Monday, December 17, 2012

Violent Conflict is Part of Pakistan's Social Transformation!

Whether it was the bloody Civil War to abolish slavery in America or the Meiji Restoration that transformed feudal Japan into an industrial giant, history tells us that violent conflict has been an integral part of the process of social change.  Pakistan, too, is experiencing a similar violent social revolution. It started well before the terrorist attacks  of 911 and the subsequent US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.  It has only intensified after these events.

The "peace of the dead" has ended with the continuing "eclipse of feudalism" in Pakistan.  A significant part of  the what the world media, politicians and pundits call terrorism is in fact  an "unplanned revolution" in the words of a Pakistani sociologist, a revolution that could transform Pakistani society for the better in the long run.

 Violence is being used by the defenders of  a range of old feudal and tribal values in Pakistan. Some of the traditionalists are fighting to keep girls at home and out of schools and workplaces while others are insisting on continuing traditional arranged and sometimes forced marriages within their clans. Such violence is being met with brave defiance, particularly by the younger generation.

Recent media coverage of the attempt on Swat schoolgirl Malala Yosufzai's life by the Taliban has brought attention to what the tribal traditionalists see as a serious threat to their old feudal-tribal ways. In an October 2012 speech at a social scientists conference in the Nepalese capital Kathmandu, Arif Hasan recalled what a village elder in Sindh told him about the reasons for the increase in honor killings. He said: “The young people, they’ve gone to the city, and they’ve done all the wrong things. The girls have learned how to read and write, they’ve gone to school, some of them have gone to university as well. They have no morals left, so this is bound to happen.”

When Hasan asked the village elder as to when will the honor killings stop? He replied: “The honor killings will stop when everyone becomes shameless, then it will end.” Then he added, “But I hope that I die before that day.”  Hasan says "he was a man of the old, feudal rural culture, with its own pattern of behavior and way of thinking. He was part of it, and it was dying, so he wished to die with it."

There was a news story this morning about young Pakistanis engaging in Internet dating and marriages. In 1992, the applications for court marriages in Karachi amounted to about 10 or 15, mainly applications from couples who were seeking the protection of the court for wedlock without familial consent, according to Arif Hasan. By 2006, it increased to more than 250 applications for court marriages per day in Karachi. Significantly, more than half of the couples seeking court recognition of their betrothal came from rural areas of Sindh. This is yet another indication of how the entire feudal system and its values are in rapid collapse.

Rapid urbanization , rising economic mobility  and media and telecom revolutions have been the key contributors to the process of social change in the country.   New York Times' Sabrina Tavernise described the rise of Pakistan's middle class in a story from Pakistani town of Muzaffargarh in the following words:

For years, feudal lords reigned supreme, serving as the police, the judge and the political leader. Plantations had jails, and political seats were practically owned by families.

Instead of midwifing democracy, these aristocrats obstructed it, ignoring the needs of rural Pakistanis, half of whom are still landless and desperately poor more than 60 years after Pakistan became a state.

But changes began to erode the aristocrats’ power.
Cities sprouted, with jobs in construction and industry. Large-scale farms eclipsed old-fashioned plantations. Vast hereditary lands splintered among generations of sons, and many aristocratic families left the country for cities, living beyond their means off sales of their remaining lands. Mobile labor has also reduced dependence on aristocratic families.

In Punjab, the country’s most populous province, and its most economically advanced, the number of national lawmakers from feudal families shrank to 25 percent in 2008 from 42 percent in 1970, according to a count conducted by Mubashir Hassan, a former finance minister, and The New York Times.

“Feudals are a dying breed,” said S. Akbar Zaidi, a Karachi-based fellow with the Carnegie Foundation. “They have no power outside the walls of their castles.”

As early as 1998 when the last census was held, researcher Reza Ali  found that Pakistan was almost half urban and half rural, using a  more useful definitions of ‘urban’, and not the outdated definition  of the Census Organization which excludes the huge informal settlements in the peri-urban areas of the cities which are very often not part of the metropolitan areas.

A 2012 study of 22 nations conducted by Prof Miles Corak for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has found that upward economic mobility to be greater in Pakistan than the United States, the United Kingdom, Italy, China and 5 other countries. The study's findings were presented by the author in testimony to the US Senate Finance Committee on July 6, 2012.

 Pakistan's media and telecom revolution that began during the Musharaf years is continuing unabated. In addition to financial services, the two key service sectors with explosive growth in last decade (1999-2009) in Pakistan include media and telecom, both of which have helped create jobs and empowered women. The current media revolution sweeping the nation began ten years ago when Pakistan had just one television channel, according to the UK's Prospect Magazine. Today it has over 100.  Pakistan is among the five most dynamic economies of developing Asia in terms of increased penetration of mobile phones, internet and broadband, according to the Information Economy Report, 2009 published by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad). Among the five countries in terms of mobile penetration in South Asia, Pakistan is placed at number three followed by Sri Lanka and Bhutan. Iran and Maldives are ranked above Pakistan.

Here's how Arif Hasan concluded his Kathmandu speech:

 Pakistani society continues in its state of flux, and the Afghan war has escalated this. The normal evolution of society has been stopped by the militancy in Pakistan linked to the war in Afghanistan. If you remove these militants – which you won’t, by the way – then a whole new world emerges in Pakistan, a transformation in a society trying to define itself. The recent shooting of Malala Yusufzhai has shown what Pakistani society really feels and how it thinks on issues. For the first time the Pakistani establishment – the army as well as the three major political parties – have all condemned the Taliban for the shooting. The people have spoken in the huge rallies, in Karachi and elsewhere. Earlier, this never happened because people were scared of being shot, kidnapped, and having bombs thrown at them. This is the first time that there has been such a huge public outpouring.

But even as people find a voice, we do need the inculcation of new societal values. The problem is, how do you promote these values and through whom? It is too much to ask media, and academia is busy in consultancies for the donor institutions. The literature is all about the struggle between fundamentalism and liberalism, but that is not where the problem lies. The challenge is for Pakistani society to consolidate itself in the post-feudal era. The society has freed itself from the shackles of feudalism, but our values still remain very much the same. There are very big changes that are taking place – how do you support them, how do you institutionalize them, how do you give the people a voice? I leave you with these questions, rather than try and provide the answers.

 Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Silent Social Revolution in Pakistan

Arif Hasan's Website

The Eclipse of Feudalism in Pakistan

Social and Structural Transformations in Pakistan

Malala Moment: Profiles in Courage-Not!

Urbanization in Pakistan Highest in South Asia

Rising Economic Mobility in Pakistan

Upwardly Mobile Pakistan


Hopewins said...

^^RH: "Pakistan, too, is experiencing a similar violent social revolution

I think you may not have understood the difference between REVOLUTIONARIES and REACTIONARIES.

Revolutionary violence, for better or for worse, is directed towards social transformation into something new.

Pakistan is seeing NO revolutionary violence. NONE.

What Pakista is experience is REACTIONARY violence. The objective of this REACTIONARY violence is to STOP the social transformation that is occuring because of the non-violent revolution of globalization and the information age.

The objective of all violence in Pakistan is to take society back to a "perfect" 7th Century. This cannot be called REVOLUTIONARY.

Please read more about the difference between what is revolutionary and what is reactionary....

Riaz Haq said...

HWJ: "What Pakista is experience is REACTIONARY violence."

Reactionary violence against what?

If the status quo is not threatened, why are reactionary engaging in violence and dying in large numbers (over 25000 out of 45000 deaths, according to SATP)?

Why did the South decide to fight the North in 1860s? Was it not to stop abolition of slavery in America?

Why did the samurai fight the emperor's forces to maintain their traditional way of life in Japan?

Anonymous said...

I think HJI is right this time.
Pls tell what revolution is in the making by targetted killing of shias, ahmediyas, balochs, christians and hindus.

Pakistani talibanis have repeatedly told that they dislike democratically elected Zardari and co and want to bring Sharia in Pakistan.

Riaz Haq said...

Anon: "Pls tell what revolution is in the making by targetted killing of shias, ahmediyas, balochs, christians and hindus."

If you are student of history, you'll find that revolutions claim a lot of innocent lives and Pakistan's ongoing social revolution is no exception.

AS to the Taliban's "shariah", it's in reality just pashtunwali code that they live by in FATA.

Anonymous said...

Riaz Sb.,

You migth be correct. They dying order is dying with a bang. The old order does not want to simply vanish.


Hopewins said...

RH: "AS to the Taliban's 'shariah, it's in reality just pashtunwali code that they live by in FATA."

And what about the "Shariah" of the Salafis in KSA?

Is that also just their tribal code that the live by in Rub' Al Khali?

Or is that REAL "Shariah"?

What are your views on this?

Riaz Haq said...

HWJ: "And what about the "Shariah" of the Salafis in KSA?"

Saudi system traces its origin to an alliance in 1744 between Muhammad bin Saud and Muhammad bin Abdul-Wahhab which was formalized by the wedding of Muhammad bin Abdul-Wahhab's daughter to Abdul Aziz, son and successor of Ibn Saud.

It's been sustained for over 250 years to allow the Saudi royals to stay in power with the support of the religious establishment which is very similar to the Medieval European model of collaborative control by the kings and the popes.

Riaz Haq said...

Zamir: "They dying order is dying with a bang. The old order does not want to simply vanish."

You are right. The feudals, the tribals and the rest of the corrupt elite will not surrender easily or quickly. They are now being thoroughly discredited. They will resist as long as they can but they'll ultimately be defeated.

Hopewins said...

^^RH: "The feudals, the tribals and the rest of the corrupt elite will not surrender easily or quickly. They are now being thoroughly discredited. They will resist as long as they can but they'll ultimately be defeated..."

Does this include our Army?

The money-making obsession in the Army has progressed to such an extent that people now jokingly refer to them as "Real Estate agents with guns" for all their shady property deals.

As Najam Sethi has written so many times, the Army has been draining a large proportion of state resources without any real supervision or accountability since 1956.

In addition, our Army WAS "thoroughly discredited" in 1971 and removed from power. And yet they managed to come back into power within 8 years time. So what is the guarantee that the others--even if discredited and removed-- won't come back into power?

Yes? What are your views?

Riaz Haq said...

HWJ: "Does this include our Army?"

I see the Army as part of the solution. It's the only meritocracy among state institutions which is controlled by the educated middle class.

Pakistan's military should take a page from the Chinese PLA playbook. It should do what is necessary to strengthen the nation's industry, economy and national security, regardless of any critics, including Ayesha Siddiqa Agha, Najam Sethi and their myriad fans.

This is the best way forward to a well-educated, industrialized, prosperous and democratic Pakistan in the future.

Shams said...

Unfortunately you have been listening to sociologists who are full of shit.

When Shias are being target-killed and the entire nation looks away, when the terrorists are rooted in Punjab (TTP, Deobandis, Lashkare Jhangivs, etc.) and KP (Taliban, Drug Mafia, etc.) and yet all killings are done in Karachi and Balochistan, one must ask if this is some f---- terrorism or is it a plan to usurp and take over these two imporant natural resources of Pakistan.

What is happening in Pakistan is that the f----- Punjabis are creating all the problems and this has no relation to feudalism.

So unfortunately your article is full of crap.

Riaz Haq said...

Shams: "Unfortunately you have been listening to sociologists who are full of shit. When Shias are being target-killed and the entire nation looks away..."

Arif Hasan and Akbar Zaidi, the Karachi-based sociologists whose work I have quoted, are themselves Shia.

They know that Shias are not alone as targets of hateful attacks in Pakistan.

They know that the polio workers shot today were not all Shia.

They know that Qazi Husain Ahmad and Hamid Mir who were recently targeted by the Taliban are not Shia either.

