and Sanghar.

Why is it that powerful people who violate rights live a great life in our country with full confidence that no one can touch them, while those without political power are humiliated and struggle each day just to survive? We continue to reinforce this system by supporting similar abusers in the name of party loyalty, patriotism, hero worship or, often, just for petty personal gain. The poor, who have little access to the corridors of power, hesitate to complain for fear of retaliation because they know that wrongdoers are rarely punished by our courts without political backing.

Perhaps our next Chief Justice can use his influence in the Law and Justice Commission to focus on reforms in the lower judiciary rather than pursuing selected flamboyant cases. For today, would it be too much to ask the Government to stop the constant abuse of the fishing communities and take the offending Coast Guardsmen to task?

Published in The Express Tribune, November 22nd, 2013.