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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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Every institution failed Amina

http://tribune.com.pk/story/758534/comment-every-institution-failed-amina/

By Fouzia Saeed, Pakistan Fellow at Woodrow Wilson Center, Washington DC

Published: September 6, 2014

fire 

Amina set herself on fire in front of the police station in Muzaffargarh on the 5th of March 2014 because her rapists were released with the help of the police.  Her case created a media hype. Despite getting attention from the highest authorities it fell into the routine game playing of the police. Unfortunately, Amina’s parents did not get justice. The court acquitted the culprits on the basis of significant doubt and limited evidence. 

Amina was an 18-year-old first year student.   On the 5th of January 2014, she was travelling with her brother on his motorbike, when four men stopped them and attacked her, tearing her clothes and attempting to rape her.   Some people living close by came out and chased the men away. A woman put a chador around her to cover her body.

Later, her family said that the man accused of being the ringleader of the group was the brother of her sister’s husband.  He apparently had asked several times, but her parents refused every time. They were already very unhappy about their other daughter’s marriage to that family.

Amina became furious when after three months, the police not only released the culprits, but also submitted that there was no evidence to uphold any claim. Thus the case was thrown out. Her deadly protest generated reaction.

On March 14th, the opposition in the Punjab Assembly complained about the pitiable law and order situation in the province.  Although the Law Minister gave a long speech explaining what the government would do to ensure a proper outcome, the opposition still walked out in protest.

The CM visited her family and appointed an additional IG with instructions to deliver a report immediately. When the CM took notice, the police went into their usual cover-up routine. The CM intervened again and suspended the RPO and DPO for not taking action and instructed to arrest the DSP, SHO and Investigating officer of the Police Station Mir Hazar Khan for negligence.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan also took suo motu notice and considered the actions of the police to be in violation of Articles 9, Articles 4, 25(3) and 37(d) of the Constitution. They immediately asked for the police reports. Hearing the usual story from the Additional IG of Punjab, that the whole case had been fabricated, the Chief Justice (at that time) Tassaduq Husain Jillani rejected the opinion, offered deep condolences to the mother of Amina and instructed a Sessions Judge to investigate the case properly.

As soon as the new notoriety surrounding her death faded, the usual police tactics took over. They immediately released the DSP and SHO from jail and re-amended  the FIR (no 31/14), removing the references to PPC sections (322, 201) and the Anti-terrorism Act section 155-c, 7 that had been added under the orders of the Supreme Court. Amina’s lawyer moved to re-amend the FIR but the submission was rejected and even the high court no longer seemed interested to pursue it further.

A series of bizarre stories soon started to circulate within the Muzaffargarh social circles creating doubts about the honesty of the victim. This is another tactic very skilfully applied by the police.

After the CM’s intervention and the response of the Supreme Court, Amina’s parents felt brave enough to pursue the case to get justice for their daughter. Unfortunately, although the CM allegedly promised Rs500,000 to cover the family’s legal fees, no money was ever received, and no one among the higher authorities is following the case any longer.

The Session court has just decided to acquit the culprits, and the investigation officer who was still in jail, for lack of evidence. The ability of the police to re-frame charges, conduct shoddy investigations, falsify evidence in order to create doubts works every time. Nothing in this story is new to anyone who has looked into the crime of rape in Pakistan. These are classic tactics applied to every case since it is always the culprit who is willing to pay more in bribes to get the case thrown out and is usually more politically powerful than the victim’s family.   Because of this collusion between the police and criminals, the conviction rate for rape cases in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is less than one percent.

If this is the fate of rape investigations in cases that get substantial media attention, we can only imagine what happens to those that go through the normal process. A few days ago another gang rape victim in Dera Ghazi Khan set herself on fire because the police released the rapists. Is that going to be the future for rape victims in Pakistan? Will the rule of law ever become a priority for women in our society?

Published in The Express Tribune, September 6th, 2014.

 


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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. 

 


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ANTI-SEXUAL HARASSMENT LAWS ARE APPLICABLE TO UNIVERSITIES IN PAKISTAN

Although everyone would be more concerned about the attacks in Waziristan, I do want to share this article which  clarifies some of the misconception created by the print media. It is disheartening that one has to work so hard to get a positive impact from a law, but everyone picks up something negative so fast. I don’t know if the amendment will pass or not but the way he has talked to the press has thrown our work back about two years. We have been trying to control the damage for the last five days  Anyway here is my clarification. If you know people in the universities kindly help me circulate this article widely. Now that we had the universities adopting this law we don’t want to have any sliding back.

The anti-sexual harassment law is applicable to all institutions, government, private, civil society and as the text of the law regarding this clearly states, “to the educational institutions” as well (Section 2 Paragraph 1). A recently proposed amendment in the Senate created an impression that the law is not currently applicable in the educational institutions. This is totally incorrect. I will explain the challenges this law is facing because of some elitist elements, which are persistent in harassing others and pull all strings to get away with it.

The amendment moved recently in the Senate has a positive intention. We have given our inputs. If approved, it should expand the definition of sexual harassment which will help cover, in a better way, all complainants who are not employees of an institution but are harassed by an employee. These include students as well. We hope the government will look at such changes in a positive manner.

The law, Protection Against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act of 2010, was signed on March 9, 2010. In January 2011, the Higher Education Commission (HEC) dispatched a detailed guideline for all universities to comply with the new law.

The law has a provision for an appeal process. If you approach the Inquiry Committee of the institution, either party can go in appeal to the ombudsman. You can also go to the ombudsman, under section eight which states that, “Any employee shall have the option to prefer a complaint either to the ombudsman or the inquiry committee.” In such a case, either party can take the decision for a representation to the president. But no one gets to appeal twice. Perhaps a future amendment can also make this more explicit.

The university controller of examinations of the Quaid-e-Azam University (QAU) was forcefully retired by the university for physically harassing a young female student. The story was corroborated by many witnesses. A frenzy was created within the syndicate. Most respected Supreme Court Justice Nasirul Mulk, who happens to be on the syndicate of the QAU, ruled that the law is applicable to universities. The controller took the case in appeal to the ombudsman where the university’s decision was upheld. He tried his luck in the high court but did not get anywhere. He then took the case to another appeal — to the president. The second appeal is not allowed under the law. The president sent the case to the law ministry where, we are told the ministry said the law doesn’t cover student grievances. We disagree with this opinion as the definition clearly states: “Harassment means any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favours or other verbal or written communication or physical conduct of a sexual nature or sexually demeaning attitudes … or the attempt to punish the complainant for refusal to comply to such a request …”. This was a classic case where a senior controller examination abused his position to create fear of reprimand and physically harassed a young female student in his office and was fully covered under the law and fully within the HEC policy which the university officially adopted.

More than 40 complaints of sexual harassment, mostly by students against professors, have been resolved so far. Five major cases have been tackled in QAU itself. Thus, I would like to make it clear to the senators to kindly not frame their discussion in terms of whether this law should include universities or not. This is damaging for our implementation process. The universities are already included. They will be going against the law if they do not establish the complaint mechanisms. Any help in further strengthening the act by them will be welcomed.

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