They know that very few of the 45,000 Pakistanis (Data from South Asia Terrorism Portal) who have died in terrorist attacks since 2003 were Shia.

Arif Hasan ad Akbar Zaidi are both serious intellectuals and social science researchers who are extensively quoted and whose work has been widely published.

Suhail said...

Tribal, feudal and industrial economies are different socioeconomic systems which in terms of development stages can be termed as primitive, medieval and modern respectively. You're correct when you say that feudalism is dying and that bloodshed is sometimes unavoidable and necessary to effect a change in socioeconomic system in a country. The point of concern which you've missed out is that apart from feudalism the industrial economy is also weakening and the entities perpetrating bloodshed for a change are of a tribal, fundamentalist regressive nature. So unlike other parts of the world, as a result of a bloody "revolution" we would be transiting backward instead of moving forward.

Riaz Haq said...

Suhail: "Unlike other parts of the world, as a result of a bloody "revolution" we would be transiting backward instead of moving forward."

The bloodshed is happening in part to stop progress from feudal-tribal ways to a modern industrial society. It's similar to what happened in mid-nineteenth century US ad Japan leading to the end of slavery in America and industrialization of Japan.

Here's an excerpt from a recent Businessweek article titled "Pakistan, Land of Entrepreneurs" that shows that the violent opposition to progress is not succeeding:

Habib, who started as a stockbroker more than four decades ago, has expanded his Arif Habib Group into a 13-company business that has invested $2 billion in financial services, cement, fertilizer, and steel factories since 2004. His group and a clutch of others have become conglomerates of a kind that went out of fashion in the West but seem suited to the often chaotic conditions in Pakistan. Engro (ENGRO), a maker of fertilizer, has moved into packaged foods and coal mining. Billionaire Mian Muhammad Mansha, one of Pakistan’s richest men, is importing 2,500 milk cows from Australia to start a dairy business after running MCB Bank, Nishat Mills, and D.G. Khan Cement.

These companies have prospered in a country that, since joining the U.S. in the war on terror after Sept. 11, has lost more than 40,000 people to retaliatory bombings by the Taliban. Political violence in Karachi has killed 2,000 Pakistanis this year, and an energy crisis—power outages last as long as 18 hours a day—has led to social unrest. Foreign direct investment declined 24 percent to $244 million in the four months ended Oct. 31, according to the central bank.

At the same time, some 70 million Pakistanis—40 percent of the population—have become middle-class, says Sakib Sherani, chief executive of Macro Economic Insights, a research firm in Islamabad. A boom in agriculture and residential property, as well as jobs in hot sectors such as telecom and media, have helped Pakistanis prosper. “Just go to the malls and see the number of customers who are actually buying in upscale stores and that shows you how robust the demand is,” says Azfer Naseem, head of research for Elixir Securities in Karachi. “Despite the energy crisis, we have growth of 3 percent.”

Sherani of Macro Economic Insights estimates the middle class doubled in size between 2002 and 2012. “Those who understand the difference between the perception of Pakistan and the reality have made a killing,” Habib says. “Foreigners don’t come here, so the field is wide open.” The KSE100, the benchmark index of the Karachi Exchange, has risen elevenfold since mid-2001. Shares in the index are up 43 percent this year alone. Over the past decade, stocks have been buoyed by corporate earnings, which were bolstered in turn by rising consumer spending.

Hopewins said...

^^RH quoting Dr. Hussain: "The economic situation is much better right now, he said and added that the country had witnessed a crisis like situation when oil ships were anchored on the ports and government had no money to pay them in the past."

The BOP crisis would ordinarily have come by spring 2013.

However, PPP >>MAY<< be able to convince IMF to help postpone it until after the elections.

Once PPP gets re-elected, they will allow the BOP crisis to play out and devalue to 150 PKR/USD. If opposition wins, same applies.

But if IMF says no, the crisis will come by the end of spring 13. And it will be a HUUUGE crisis.

Suhail said...


There is no feudal-tribal alliance in Pakistan and this is the discrepancy in the analysis. To elaborate, there have been very few countries in the past where both the tribal and feudal systems existed in a dominant position at the same time. The nineteenth century US was an agriculture based feudal society (slavery instead of peasantry). The tribals there were the native Indians who were wiped out by the feudals already so had no role in the civil war. Same is the case in nineteenth century Europe which was a totally feudal society with no tribalism. Pakistan is an exception in that both the systems are strongly in place in different parts of the country and tribals vying for a take over of the country from the weakening feudals. The feudal-tribal axis is untenable because the two are diverse in nature and ethnicity, and in fact at loggerheads with each other. KP and Balochistan have tribals and no feudals, while Sindh and Punjab have been traditional feudal societies. Sindh has some tribal culture also but this is limited to the Baloch tribes living in Sindh (eg, Chandios, Magsis, Legharis etc). In fact the secessionist movement in Balochistan and Pakhtoonistan were initially tribal driven against feudals of Punjab and Sindh.

The present militancy is being perpetrated by the forces of the tribal culture, such as:
- Pakhtoons, a tribal society; the leadership is now shared by Taliban and the tribal chiefs.
- Southern Punjab is a feudal area. The anti-feudal lower classes there are supporting Taliban which primarily has origins in a tribal society against their traditional feudal lords.
- Karachi is increasingly becoming a Taliban stronghold because of the increasing no. of Pakhtoons in the city. The polio workers killed in Karachi were all in the Pakhtoon areas where not even the media people can enter. Taliban in Karachi are being supported by the Punjabis and mohajirs belonging to Jamaat-e-Islami etc.

So if the present militancy succeeds, it will be a transition in Pakistan from the traditional feudal domination to the more primitive tribal domination. If the militants do not succeed in getting hold on the entire country, then there can be breakup between tribal dominated (Balochistan and Pakhtoon), and feudal Sindh and Punjab, the apocalyptic scenario that Shams is hoping for.

So you can see that rather than a feudal-tribal axis, it a situation of conflict between feudal and tribal forces. Business and industry feature nowhere in this power struggle, though it remains operative marginally and in an inefficient manner under either of the systems.

Riaz Haq said...

Suhail: "There is no feudal-tribal alliance in Pakistan and this is the discrepancy in the analysis..."

I agree with you that there is no feudal-tribal alliance.

But both the feudal and the tribal chieftains feel threatened by the forces unleashed by rapid urbanization, the rise of the media and telecom and the increasing upward economic mobility in the country.

They are both trying to preserve their old ways by force---by attacking women for going to school or by forcing their old ways on younger generation through honor killings. And they are both losing as evident from the data compiled by various researchers.

It's the decline of the economic power of the rural elite together with the new opportunities offered by industrial and service sectors that are having the biggest impact---bigger than the force of arms possessed by the zamidars and the sardars.

I believe Pakistan is moving forward toward an industrial society...not backward to tribalism that you suggest.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Bloomberg report on Pakistan's new wire-tappig law:

Pakistan’s National Assembly approved a bill allowing use of electronic evidence from wire- tapping and communication intercepts against terror suspects after a large number of acquittals by anti-terrorism courts for lack of proof.

“It is an accepted fact that terrorists are not getting convicted and are not brought to justice because of lack of relevant rules and laws,” Law Minister Farooq H. Naek said while presenting the bill in the National Assembly, or the lower house, in Islamabad today.

The U.S. “Country Reports on Terrorism 2011,” released in July, put the acquittal rate for terrorist cases to as high as 85 percent in Pakistan, which is seen as a hub of global terrorism. Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden was found and killed in a Pakistani town by U.S. Navy SEALs in May 2011.

Nuclear-armed Pakistan is an ally of the U.S. and has lost more than 40,000 people to bombings by the Taliban since joining the U.S. in the war on terror after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The bill, which was unanimously passed by the National Assembly, now goes to the Senate, Pakistan’s upper house.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Express Tribune list of Pakistani companies with over a billion in revenue:

The Billion Dollar Club

1. Pakistan State Oil Company

Revenues: $11.57 billion

Joined club: Before 1986

2. Pak-Arab Refinery

Revenues: $3.00 billion

Joined club: 2000

3. Sui Northern Gas Pipelines

Revenues: $2.52 billion

Joined club: 2004

4. Shell Pakistan

Revenues: $2.38 billion

Joined club: 2000

5. Oil & Gas Development Company

Revenues: $2.23 billion

Joined club: 2005

6. National Refinery

Revenues: $1.97 billion

Joined club: 2005

7. Hub Power Company

Revenues: $1.97 billion

Joined club: 2009

8. Karachi Electric Supply Company

Revenues: $1.84 billion

Joined club: 2008

9. Attock Refinery

Revenues: $1.74 billion

Joined club: 2008

10. Attock Petroleum

Revenues: $1.72 billion

Joined club: 2010

11. Lahore Electric Supply Company

Revenues: $1.49 billion

Joined club: 2006

12. Pakistan Refinery

Revenues: $1.44 billion

Joined club: 2011

13. Sui Southern Gas Company

Revenues: $1.38 billion

Joined club: 2005

14. Pakistan International Airlines

Revenues: $1.36 billion

Joined club: 2005

15. Engro Corporation

Revenues: $1.29 billion

Joined club: 2011

16. Pakistan Telecommunications Company

Revenues: $1.25 billion

Joined club: 2000

17. Kot Addu Power Company

Revenues: $1.14 billion

Joined club: 2012

18. Mobilink

Revenues: $1.11 billion

Joined club: 2006

19. Pakistan Petroleum

Revenues: $1.09 billion

Joined club: 2012


Riaz Haq said...

Here's a report on Sarhad Rural Support Program:

Operating in this region since 1989, the Sarhad Rural Support Programme (SRSP) has quietly pioneered a model of development suggesting a viable pathway for transition to sustainable, post-carbon prosperity. The model is based fundamentally on participation of the marginalised rural poor at all levels — as planners, designers, implementers, and maintainers. Grassroots communities are empowered to self-mobilise into local community organisations which then become the vehicles of building ‘self-help capacity’, identifying the needs of households and procuring the training, skills and resources to undertake diverse development projects.

One of the SRSP’s flagship projects involves micro-infrastructure. So far, the impact has been astounding. Over 4,028 small-scale projects have been planned, delivered and maintained by communities themselves across the region, establishing micro-hydroelectric plants that allow communities to finance their own development — in turn generating new local jobs and service providers, clean water and sanitation schemes, farm-to-market roads, and new opportunities for small-scale agriculture.

Farming communities utilise water from the hydropower plants, diverting it to fields for kitchen gardening, multi-cropping and fish ponds. As the plants store rain and river water, they also provide effective disaster mitigation against monsoon rains and flooding. Through such projects, SRSP has enabled 308,540 men and women to, literally, transform their own lives.

In the Swat valley and Chitral district, for instance, SRSP has played a leading role in providing emergency humanitarian relief to local communities affected by floods in recent years. While this has involved providing tents, food packages and essential household non-food items, it has also involved longer-term recovery programmes to rehabilitate and strengthen local livelihoods.

SRSP staff began these programmes with extensive consultations with the local communities, many of whom had lived without electricity for nearly 60 years. Based on their vision and aspirations, households were organised into local community organisations, which determined the projects they needed and began implementing them. With SRSP bringing in some external funding from outside donor agencies, local communities provided the rest through a combination of in-kind contributions in terms of cash, labour and local materials.

Just this month, in the remote village of Mian Jair Wajoor Bandai in Swat, SRSP oversaw the completion of the village’s first 20 kilowatt micro hydro-electric power plant, producing electricity and 24 hour hot water for over 80 households. In September, a similar but larger project was inaugurated in the Kalash valley in Chitral, with a 200 kilowatt plant, meeting the energy needs of over 7,000 people across six villages.

One local Kalash resident from the village of Bumbarate, student Shah Nawaz, recounted the impact:

“At last we have come out of the darkness. For me, my joy knows no bounds as my friends from other areas would do their research on the internet and download study notes of an international standard, but here we could not. Now I’ll also be able to connect to the internet and will have an opportunity to do online research.”

Another resident and local elder, Abdul Aziz, explained that the government had neglected local facilities in the valley.

“We have spent our whole life in the darkness. We would face many problems when we traverse these hilly areas, and one can easily slip down. But now we will have so many benefits. Our children will study in the night and we will carry out domestic chores in lights.”
So successful is this model, it has been widely replicated in developing countries. .

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Times of India story on Maoists new plans and strategy for "revolution":

RAIPUR: Outlawed Communist Party of India (Maoist) has formulated a comprehensive strategy for 'New Democratic Revolution' through a combination of military and political tactics to create base areas in the country side and gradual encirclement and capture of urban areas.

The CPI (Maoist) vision for it's 'protracted people's war' against the Indian state is elucidated in its strategy paper titled 'Strategy and Tactics of the Indian Revolution'. This Maoist document contains a comprehensive plan of action to capture political power and usher in the 'New Democratic Revolution' in India.

According to a PIB press release, union minister of state for Home R P N Singh had informed the Rajya Sabha that the CPI (Maoist) was the largest left wing extremist organization operating in the country and it was also response for almost 80 % of Naxal violence reported during the current year.

He said the objective involving creation of 'base areas', gradual encirclement and capture of the urban areas is sought to be achieved through armed warfare by the 'People's Liberation Guerilla Army' cadres of the CPI (Maoist).

Political mobilization through its 'front organizations' and alliances with other insurgent outfit, which in CPI (Maoist) parlance is called the 'Strategic United Front'.

Chhattisgarh has consistently remained the worst Naxal affected State with the rebels being active and have their presence in nearly half of the state's 27 districts. The Maoists are hyper active in tribal Bastar region, where they have established their liberated zone of 'Dandakaranya', spread over the forest regions of Bastar and parts of Andhra Pradesh. However, the state and security forces describe this region as "areas dominated by the Maoists".

Hopewins said...

^^RH: Here's a Times of India story on Maoists new plans and strategy for "revolution":

Yes, this is indeed "revolutionary" violence.

The Maoists believe, rightly or wrongly, that they are going to sweep away the old, traditional ways of the 19th century and bring in radically different new ways of the 21st century. Just like their hero Mao Zedong did in the mid-twentieth century.

But in our case, the Taliban and their myriad islamist allies intend to sweep away the new ways of the 21st century and bring back the perfect ways of 632 A.D. Just like their heroes in the Sahabah did in the 7th century.

This is "reactionary" violence.

There is NO "revolutionary" violence in Pakistan. It is not even possible to have revolutionary violence in Pakistan, because it was created as a Reactionary State by a reactionary political party. And this total absense of revolutionary ideology is why the conservative, capitalist-powers (US, UK) LOVED Pakistan so much in the early days of the Cold War.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an AP report on provocative paintings in Pakistan:

...The uproar was sparked when the college’s Journal of Contemporary Art and Culture over the summer published pictures of a series of paintings by artist Muhammad Ali.

Particularly infuriating to conservatives were two works that they said insulted Islam by mixing images of Muslim clerics with suggestions of homosexuality, which is deeply taboo in Pakistan.

One titled “Call for Prayer” shows a cleric and a shirtless young boy sitting beside each other on a cot. The cleric fingers rosary beads as he gazes at the boy, who seductively stretches backward with his hands clasped behind his head.

Mumtaz Mangat, a lawyer who petitioned the courts to impose blasphemy charges, argued the image implied the cleric had “fun” with the boy before conducting the traditional Muslim call for prayer.

A second painting shows the same cleric reclining in front of a Muslim shrine, holding a book by Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho in one hand as he lights a cigarette for a young boy with the other. A second young boy, who is naked with his legs strategically crossed to cover his genitals, sits at the cleric’s feet. The painting has caused particular uproar because verses from Islam’s holy book, the Quran, appear on the shrine.

Aasim Akhtar, an Islamabad-based art critic who wrote an essay accompanying the paintings in the journal, wrote that Ali’s mixing of images was “deliberately, violently profane,” aimed at challenge “homophobic” beliefs that are widespread in Pakistani society.

“Ali redefines the divine through a critique of authority and the hypocrisy of the cleric,” wrote Akhtar, an Islamabad-based art critic who is also listed as a potential defendant in the blasphemy complaint.

Jamaat-ud-Dawa, widely believed to be a front for the Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group, issued a statement after the paintings were published demanding the college issue a public apology and withdraw all issues of the journal.

College staff members also began receiving anonymous text messages threatening violence, said a member of the journal’s editorial board. They were afraid to push back for fear of being killed, he said, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of being targeted.

Extremists gunned down two prominent Pakistani politicians last year for speaking out against the country’s harsh blasphemy laws, which can mean life in prison or even death. Human rights activists have criticized the laws, saying they are often used to persecute religious minorities or settle personal scores.

Yahya Mujahid, the spokesman for Jamaat-ud-Dawa, denied the group sent any threats but said the state should punish those responsible.

“It’s part of Western and American plans to malign Islam,” claimed Mujahid.

A court considering whether to press blasphemy charges held its latest session in mid-December, but it has not said when it will rule whether such charges apply in the case.

Shahram Sarwar, a lawyer representing the college’s editorial board, said his clients did not intend to hurt anyone’s feelings but he was prepared to apologize on their behalf if they did.

Besides shutting down the journal, the college also closed the department where its staff worked, said Sarwar.

The current head of the National Arts College, Shabnam Khan, denied the institution caved to pressure from hardliners, saying the editorial staff quit voluntarily. She said the department was closed because no one was left to run it...

Hopewins said...

^^RH: "Provocative painting.."
You started the excerpt in the wrong place. Here is a better beginning:

"Pakistan is an overwhelmingly Muslim nation, and the majority of its citizens have long been fairly conservative. But what has grown more pronounced in recent years is the power of religious hardliners to enforce their views on members of the population who disagree, often with the threat of violence.

The government is caught up in a war against a domestic Taliban insurgency and often seems powerless to protect its citizens. At other times it has acquiesced to hardline demands because of fear, political gain or a convergence of beliefs.

‘‘Now you have gun-toting people out there on the streets,’’ said Saleema Hashmi, a former head of arts college. ‘‘You don’t know who will kill you. You know no one is there to protect you.’’

The uproar was sparked when the college’s Journal of Contemporary Art and Culture........

Here are some more "provocative" paintings by leading Muslim artists:

Hopewins said...

^^RH: "Here's The Independent on Bilawal Bhutto's maiden speech to a large political rally.."

Here is Shahzada Bilawal in an interview with US Media:

Accent is clearly not standard Pakistani English. Voice is soft & silky and delivery is synthetic to the point of serpentine. Reminds us of pretentious Eton & Oxford affectations. Suit is Saville Row. Check. Bacon & eggs are routine. Check. Whisky & soda have been jettisoned for beer & shot of Grey Goose. Check.

Great MacAuley specimen. Pakistani in blood, English is spirit. Perfect to become Quaid-e-Habib (Dear Leader) to follow in the footsteps of our Quaid-e-Azam (Great Leader).

PS: The Shahzada is offering the same "Jonathan Pollard" analogy that you used in the Dr. Afridi case. This analogy is NOT correct. There is a HUGE difference. I will show you why in a separate comment elsewhere.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excerpts of a BBC post by Soutik Biswas on heavy abuse faced by India women:

Female foetuses are aborted and baby girls killed after birth, leading to an an appallingly skewed sex ratio. Many of those who survive face discrimination, prejudice, violence and neglect all their lives, as single or married women.

TrustLaw, a news service run by Thomson Reuters, has ranked India as the worst country in which to be a woman. This in the country where the leader of the ruling party, the speaker of the lower house of parliament, at least three chief ministers, and a number of sports and business icons are women. It is also a country where a generation of newly empowered young women are going out to work in larger numbers than ever before.

But crimes against women are rising too.

With more than 24,000 reported cases in 2011, rape registered a 9.2% rise over the previous year. More than half (54.7%) of the victims were aged between 18 and 30. Most disturbingly, according to police records, the offenders were known to their victims in more than 94% of the cases. Neighbours accounted for a third of the offenders, while parents and other relatives were also involved. Delhi accounted for over 17% of the total number of rape cases in the country.

And it is not rape alone. Police records from 2011 show kidnappings and abductions of women were up 19.4%, women being killed in disputes over dowry payments by 2.7%, torture by 5.4%, molestation by 5.8% and trafficking by an alarming 122% over the previous year.

The Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen has estimated that more than 100m women are "missing" worldwide - women who would have been around had they received similar healthcare, medicine and nutrition as men.

New research by economists Siwan Anderson and Debraj Ray estimates that in India, more than 2m women are missing in a given year.

The economists found that roughly 12% of the missing women disappear at birth, 25% die in childhood, 18% at the reproductive ages, and 45% at older ages.

They found that women died more from "injuries" in a given year than while giving birth - injuries, they say, "appear to be indicator of violence against women".

Deaths from fire-related incidents, they say, is a major cause - each year more than 100,000 women are killed by fires in India. The researchers say many cases could be linked to demands over a dowry leading to women being set on fire. Research also found a large number of women died of heart diseases.

These findings point to life-long neglect of women in India. It also proves that a strong preference for sons over daughters - leading to sex selective abortions - is just part of the story.

Clearly, many Indian women face threats to life at every stage - violence, inadequate healthcare, inequality, neglect, bad diet, lack of attention to personal health and well-being.
Angry citizens believe that politicians, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, are being disingenuous when they promise to toughen laws and speed up the prosecution of rapists and perpetrators of crime against women.

How else, they ask, can political parties in the last five years have fielded candidates for state elections that included 27 candidates who declared they had been charged with rape?

How, they say, can politicians be believed when there are six elected state legislators who have charges of rape against them?

But the renewed protests in Delhi after the woman's death hold out some hope. Has her death come as an inflexion point in India's history, which will force the government to enact tougher laws and people to begin seriously thinking about the neglect of women?

It's early days yet, but one hopes these are the first stirrings of change.

Hopewins said...

^^RH: "Female foetuses are aborted and baby girls killed after birth, leading to an an appallingly skewed sex ratio"

Even though there might be huge regional differences, this is statistically true as a whole in India and China.

But here is how this skewed-gender ratio unfolds in the future:

1) It leads to a downward in birth-rates and population growth-rates, which may be helpful in densely populated poor countries.

2) It increases job-opportunities as well as incomes in the sex-worker industries (as in Denmark).

3) It focuses the attention of Western Do-gooders on women's issues and results in the flow of additional funds for the "Cause", which is again helpful in poor, densely populated countries.

4) It compensates for the significantly higher death rates for men that are expected in poor countries as they go through the industrialization barrier.

5) The resulting shortage of brides raises their market-value (or value in the eyes of society), which in turn provides a self-correcting counter-swing of parents electing to have to more girls in light of their higher value.

In fact, there is nothing new here. There is massive archaeological evidence that girls babies have been routinely killed throughout human history by tribes facing a shortage of resources. This was done--as it is done now in poor countries--to reduce population growth and avoid the need for war by prevent overpopulation from unsustainably depleting available resources.

Of course, the blogger himself already knows all this, so this comment is for readers only..

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt of Shahid Burki's Op Ed in the Express Tribune:

(Prof) Hirschman looked at three possibilities. People could remain loyal to the system that has caused them anxiety and despair. In that case, their hope will be that they can work within the system to reform it and thus improve their own situation in it. This happens in most functioning democracies. People use the opportunities inherent in democratic systems to improve what they receive from politics and economics. The second option is to raise their voice. That can be done by stepping out of the system and entering into a different kind of discourse. This is essentially what was done by the participants in the Arab Spring. The Arab street woke up when the realisation became acute that the autocratic structures in several Arab states did not have the space in which the alienated could raise their voice. They took to the streets and to the public squares and brought about regime change in several countries that had been governed for decades by autocrats.

The third option — of exiting the system — is the most radical of the three that Hirschman considered. This has happened in Syria. Earlier, it happened in Pakistan when the citizens of the eastern wing decided to opt out and create a country of their own. They had tried hard to remain within the Pakistani system as conceived by Mohammad Ali Jinnah but the political structure within West Pakistan could not countenance the idea of political power moving from Islamabad to Dhaka. That would have happened had the results of the 1970 election been allowed to create the government that would have been dominated by East Pakistan’s Awami League. What followed is familiar history.

There can be no denying the fact that the level of people’s alienation with the current economic and political systems in Pakistan has, at this time, reached a level never experienced before. And yet, the citizens have chosen to remain within the developing political order, rather than opt out and try for something new. That the people’s response this time around has been different from those in the Arab world is because of their belief in the political order that is under development. But the process of development has been messy which was to be expected. This brings me to another point that Hirschman developed in his long academic career.

He was of the view that progress is never linear. It does not happen in a smooth way, either with the economy or with the political system. Most systems operate through disequilibria making adjustments as they go along....

Kaal said...

This is the very point that I have been making to all the various enemies of Pakistan: the so-called violence and chaos that they see is not, and not meant to be, a threat to Pakistan. Pakistan is merely moving toward a resolution of its inner conflicts, the fundamental contradictions that beset it when it launched on a specific path after its formation.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's PakistanToday on Acumen Foundation and JS partnership to promote social change in Pakistan:

ISLAMABAD - The Acumen Fund and JS have launched Pakistan Fellows Programme aiming to develop the social change leaders of next generation who are building innovative businesses and strong institutions across the country.
The Acumen Fund, a pioneering nonprofit global venture firm addressing poverty across Africa and in South Asia, hosted an event on Sunday to introduce the first class of Acumen Pakistan Fellows, said a statement issued here on Monday.
In partnership with JS Bank, the Mahvash & Jahangir Siddiqui Foundation and the Edmond de Rothschild Foundations, Acumen was working to develop the next generation of social change leaders who were building innovative businesses and strong institutions across Pakistan.
Twenty individuals have been selected out of over 500 candidates to participate in this year-long training, while simultaneously continuing to pursue their social impact initiatives.
Fellows’ initiatives range from creating an interest-free microfinance institution, to a disaster relief project and to a teaching training programme. In addition to a presentation given by the newly selected Pakistan Fellows, the launch event featured remarks by Jacqueline Novogratz, Founder & CEO of Acumen Fund, and Edmond de Rothschild Foundations Executive Director Firoz Ladak.
“Pakistan today faces many challenges, and we need new leaders who are dedicated to creating a better future for this country,” said Acumen Fund Pakistan Country Director Farrukh Khan. “It is exciting to help develop a community of leaders with the financial skills, operational excellence and moral imagination to address pressing social issues and we’re humbled by the support and interest we’ve received from our partners and local community.”
“The depth and breadth of talent in the applicant pool size is evidence that the people of this nation want to seek ways to improve the prevailing conditions and challenge the existing status quo,” stated Mahvash & Jahangir Siddiqui Foundation CEO Ali J. Siddiqui, “With this inaugural class of bright and ambitious individuals, we are creating a brighter future of this country by providing the tools and the knowledge required to develop a new generation of Pakistani leaders.”
The Pakistan Fellows programme was just one part of Acumen’s investment in leadership and community of the Acumen Fund alumni network.
The East Africa Regional Fellows Program was in its second year and just selected its fellows for 2013.
Acumen intends to launch similar Regional Fellows Programs in India and West Africa in the coming years.
Additionally, Acumen Fund had invested over $ 7 million in Pakistan since 2001, focusing on a wide range of sustainable, scalable businesses-in agriculture, housing, health, water and energy-that use market-based approaches to deliver products and services to millions of rural and urban poor.
Recent additions to Acumen Fund Pakistan’s portfolio include the NRSP (National Rural Support Program) Microfinance Bank, which was the first agency in Pakistan to provide financial services to rural agricultural markets, and Pharmagen Healthcare Ltd, which supplies safe, clean, and affordable drinking water to low-income residents in Lahore.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Harvard Business Review piece on women in Pakistan:

"Pakistan is a highly complex and ambiguous country," Ehsan Malik, Country Manager for Unilever Pakistan, told me. "The media projects Pakistan as conservative, but there is a large segment of society that is liberal and broad minded." (Disclosure: Unilever is a client of mine globally, but not the Pakistan branch particularly.)

"My predecessor at Unilever Pakistan was a woman who went to run L'Oreal Pakistan. My wife runs a business and both our mothers and sisters have always worked, as do many in our families and friends. So for me Unilever's gender balance drive is not something extraordinary." Two of the people on Malik's six-person Management Committee are women, and he sees the possibility that his successor could be female. "There are three senior women who have been listed as high potential so we could have a majority female Management Committee in the foreseeable future."

"We aimed to set an example and become a model on gender balance. Now, virtually all our competitors are doing the same... In Pakistan, despite the bad press, when it comes to gender, employers are progressive."

How do the men react? "There was a debate two or three years back, around a concern that we were favoring women. We made it very clear: between two equal candidates, we said we would pick the woman because there is an imbalance that needs to be corrected." In Pakistan, as in a growing number of countries, women perform better academically. "Medical colleges are 70% women but less than half of them continue working beyond a few years of qualifying, partly because of family reasons but also due to working conditions," notes Malik.

In many companies I work for, some of the greatest openness and action on gender balance is in emerging market operations. I have found managers in Brazil, India or Malaysia more enthusiastic and convinced of the business case than their Western colleagues, in much more challenging contexts. And ready to go to much greater lengths to adapt to women's needs.

Like Pakistan. Unilever Pakistan has achieved its gender balancing targets internally (ahead of most Western countries), which Malik considered "relatively simple," yet by doing things that might appear inconceivable elsewhere. So, for example, to recruit female engineers in its remote factories, Unilever provides security-guard staffed housing for the women next to the facilities, ensuring their safety and reassuring their families. Flexible working from different locations — home, distributor premises, or ad agency offices — is another step that benefits all managers. However, he observed, "some female managers prefer coming to the office — there is a day care center to look after their children, they want to get away from extended families that many in Pakistan live with, [and] they can escape the power cuts that plague large cities."

These seemed like obvious investments to Malik who is now setting his sites on "a much bigger agenda" with gender as a competitive advantage with consumers, and a condition for working with suppliers.


For the moment, there are 900 women who have gone through the training, and Malik is planning on increasing this to 7,000. "The rural population's bank is usually a couple of villages away. So we are finding that not only do other women come for beauty advice, they also start coming for advice on how to open bank accounts and start a business. And it seems the men are starting to come too, looking for the same guidance."

"Where government fails," concludes Malik, " global companies can fill the void by building concepts that become platforms for change and progress."

Hopewins said...

OMG, 300 kgs! That would have made global headlines. Boy, that was close...

Hopewins said...

I am glad that GOP decided to increase the number of PhDs in Pakistan. Our country could certainly use more experts in a variety of fields at this juncture.

Here is an article by a Ph.D. in Conflict Management:

Is it just me or do you also feel that his essay is just a mass of big words that really does not have an insightful or meaning point? I had a hard time reading past the first paragraph-- what about you? Do you think that this piece is 'all sound and fury, signifying nothing'?

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a BBC report on TV matchmaking in Pakistan:

Matchmaking shows have been staples of Pakistani TV for several years now, with many couples choosing to seek romance and future partners under the full gaze of television cameras.

In a society where choosing partners has traditionally been the responsibility of family elders, many believe more modern paths to romance such as this, could slowly be changing attitudes.

However, televised weddings are still a controversial subject, as BBC Urdu's Iram Abbasi reports.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Dawn report on a peasant defeating a landlord in PTI elections:

A peasant here on Tuesday defeated a wealthy businessman and landlord and was elected the district president of Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI). With elections for the 72 union councils of the district having been held three weeks ago, the intra-party election process in Attock is now complete.

The chairman of the PTI district election commission, Rafique Hussain Niazi, confirmed that peasant Waheed Murad garnered 432 votes while his rival Sardar Mumtaz Khan, a landlord, received 360. Murad had the support of Malik Suhail Khan, running for NA-58 Attock-II, and former MPA Syed Ejaz Bukhari, who is contesting PP-15 Attock-I. Rana Liaquat Ali Khan, who was elected unopposed to the position of district general secretary, and former state minister Malik Amin Aslam supported Mumtaz Khan.

The polling station, at a hotel in Attock, was crowded from the opening of voting at 9am until closing at 5pm.

Around 900 PTI workers from six tehsils gathered with supporters of both candidates attempting to gather votes. While some disagreements ensued – over mismanagement of the polling station or workers not being allowed to vote due to missing membership cards – leaders of both camps described the disagreement as positive and democratic. “After the elections, the PTI will be united,” they said.

In other elections, Mohammad Zubair Tanoli and Mohammad Faazil Khan Wardik were elected unopposed as the district’s senior vice-presidents.

Hopewins said...

^^RH: "Here's a Dawn report on a peasant defeating a landlord in PTI elections..."

A word of caution. This may or may not be a good thing. It all depends on whether the term "a peasant" refers to someone with a peasant background or someone who is actually a peasant.

In India, for example, Laloo Persad, Mayawati et cetera, had poor peasant/dalit BACKGROUNDS. However, all of these people benefited from India's special-education socialist programs and went on to graduate from large universities. So they are not really "peasants" themselves, even thought they may have been born into such a background. They are clearly educated enough to understand the basics of the issues involved in governance.

I hope this is the case in this PTI revolution you mention. Please check and let us know.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Daily Beast Op Ed by former British PM Gordon Brown on TTP attacks against schoolgirls and teacher in Pakistan:

As pupils gathered early on Saturday to receive exam results, grenades were hurled into the Baldia town school in Karachi, causing carnage. Principal Abdur Rasheed died on the spot. The perpetrators are thought to be from TPP, a Taliban terrorist sect, as their campaign of violence against girls education moves from the tribal areas into Pakistan's largest city.

The latest attack follows the murder earlier this week in the Khyber tribal district of Shahnaz Nazli, a 41-year-old teacher gunned down in front of one of her children only 200 meters from the all-girls school where she taught. But this time the wave of terror attacks – orchestrated by opponents of girls' education – is provoking a domestic and international response, a groundswell of public revulsion similar to that which followed the attempted assassination of Malala Yousefvai, who was also shot simply for wanting girls to go to school.

Today, on top of a a petition now circulating on calling for a cessation of violence against teachers who are defending the right of girls to go to school, a scholarship fund in honor of the slain Shahnaz Nazli is being announced. Education International, the world teachers organization with 30 million members, has said that the scholarship memorial to Shahnaz will support Pakistan teachers and students victimized simply because of their support for girls' schooling.

The petition and the memorial signal a fight back against attempts to ban girls’ education, and come in the wake of the intervention of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who, in a special communique, has spoken out against the shooting of Shahnaz and given his personal support to teachers persecuted for their advocacy of girls’ education.

This week's attacks are, however, a stark reminder to the world of the persistence of threats, intimidation, shootings, arson attacks and sometimes even murder that are the Taliban’s weapons in a war against girls’ opportunity.

Last October, shocked by the attempted assassination of Malala Yousafzai and pressured by a petition signed by three million people, the Pakistani government agreed for the first time to legislate compulsory free education and provided stipends for three million children.

Now authorities in Pakistan are under international pressure to deploy their security services to ensure the safety and protection of teachers and girls trying to go to school.

Last October’s demonstrations were a spontaneous response from girls who identified with Malala’s cause as she fought for her life in Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Now these girls are being joined by a high-profile campaign by teachers themselves, determined, despite the threat to their lives, to stand up for girls' education and to take their campaign even to the most dangerous of places

But as the forthcoming teachers’ initiative and the the UN Secretary General’s vocal support both demonstrate, the voices in favor of these basic rights for girls cannot any longer be silenced. And because this is a movement that is now being forged at the grassroots by girls demanding their human rights and by teachers organizing in support of them, 2013, which has started with so many violent attacks on girls schools, can still become the year when the cause of universal girls education becomes unstoppable.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a BBC report on growing Taliban violence in Karachi:

For years there have been fears that the Taliban were gaining ground in Pakistan's commercial capital, the port city of Karachi. There is now evidence that the militants' influence in the city has hit alarming new levels, reports the BBC's Ahmed Wali Mujeeb.

More than 20 people are gathered outside a ramshackle house in a suburb of Karachi - Pakistan's largest city.

They say a plot of land, which was the property of a local businessman, was forcibly occupied by a local mafia last September, and they are here to complain.

The difference now - and a source of much alarm to those in the know - is that this group of Karachi residents are choosing to bring their complaint to the Taliban.

After a two-hour session, the Taliban judge adjourns the hearing to another date and venue which he says will be disclosed shortly before the hearing.

This mobile Taliban court does not limit its interests to this one shanty town on the outskirts of Karachi. It has been arbitrating disputes across many suburbs in the metropolis.

The Taliban largely emerged in poor areas on the fringes of the city, run-down places with little or no infrastructure for health, education and civic amenities.

Their mobile courts have been hearing complaints for quite some time, but in recent months they have also started administering punishments - a sign of their growing clout.

In January, they publicly administered lashes to an alleged thief after recovering stolen goods from him. The goods were returned to the owner who had reported the theft.
Suburban Taliban

But the picture is complicated.

There is a tussle under way between mafia groups (becoming more prolific and powerful in Karachi) who seek to seize land and militant groups who are also grabbing land. This includes the Taliban, for all their willingness to arbitrate in these disputes.

It is clear that they want to tighten their grip in Pakistan's biggest city, its commercial centre. And they appear to have great influence in those suburbs dominated by the Pashtun ethnic group.

These include many of the districts on the edge of the highways and roads leading to neighbouring Balochistan province.

And when they think their authority is being encroached on, they act with deadly force: The MQM lawmaker Syed Manzar Imam was killed by Taliban gunmen in January in Orangi town, which borders a Pashtun area.

One former leader of the Awami National Party (ANP) - a party of the ethnic Pashtun nationalists - recently left Karachi and said more than 25 of his party offices had been forced to close because of threats from the Taliban.

A senior police officer who does not wish to be named told me simply: "Taliban are swiftly extending their influence.

"There needs to be a strategy to stem the Taliban's rise, otherwise the city will lose other important and central parts to them," he says.
Taliban 'gangs'

Muhammad Usman is a 26-year-old Taliban commander from the Swat valley. He came to Karachi after the Pakistani army started an operation in Swat in 2009.

He says he was first part of a group of Swati Taliban in Karachi and was offered shelter and safety by them.

After some time, he gradually got involved in what...
Karachi's network of violence

Intelligence sources say that there is one Taliban chief for the city, and heads of groups operating in different areas answer to him.

"Though the government has expressed its resolve to eradicate militancy, other state institutions are not co-operating," analyst Professor Tauseed Ahmed Khan says.

He argues that the security forces are losing morale when it comes to the battle against the militant groups and adds that this is not improved when rebels find it easy to get released on bail by the courts.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a report on increasing honor killings in Pakistan:

ISLAMABAD -- The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) says hundreds of women were killed in so-called honor killings in the country last year.

In its annual report, the HRCP said 913 girls and women, including 99 minors, were killed in 2012.

The report said 604 were killed after being accused of having illicit relations with men.

Around 191 were reported slain for marrying their own choice of husbands and going against their families' wishes.

Zohra Yusuf, chairwoman of the HRCP, speaking in a telephone interview with RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal, said many of the perpetrators were close relatives of the victims.

"In most cases they are identified because they happen to be family members," Yusuf said. "They are either the husbands or the fathers or the brothers. ...In some cases they are also arrested. many cases they are allowed to escape. [And] the conviction [rate] is very low."

Honor killings are illegal in Pakistan, but Yusuf said such killings are still carried out in remote tribal areas.

She said many cases of honor killings are the result of decisions taken by tribal courts.

"This is like any murder," she said. "Honor killings should be considered a crime against the state. It is not a case between two parties. It should be considered as murder, which it is under the law, and the system of tribal justice for taking the law into their own hands needs to be addressed."

The independent commission noted honor killings were not restricted to the Muslim community.

It said around seven Hindu and six Christian women were also killed.

Yusuf said the number of honor killings in Pakistan usually ranges between 600 and 900 each year.

The HRCP painted a grim picture of human rights in Pakistan, saying ethnic, sectarian, and politically linked violence in 2012 killed some 8,000 people.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Daily Beast piece on girls' education in Pakistan:

Humaira Bachal was just a teenager when she looked around her impoverished Karachi neighborhood at the children roaming the barren streets, and realized that she and her sister were the only ones who were going to school. Bachal’s mother was making sure her daughters got an education, against her father’s wishes. When her father discovered she was going to take a high school entrance exam, he beat her mother. He also beat her. She took the exam anyway. And then, determined to improve the shameful number of girls completing a primary education in Pakistan—only 59 percent—Bachal she started teaching a handful of local children in her home.

A decade later, Bachal was sitting on stage in an ornate theater at Lincoln Center in New York, talking about the 1,200-student school she runs in a gang-ridden part of Karachi through the Dream Foundation Trust, which she created and runs. Bachal “doesn’t take any nonsense. And the [local] men respect that,” says documentarian Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy (CEO, SOC Films), who made a movie featuring the Pakistani activist and who was also on stage for the fourth annual Women in the World Summit, hosted by Newsweek and The Daily Beast. Along with her fellow Pakistani panelist Khalida Brohi (founder and director, Sughar Women’s Program) and of course Malala Yousafzai, all of whom began their education activism as teenagers, Bachal represented a major thread woven through the 2013 summit: the promise of the rising generation of young women activists, entrepreneurs, and leaders.

Call it the girls-who-change-the-world summit. Of course there were many veteran activists among the featured delegates, but there was also a sense that the current crop of tech-savvy young women may be able to change women’s education and labor-force participation even more quickly and decisively than their immediate predecessors. As Hillary Clinton put it in her summit address, “Much of our advocacy is a top-down frame. It’s past time to embrace a 21st-century approach to advancing the opportunities of women and girls” by empowering youthful, grassroots leaders.

In India and Pakistan, the poorest 20 percent of boys get five more years of education than girls do.”


Though women are rocking education in the United States—they now get the majority of both college and graduate degrees—they are sorely underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields, known in the jargon as STEM. In fact, they’ve lost ground in the past decade. As the summit’s “Grooming Titans of Tech” panel moderator Chelsea Clinton pointed out, the number of female computer science majors has dropped from 20 to 12 percent in the past decade. Reshma Saujani, the founder of the organization Girls Who Code, a nonprofit that teaches underprivileged teens how to code in computer science languages, is looking to change those dreadful numbers. Saujani bragged to the WITW audience about how evangelical her first group of graduates is: they teach their friends what they learn in their coding classes.....

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Reuters' story about Jamshed Dasti's candidacy:

MUZAFFARGARH, Pakistan (Reuters) - With a flick of the reins, Jamshed Dasti launched his run for Pakistan's parliament from the back of a donkey cart, cantering through the rutted streets of his home town to file his nomination papers as supporters erupted into cheers.

With the opening act in his campaign unfolding exactly as planned, Dasti beamed the beatific smile of a man who might look like an underdog, but who is sure he has the momentum to humble his wealthy rivals at next month's general elections.

His choice of transport was no accident: Dasti wants to persuade poor voters that Muzaffargarh, a farming district in Punjab province long ruled by a Pajero-driving, land-owning aristocracy, is about to change forever.

For his biggest rivals are none other than the Khar dynasty, which has wielded huge influence in the district for decades, and whose most famous heiress, Hina Rabbani Khar, was foreign minister until last month.

"Because of me, people have realized they can have a better life," Dasti told Reuters. "Their poor neighbor is now running for elections against the lords of a vast kingdom. How can this not give them hope?"

The son of an illiterate laborer and part-time wrestler, Dasti is a rare example of how a man of modest means can mount a credible challenge to a patronage system prevalent in Punjab where the landed elite can perpetuate their grip on power by intimidating tenants or buying votes with bribes.

After years working as a community volunteer, he was elected to the local council before winning a seat in the National Assembly at the last elections in 2008 on a ticket for President Asif Ali Zardari's Pakistan People's Party.

But the disillusionment with land owners in Muzaffargarh notwithstanding, Khar is herself admired in Pakistan for breaking the patriarchal mould of many landed families who would never contemplate allowing a daughter her advanced education or to play such a public role on the global stage.


With the majority of Pakistan's electorate living in the countryside, the outcome of the polls in Punjab, Pakistan's most populous province and its political heartland, will undoubtedly be shaped by big, land-owning families.

But Dasti's popularity suggests that the dynamic may be in flux as Pakistan becomes accustomed to holding regular elections and the military, which has interrupted politics in the past, remains in its barracks.

As a student, Dasti, who enjoys reciting poetry inspired by the Marxist philosophy of class struggle, published a weekly newsletter, garnishing its smudged pages with editorials against feudalism. He went door to door collecting donations and started Muzaffargarh's first free ambulance service. People nicknamed him "Mr 15" - after the police emergency telephone number.

Even when he won a National Assembly seat, he continued to work one 15-hour shift a week as an unpaid driver for a free bus service he started.

"He comes to the stop at six in the morning and sits down with the drivers for breakfast," said Mohammad Sharif, a barber. "Have you seen anything like this: a member of the National Assembly who drives a bus?"...

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Washington Post report on feudal power in Pak elections:

GUJJAR GARHI, Pakistan — Winning a grass-roots political campaign in Pakistan or anywhere else depends on having committed, hardworking volunteers. Iftikhar Ali Mashwani, an aspiring provincial lawmaker, has come to realize that his supporters are neither.

“When I go into the villages and the fields, I should see my flags on the roadsides and rooftops. I should see my posters. And I don’t,” Mashwani, a 35-year-old furniture salesman, chided followers gathered in his small lumberyard in northwestern Pakistan. “This campaign is not up to the mark!”

Mashwani, running on the Movement for Justice ticket headed by cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, is learning tough lessons as he scrabbles for votes against well-established foes in this largely rural area. On May 11, Pakistanis will choose the next prime minister in an election hailed as a landmark of democratic progress for a country ruled by the military for nearly half its 65-year history. Yet decades of tradition dictate why democracy has remained more of a concept than a reality.

Even as Pakistan prepares to witness its first democratic transition of power, elite political families, powerful landholders and pervasive patronage and corruption undermine the prospects of a truly representational democracy, political analysts say. The dominant Pakistan People’s Party and its rival, the Pakistan Muslim League-N, have the money, experience and connections that Mashwani does not as a novice contender from an upstart party.

As in the United States, Pakistan has what amounts to an entrenched two-party system, but even less space exists here for reformers and newcomers from lower classes. For decades, critics say, the parties have been run like insular family businesses whose only goal is to perpetuate their power and plunder national resources.

The Pakistani military, by contrast, is well respected by the public and not afraid to muscle into politics. It has overthrown weak governments three times with general public support. During periods of civilian rule, the army also wields great influence behind the scenes, adding to evidence that Pakistan has never been more than a Potemkin democracy.

Over the years, U.S. officials have seen only diminishing returns in their democracy-promoting efforts. The upcoming election, while historic, will not necessarily solve anything. Pakistan remains under siege by insurgents and shot through with corruption — and it is still a beggar nation seemingly always on the brink of collapse.

Most analysts predict the election will result in a fractured Parliament dominated by a coalition of old-guard politicians, with Nawaz Sharif, head of the Pakistan Muslim League-N and a two-time prime minister, likely to reclaim the job 14 years after he was ousted in a coup.

“I see elections not bringing change,” said Shamshad Ahmad, a former Pakistani foreign secretary under Sharif. “Without a change in the system there will be the same feudalized, elitist hierarchy that remains in power.

“Let’s hope a new culture is being born that civilians must take responsibility and take the reins in their hands,” said Ahmad, who remains a Sharif backer. “When our rulers show their ability to take good decisions, the army will stay in its space.”...

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an IndiaToday story about a Hindu woman candidate in Pak elections 2013:

When Veero Kolhi made the asset declaration required of candidates for Pakistan's May elections, she listed the following items: two beds, five mattresses, cooking pots and a bank account with life savings of 2,800 rupees ($28).

While she may lack the fortune that is the customary entry ticket to Pakistani politics, Kolhi can make a claim that may resonate more powerfully with poor voters than the wearily familiar promises of her rivals.
For Kolhi embodies a new phenomenon on the campaign trail - she is the first contestant to have escaped the thrall of a feudal-style land owner who forced his workers to toil in conditions akin to modern-day slavery.

"The landlords are sucking our blood," Kolhi told Reuters at her one-room home of mud and bamboo on the outskirts of the southern city of Hyderabad.

"Their managers behave like pimps - they take our daughters and give them to the landlords."

To her supporters, Kolhi's stand embodies a wider hope that the elections - Pakistan's first transition between elected civilian governments - will be a step towards a more progressive future for a country plagued by Islamic militancy, frequent political gridlock and the worsening persecution of minorities.

To sceptics, the fact that Kolhi has no realistic chance of victory is merely further evidence that even the landmark May 11 vote will offer only a mirage of change to a millions-strong but largely invisible rural underclass.

Yet there is no doubt that hers is a remarkable journey.

A sturdy matriarch in her mid-50s who has 20 grandchildren, Kolhi - a member of Pakistan's tiny Hindu minority - is the ultimate outsider in an electoral landscape dominated by wealthy male candidates fluent in the art of back room deals.

Possessed of a ready, raucous laugh, but unable to write more than her name, Kolhi was once a "bonded labourer," the term used in Pakistan for an illegal but widely prevalent form of contemporary serfdom in which entire families toil for years to pay often spurious debts.

Since making her escape in the mid-1990s, Kolhi has lobbied the police and courts to release thousands of others from the pool of indebted workers in her native Sindh province, the vast majority of whom are fellow Hindus.

On April 5, Kolhi crossed a new threshold in her own odyssey when she stood on the steps of a colonial-era courthouse in Hyderabad and brandished a document officials had just issued, authorising her to run for the provincial assembly.

Read more at:

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an interesting piece in The Economist on decline of feudal power in Pakistan:

A wrestler’s son overthrows the landed gentry
May 18th 2013 | LAHORE

Jamshed Dasti takes success on the chin
Pakistan’s waning feudalism

A wrestler’s son overthrows the landed gentry
JAMSHED DASTI is tired but triumphant. “This is a revolution,” he says. “These feudals never before considered poor people to be even human.” Speaking on May 13th from Muzaffargarh, in south Punjab, he had much to crow about. The son of an illiterate wrestler had just inflicted a humiliating political defeat on the patriarch of a hitherto unassailable clan of landed gentry.
Ghulam Rabbani Khar is head of a family that owns 600 hectares (1,500 acres) in cotton country and is powerful in the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). His daughter, Hina Rabbani Khar, was foreign minister in the last government. She did not stand for election, but her father was thrashed, with less than half Mr Dasti’s 100,000-plus votes.
Mr Dasti, in his 30s, quotes Marxist poetry and rides a donkey cart. He ran as an independent, and Mr Khar was not his only obstacle. In April a court imposed a three-year jail sentence for claiming a fake degree; the sentence was later scrapped. He has faced dozens of criminal cases, speaks no English and is variously described as a “thug” or Pakistan’s answer to Robin Hood.
His victory, he claims, is proof of an “awakening consciousness” against feudal bosses. They used to instruct villagers how to vote. Now voters are more mobile and sometimes better educated. Electronic media, even in rural corners, have helped change attitudes.
In Punjab the PPP is destroyed. Elsewhere the gentry hang on; in Sindh, landed families got out the votes for the PPP. But politics is being reshaped. Ijaz Gilani, a pollster in Islamabad, says populist figures like Mr Dasti fill “vacuums” formed as labour-intensive plantations decline, cotton farming modernises and old families lose clout.
Villagers need someone to help them deal with police, teachers and other bits of the state. The local press makes much of Mr Dasti’s readiness, even at night, to jump on his cart to help troubled constituents. He made his name during floods in 2010. He set up a free ambulance service and a bus that, at times, he drives himself. Deference, he says, is out.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a report on Taan, Pakistani version of Glee:

Gay romance, Islamic extremism and a soundtrack of classic love songs make for Pakistan's taboo-breaking answer to the hugely successful US television series Glee.
Like its smash hit forerunner, Taan follows the lives and loves of a group of young people who regularly burst into song. But this time they attend a music academy in Lahore, instead of an American high school.
Taan - which is a musical note in Urdu - tackles subjects considered off limits in Pakistan's deeply conservative Muslim society, with plotlines including love affairs between two men and between a Taliban extremist and a beautiful Christian girl.

The plan is for the 26-episode series to air in September or October, and while producer Nabeel Sarwar insisted the program was not a "political pulpit", he is determined to take on the tough issues.

"Nobody wants to have controversy for the sake of controversy, nobody wants to have an assignment to violence, nobody wants to push a button that would result in a disaster for anyone," he said.
"But the truth has to come out somewhere. Where are we going to put a line in the sand and say, 'Look, this is what we are'?"
Taking a public stand to defend liberal values like this is rare in Pakistan, where forces of religious conservatism have risen steadily in recent years.
Risque scenes in foreign films are routinely cut by the authorities and the team behind Taan are acutely aware that they must tread carefully with their challenging material.
In one scene the two gay lovers dance and sing in a small room but never embrace - their relationship is suggested rather than overtly shown. The moment is interrupted when a radical Islamist character bursts in.
Director Samar Raza said representing the lives of gay characters was difficult in a country where homosexuality is still illegal.
"Let's say in a certain scene, there are two boys talking to each other, they are not allowed to show their physical attachment to each other," he said.
"So I bring a third character who says: 'God designed Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve'."
It is not only the sensibilities of the censors the producers must navigate.
While 70 per cent of Pakistan's population is under 35, a huge and potentially lucrative audience for advertisers, it is the head of the household who decides what families watch on TV, explains Sarwar.
"The head of the household during the day is the matriarch and the head of the household at night is the patriarch - they control access to TV," he said.
"You have to find programming that allows the matriarch and the patriarch to join in and participate, but there has to be room for the younger audience."
In a bid to appeal to older viewers the makers of Taan have licensed around 100 classic Pakistani songs, some by legendary artists such as Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, and have reworked them to suit modern tastes, as Glee does.
"We try to find music that resonates with the older generation which control the access to the TV but we contemporise that music so that the younger audience does not feel left out," Sarwar said.
The show hopes that by taking on difficult issues in a light-hearted way it will both reflect the changing nature of Pakistani society and attract a young audience currently hooked on imported Turkish soap operas.
Local dramas struggle to compete with the likes of Manahil and Khalil and Ishq-e-Mamnu (Forbidden Love) - Turkish serials starring Westernised characters with fair skin and dubbed into Urdu.
Turkish soaps are widely watched across the Muslim world, but the popularity of Ishq-e-Mamnu has prompted a lively debate about the "Turkish invasion" of the small screen in Pakistan, with local production companies complaining that they do not have the resources to rival them....

Read more:

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan's Burka Avenger female superhero reflects shifting ground realities with increasing women participation in the affairs of the nation.

Examples include:

1. First women paratroopers inducted in Pakistan Army.

2. First female combat pilot commissioned in Pakistan Air Force.

3. First female jirga held in Pakistan.

4. Malala Yousufzai emerges as an international icon for girls' education in Pakistan and elsewhere.

5. Increasing number of court marriages by young couples in defiance of tradition of marriages arranged by parents.

6. Rising female participation in Pakistan's work force.

Riaz Haq said...

Couple of stories by BBC on gay life in Pakistan:

Mobeen Azhar investigates life in gay, urban Pakistan. Despite Pakistan's religious conservatism and homosexuality being a crime, he finds a vibrant gay scene, all aided by social media. He meets gay people at underground parties, shrines and hotels and finds out what it's really like to be gay in Pakistan. As one man tells him, "The best thing about being gay in Pakistan is you can easily hook up with guys over here. You just need to know the right moves and with...
Ahmed Asif’s wife is supportive of her husbands work (pictured).

Ahmed has been a masseur for his entire working life. He claims to have slept with over 3000 men but perhaps even more surprisngly, he has 2 wives and 8 children. One of his wives Sumera wears a burka and the nikab, the full face covering. It could be assumed that she is religiously conservative. In fact she’s extremely accepting of her husband’s work and says she wishes more of society would keep an open mind. “I know he has sex. No problem. If he doesn’t work how will the kids eat?"

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Dawn story on the moral brigade flexing its muscles in Pakistan:

Dawn has reliably learnt that the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has directed all telecom operators to discontinue all kinds of voice and SMS bundle packages, including daily, weekly, fortnightly and monthly packages by the 2nd of September and submit a comprehensive compliance report in this regard.

This ultimatum appears in the form of a letter, signed by Muhammad Talib Dogar, the Director General (Services) PTA, and refers to an earlier directive which classified these bundle packages as “contrary to moral values of society”, recommending that their use be discontinued.

The letter’s content and authenticity, a copy of which has been sent to the regulatory heads of all telecom operators, has been confirmed by Mobilink’s Director Communications, Omar Manzoor. “We are reviewing the notice and will respond within the stipulated timeline,” he said.

It is pertinent to mention here that there has been an ongoing debate in Parliament on this issue for some time now. However, this decision is likely to create ripples across the sector and provide further strain to an industry already overburdened with heavy taxation.

Mobile internet packages are likely to remain unaffected.

Riaz Haq said...

Social media use in Pakistan is small but growing very rapidly.

Its economic value is hard to gauge now but you can see its use in the start of viral marketing campaigns.

As the number of users grows, companies will start to devote more and more resources to it to generate more revenue and profits.

Here are a few useful links:

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an AFP report on blocking of a gay website in Pakistan:

Pakistan's Internet watchdog has blocked the deeply conservative Muslim country's first website aimed at gay people, saying it was "against Islam".

The site, set up to help members of Pakistan's homosexual and transgender community socialise and share experiences, was shut down on Wednesday.

A spokesman for the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority said they had halted access to the site after complaints from Internet users.

"We blocked the website under the law because its content was against Islam and norms of Pakistani society," said spokesman Kamran Ali.

Homosexuality is illegal in Pakistan.'s moderator, who asked not to be named, said he would not challenge the ban in the courts for fear of a "negative reaction".

"We wanted to provide a platform for people who are being abandoned by society because of their sexual likes," he told AFP.

"I was not hopeful about the future of the website, I was convinced that sooner or later it would be banned."

He said the site had a mix of members, with 44 percent identifying themselves as female and 56 as males.

A recent study by the Pew Research Center found that Pakistan was among the least tolerant of homosexuality among 39 countries surveyed.

In 2011 a gay pride celebration at the US embassy in Islamabad provoked angry reaction across the country.

But in tribal societies in Pakistan's northwestern border areas there is an ancient custom of tolerated, albeit secret, sexual relationships between men and young boys.

Anonymous said...

Malala Yousafzai: In Pakistan terrorists are afraid of education

7 October 2013 Last updated at 08:26 BST

A year ago this week, the Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai was on a bus coming home from school when she was shot in the head by the Taliban.

It was a moment that sparked shock and anger in Pakistan and around the world - the targeting of a schoolgirl because she had spoken out for girls' rights to education.

Malala is now living in Birmingham and spoke to the Today programme's Mishal Husain in her first interview since the shooting.

"It was difficult to adjust to this new culture and new society" she said, when asked about her new life in the UK, after moving from Pakistan.

"I'm still following my own culture... this Western society accepts other culture, so it's a good thing," she said.

She defined her role by adding: "I'm a campaigner of education, I am a children's rights activist and I'm a women's rights activist."

But she added that in Pakistan it was very precious and prestigious for a girl to go to school - "we know that terrorists are afraid of the power of education."

Riaz Haq said...

Malala inspires girls school enrollment surge in KP, reports Bloomberg:

MINGORA, Pakistan — The Pakistani Taliban's attempts to deter girls from seeking an education, epitomized by the shooting of 16-year-old Malala Yousafzai in the face last year, are backfiring as school enrollments surge in her home region.

While Yousafzai missed out last week on the Nobel Peace Prize, her plight is helping change attitudes in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, which lies at the center of a Taliban insurgency. The four-month-old provincial government boosted education spending by about 30 percent and began an enrollment drive that has added 200,000 children, including 75,000 girls.

Yousafzai's story "is certainly helping us to promote education in the tribal belt," Muhammad Atif Khan, the province's education minister, said by phone. "Education is a matter of death and life. We can't solve terrorism issues without educating people."

Taliban militants targeted Yousafzai in retaliation over her campaign for girls to be given equal rights to schooling in a country where only 40 percent of adult women can read and write. Though the Nobel award went to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, Yousafzai was showered with accolades in a week in which she published her memoir: she won the European Union's top human rights prize and met President Barack Obama at the Oval Office.

The shooting occurred a year ago as Yousafzai traveled home on a school bus in Mingora, a trading hub of 1.8 million people where a majority of women still cover their faces and girls aren't comfortable answering questions from reporters. The bullet struck above her left eye, grazing her brain. She was flown for emergency surgery to Britain, where she lives today.

The increased media attention on Swat since the shooting is pressuring government officials to improve educational standards and encouraging locals to send their kids to school.

Three days ago in Mingora, as local channels flashed the news that Yousafzai didn't win the peace prize, high school student Shehzad Qamar credited her for prompting the government to build more institutions of higher learning.

"She has done what we couldn't have achieved in 100 years," Qamar said. "She gave this town an identity."..
"Taliban wanted to silence me," Yousafzai said in an interview with the BBC last week. "Malala was heard only in Pakistan, but now she is heard at the every corner of the world."

Sadiqa Ameen, a 15-year-old school girl in Swat, said she wanted to read Yousafzai's book, titled "I am Malala." The Pakistani Taliban, or Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, has threatened to kill Yousafzai and target shops selling her book, the Dawn newspaper reported, citing spokesman Shahidullah Shahid.

"This is probably the first ever book written by a Swati girl," said Ameen, who lives near Yousafzai's school. "I am sure her story will be something we all know and have gone through during the Taliban rule."

Musfira Khan Karim, 11, prayed for Yousafzai's success in the Nobel competition with her 400 schoolmates in Mingora.

"I want her back here among us," Karim said in her school's playground. "I want to know more about her. I want to meet her."

Riaz Haq said...

Film revival? Waar is #Pakistan's first big-budget action film. It's just one of 23 films being released this year.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt of a NY Times story on urban migration of women to escape Khap Panchayats:

As young Indian women leave rural homes to finish their education in cities, often the first women in their families to do so, they act like college students everywhere, feeling out the limits of their independence. But here in the farming region of Haryana State, where medieval moral codes are policed by a network of male neighbors and relatives, the experience is a little different. There is always the danger that someone is quietly gathering information.

The old and new are continually rushing at each other in India, most starkly in places like Haryana, a largely rural, conservative state abutting New Delhi whose residents can commute 20 miles to work in nightclubs and office buildings. But their home villages are sleepy places, whose main streets are patrolled by glossy, lumbering black water buffalo.

The villages are ruled by khap panchayats, unelected all-male councils that wield strong control over social life, including women’s behavior. That job becomes much harder once the women have left for the city. When one khap leader listed city shops that were allowing young women to store mobile phones and change into Western clothes, another suggested posting informers outside the shops with cameras to capture photographic evidence as women came and went.

Om Prakash Dhankar, a khap leader who voiced his support for this approach, said measures like these would protect young women from much worse dangers that might follow if they freely cultivated friendships with men.

“The mobile plays a main role,” he said in an interview. “You will be surprised how this happens. A girl sits on a bus, she calls a male friend, asks him to put money on her mobile. Is he going to put money on her mobile for free? No. He will meet her at a certain place, with five of his friends, and they will call it rape.”

A generation ago, women here lived in complete seclusion from men, and could appear in public only wearing a lightweight cloth that completely covered their head and face. Though that tradition is fading, many women are still not allowed to leave the house without permission from a father or husband.
But Mr. Dhankar was undaunted, saying the photographs could be shown to the girls’ parents, or to friendly police officers, who could threaten to press trumped-up criminal charges unless the behavior stopped. Great dangers await, Mr. Dhankar said, when a young woman keeps secrets from her family.

“It starts with a small lie,” he said. “Then they get into borrowing money and other bad things. The end result is that she will commit suicide or someone else will kill her.”

As he was explaining this, his daughter, a high school science teacher in her early 40s, chimed in with a robustly dissenting view, and Mr. Dhankar admitted cheerfully that the women in his house generally ignore what he says.

Growing serious, he added that it was misguided to see any collision of interests between young women and the traditionalists in the village. They are, he said, on the same team.

“As long as the girl lives within moral codes, she can have as much freedom as she wants,” he said. “If they are going after love affairs or extra freedom, then they are killed.”

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Daily Mirror story on a JUI Baloch legislator Abdur Rehman Khetran arrested for running a private prison with people chained in a dungeon:

A local MP in Pakistan has been arrested for running a private dungeon at his home after five people were found chained up.

Some of the captives had been held in Abdul Rehman Khetran's cellar for several years.

The dungeon only came to light after private guards working for the lawmaker attacked police at a checkpoint at the weekend, beating them up and stealing their weapons.

Police then raided the lawmaker's fortified home in lawless Baluchistan province, freed the prisoners, including one woman, and arrested Khetran, his son and six private guards.

Barkhan district police chief Abdul Ghafoor Marri said the prisoners had been mistreated, and a truck packed with ammunition and weapons had also been found.

But Khetran claimed the arrests were politically motivated.

The mineral-rich western region of Baluchistan is deeply impoverished and a haven for smugglers, drug lords, Taliban insurgents and separatist rebels.

Najam said...

Change is most difficult to recognize when it is actually happening.

It can often resemble chaos, even to those who demand it loudest.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's NY Times columnist David Brooks on Boko Haram abduction story coverage in the West:

In 2005, Binyavanga Wainaina published a brilliantly sarcastic essay in Granta called “How to Write About Africa,” advising people on how to sound spiritual and compassionate while writing a book about the continent.

“Always use the word ‘Africa’ or ‘Darkness’ or ‘Safari’ in your title,” Wainaina advised. “Never have a picture of a well-adjusted African on the cover of your book, or in it, unless that African has won the Nobel Prize. An AK-47, prominent ribs, naked breasts: use these. If you must include an African, make sure you get one in Masai or Zulu or Dogon dress.”


There’s been something similarly distorted to some of the social media reactions to the Boko Haram atrocities over the past week. It’s great that the kidnappings and the massacres are finally arousing the world’s indignation. But sometimes the implication of the conversation has been this: Africa is this dark and lawless place where monstrous things are bound to happen. Those poor people need our help.
But this is more or less the opposite of the truth. Boko Haram is not the main story in Africa or even in Nigeria. It is a small rear-guard reaction to the main story. The main story in Africa is an impressive surge of growth, urbanization and modernization, which has sparked panic in a few people who don’t like these things.

Many countries in sub-Saharan Africa are growing at a phenomenal clip. Nigeria’s economy grew by 6.7 percent in 2012. Mozambique’s grew by 7.4 percent, Ghana’s by 7.9 percent. Economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa as a whole is predicted to reach 5.2 percent this year. Investment funds are starting up by the dozen, finding local entrepreneurs.
The first is the clash over pluralism. Africa has seen an explosion of cellphone usage. It’s seen a rapid expansion of urbanization. In 1980, only 28 percent of Africans lived in cities, but today 40 percent do. This has led to a greater mixing of tribal groupings, religions and a loosening of lifestyle options. The draconian anti-gay laws in Nigeria, Uganda, Burundi and many other countries are one reaction against this cosmopolitan trend.

The second is a clash over human development. Over the past decade, secondary school enrollment in Africa has increased by 50 percent. This contributes to an increasing value on intellectual openness, as people seek liberty to furnish their own minds. The Boko Haram terrorists are massacring and kidnapping people — mostly girls — at schools to try to force people to submit to a fantasy version of the past.

The third is the clash over governance. Roughly 80 percent of Africa’s workers labor in the informal sector. That’s because the formal governmental and regulatory structures are biased toward the connected and the rich, not based on impersonal rule of law. Many Africans are trying to replace old practices with competent governance. They are creating new ways to navigate between the formal and informal sectors.

Too many of our images of Africa are derived from nature documentaries, fund-raising appeals and mission trips. In reality, Africa faces in acute forms the same problems that afflict pretty much every region these days. Most important: Individual and social creativity is zooming ahead. Governing institutions are failing to perform the basic, elementary tasks.

Riaz Haq said...

It may sound like something from the pages of a history book, but slavery is still prevalent today. The most common type is bonded labor, a debt-based form of slavery in which a person’s labor is the means of repaying a loan. In several countries in South Asia, including Pakistan, whole families are enslaved in bonded labor, and children can be born into slavery when their parents are indebted. Unlike in some other countries where it is foreigners who are exploited, in Pakistan, bonded laborers are usually citizens, and the practice is caste- or debt-based and culturally tolerated.According to the 2013 Global Slavery Index, Pakistan has more than 2 million enslaved people, the third most in the modern world, after India and China. These laborers generally work in brickmaking, fisheries, agriculture and the mining industry.Kohli, a former bonded agricultural laborer, says that slaves can be free, too, if they fight back. And the first step is overcoming one’s own fear of the zameendar. “I tell all haaris [landless peasants] that a feudal is not God,” says Kohli on a scorching hot July day, “so they should learn to talk back and hit them back with their chappals [slippers] if need be.”When she ran for a seat in the provincial assembly as an independent candidate in May 2013, she faced death threats from local politicians and feudal lords. When vinegar didn’t work, they tried honey — Kohli was offered bribes worth millions of rupees, which she turned down. Though she lost the election, she earned praise for her courage in challenging the candidate from the Pakistan People’s Party.
Azad Nagar residents sit in the office of a workers' union, left, that they established to put pressure on landlords in the area not to mistreat their workers. Right, a small school set up to teach the children of the families in the village. (Click to enlarge images)
Despite the heat of the day, a large crowd of women has turned out to hear Kohli speak. They’re dressed in brightly colored ghagra cholis, traditional long skirts paired with blouses, their heads covered with long dupattas, or scarves, and hands encircled with plastic white bangles. They stand out in humble Azad Nagar, with an old and dilapidated school building shrouded in dust, few trees to provide shade and ordinary mud houses.But this modest colony is leaps and bounds better than the circumstances of bonded labor. The cultural sanction of slavery in South Asia — across the border, India fared even worse in the GSI report — means that feudal landlords get away with just about anything, despite a 1992 act abolishing bonded labor in Pakistan. (It doesn’t hurt that the main political party in Sindh — PPP, the party of the late Benazir Bhutto and ex-Prime Minister Asif Ali Zardari — is dominated by the feudal elite.) Gull Bano, one of the residents of Azad Nagar, belongs to a clan of 84 former slaves who were all drugged and kept hostage by a Sindhi feudal lord until five years ago. Her shack is squeaky clean and adorned with handmade quilts; locally made steel utensils are scattered here and there.“I was pregnant at the farm one day,” she says as she blinks back tears, and “the guard appointed by the zameendar did not let me stay back to give birth. So I took a break from harvesting the wheat crop and gave birth under a tree with my mother-in-law’s help.”She’s not the only one: Several women at the colony have similar stories about childbirth under difficult conditions when they were slaves, of not being able to feed their children or stay at home with their babies

Riaz Haq said...

The internal inquiry committee had failed to hold Professor Abid Hussian Imam (Assistant Professor at the LUMS Law School, son of powerful feudal politicians Abida Husain and Fakhar Imam) guilty, despite finding instead that his actions were “unbecoming of a professor at LUMS” for “use of inappropriate jokes many times with sexual innuendoes and undertones, and obnoxious language.” The committee asked Professor Imam to render an apology, and he allegedly preferred to resign—but the Ombudsman found that LUMS was unable to produce any proof of said resignation.

Riaz Haq said...

MEERAN PUR, Pakistan (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Azeema Khatoon, a mother of five, has spent most of her life laboring in Pakistan's sunbaked cotton fields for less than $2 a day.

Last year, she and a group of around 40 women struggling to feed and clothe their families on their meager wages did something almost unheard for poor women working in rural Pakistan - they went on strike. The gamble paid off.

Khatoon, 35, says she has nearly doubled her wage in the past year, now taking home $3.50 a day compared to $2, with her success just one story cited by labor activists to encourage rural women to band together and form a united workforce.

Agricultural wages in Pakistan have a massive impact on women, and in turn on their families. About 74 percent of working women aged 15 and are employed in agriculture, according to the International Labour Organisation.

The 2014 Global Gender Gap Report published by the World Economic Forum ranked Pakistan as the second worst country in the world in gender equality after Yemen.

Many women are employed informally on low earnings and with limited protection, with women's agricultural wages falling to an average of $1.46 a day in 2012 from around $1.68 in 2007, said the ODI in its recent Rural Wages in Asia report.

On top of the meager wages, women laborers also tell labor activists that landlords or managers will sometimes try to cheat them of their rightful money because they cannot read the records. Sometimes bosses sexually harass them.

Heat stroke, snake bites, exposure to pesticides and cuts on their hands from handling the rough cotton bolls are other hazards of their daily toil.

Khatoon and others have started bringing their school-age children to check the books, or tie knots in the edge of their colorful saris to count how many days they have worked.

"Even though they can't read the numbers of letters, they can say I have worked one day for each knot," said Javed Hussain, the head of the Sindh Community Foundation, which aims to improve the socio-economic conditions of communities and has trained 2,600 women in skills like bargaining and labor rights.

Muhammad Ali Talpur, the director of the government-linked Pakistan Central Cotton Committee, says owners are sympathetic to the workers' problems but warns paying much higher wages may drive Pakistan's cotton farmers out of business.

"Cotton producers are being squeezed by low prices and producers are having a hard time to meet their costs," he said.

Global cotton prices have fallen, hitting a five-year low this summer due to slowing demand from China, a glut in the market, and growing popularity of manmade fibers.

Pakistan produces about 13 million bales a year from a world total of about 119 million bales. This year the government has already bought one million bales to try to shore up the price.

Hussain said the Sindh Community Foundation talks to small landlords and trains workers how to read market prices, trying to ensure there is negotiation, not confrontation.

He said the bigger landlords weren't usually willing to negotiate over wages and there was no legislation protecting casual agricultural workers but small owners did often sympathize with their workers.

Karim Ullah, who owns a small cotton farm near Meeran Pur, agreed to pay his workers $3 per day this year but said he couldn't raise wages further unless cotton prices rose.

"We pay wages according to the rate at which the cotton is sold. Only if the going price increases can I pay the pickers more," he said. "Also, I'm just a small farmer. It's the big landlords with hundreds of acres who set the rate."

Riaz Haq said...

Going from an inner-city slum to an Ivy League university is an incredible journey for anyone. But for a girl in Pakistan, a country where the female literacy rate is 38%, it is an almost unheard-of achievement.

Anum Fatima made international headlines when she won a summer scholarship to Harvard. She grew up in a Karachi slum but attended a school run by The Citizens Foundation (TCF), an education charity which has opened 1000 schools teaching more than 145,000 underprivileged children. TCF schools are built in deprived areas and are open to all faiths and ethnicities. They also focus on giving both girls and boys equal access to education - 46% of their pupils are female.

Now 23, Fatima was one of TCF’s first graduates. The daughter of a maid and a driver, she completed her undergraduate degree and has started a Masters Programme from CBM, a leading business school in Karachi, with a TCF scholarship. Fatima says: “I want to be the CEO of a leading company but before that I want to spend a few years at TCF to pay them back for all they have done for me."

Anum has given presentations on the challenges girls face

While she was delighted with the news that she would be jetting off to Massachusetts, her father had a slightly delayed reaction. Fatima said: “He had not heard of Harvard. When he went to work that day, he asked his boss, who told him what a tremendous achievement it was.”

Fatima came first in her class at the Harvard summer school. She says: “It was an advanced learning programme for English. There were 15 students from all over the world. I topped my class and received a certificate and a book signed by the Dean.”

During the three-month trip she also spoke at the US State Department and interned at a US-based think tank. She was able to give people an accurate description of the educational challenges in her country.

Fatima said: “People in the West think that girls in Pakistan are not allowed to study. In all of the presentations I made and all the people I talked to, I told them that parents wanted their girls to study but it was the lack of resources and awareness that held them back.”

The need for education to be made a priority in Pakistan is clear - 26 countries that are poorer than Pakistan send more children to primary school and one in 10 children worldwide who are not in primary school live in Pakistan. TCF believes its model is a Pakistani solution to a Pakistani problem.

Ateed Riaz, Co-Founder of The Citizens Foundation, said: “Everything related to education is a step forward; whether it is under a tree, in a garage or in a tent. However, we felt that since we ourselves are a product of formal education, we will build our institution along the same lines. We will create schools which are properly built, and not in a tent or basement. We were confident about our decision and there was never any hesitation or doubt regarding the path we had chosen.”

Riaz Haq said...

In 1910, the U. S. Supreme Court ruled that a wife had no cause for action on an assault and battery charge against her husband because it "would open the doors of the courts to accusations of all sorts of one spouse against the other and bring into public notice complaints for assault, slander and libel."

As recently as 1977, the California Penal Code stated that wives charging husbands with criminal assault and battery must suffer more injuries than commonly needed for charges of battery.


Some time in the 1700s, an English common law came into effect that decreed that a husband had the right to "chastise his wife with a whip or rattan no bigger than his thumb, in order to enforce...domestic discipline. For as he is to answer for her misbehavior, the law thought it reasonable to entrust him with this power of restraining her, by domestic chastisement in the same moderation that a man is allowed to correct his apprentices or children." This law came to be known as the "law of thumb".

In the U.S., the courts continued to uphold a man's right to punish his wife with violence until 1871. In a case known as Fulgam vs. the State of Alabama, the court ruled that, "The privilege, ancient though it may be, to beat her with a stick, to pull her hair, choke her, spit in her face or kick her about the floor or to inflict upon her other like indignities, is not now acknowledged by our law."

Riaz Haq said...

Director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy hopes her Oscar-nominated film will help end #Pakistan honor killings via @Reuters

An Oscar-winning filmmaker hopes her latest Academy Award-nominated documentary will help bring tougher laws against honor killings in Pakistan, which account for the deaths of hundreds of women and men each year.

The film, which follows the story of a young woman who survived attempted murder by her father and uncle after marrying a man without their approval, was nominated for an Oscar in January, prompting Pakistan's prime minister to pledge to take a firm stand against the "evil" practice.

More than 500 men and women died in honor killings in 2015, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.

Many of these crimes, carried out by relatives who say their mostly female victims have brought shame on the family, are never prosecuted, observers say.

"People need to realize that it is a very serious crime," Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy told Reuters in an interview in the southern city of Karachi.

"It's not something that is part of our religion or culture. This is something that should be treated as pre-meditated murder and people should go to jail for it."

Obaid-Chinoy's film "A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness", scheduled to air on HBO in March, tells the story of 19-year-old Saba from Pakistan's Punjab province.

After marrying a man without the agreement of her family, Saba's father and uncle beat her, shot her in the face, put her in a bag and threw her in a river, leaving her for dead.

Saba survived, and set out to ensure that her attackers were brought to justice.

Her father and uncle were arrested and went to jail, but Saba was pressured to "forgive" her attackers. That option under Pakistani law can effectively waive a complainant's right to seek punishment against the accused, even in the case of attempted murder.

Altering the law to remove the possibility of "forgiveness" could help reduce the number of honor killings in Pakistan, advocates of such a change say.

An act that would amend the law across Pakistan was passed by one house of parliament last year, but did not clear the other chamber due to delays, said Sughra Imam, who introduced the bill when she was a lawmaker.

Both she and Obaid-Chinoy hope the attention the film has received abroad and at home, including from Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, might help push the amendments through.

"The greatest win of 'A Girl in the River' would be if the prime minister does take the lead, brings the stakeholders on board and they pass the (act)," Obaid-Chinoy said.

After the film was nominated in the short documentary category, Sharif issued a statement congratulating the filmmaker and pledging his government's commitment to rid Pakistan of the "evil" of honor killings by "bringing in appropriate legislation."

Obaid-Chinoy has already won an Oscar in the same category for "Saving Face", a film about acid attacks in Pakistan.

Sharif invited the director to screen the new film at his residence to an audience of prominent Pakistanis.

Although it is not clear exactly how Sharif proposes to change existing legislation, Obaid-Chinoy said his reaction was a pleasant surprise.

"This could be (Sharif's) legacy ... that no woman in this country should be killed in the name of honor, and if she is, people should go to jail for it," she said.

"The world is watching."

Riaz Haq said...

Fearless teenage girls are taking up #boxing in #Pakistan at a #Karachi boxing club via @qz

Going to a boxing club is an act of bravery for girls in Pakistan, where sexual harassment plagues women’s sports. But a few defiant young women are jumping into the ring anyway.
At a boxing camp in Karachi’s Pak Shaheen Boxing Club, roughly a dozen girls have been learning to fight. All are under the age of 18. Founded by coach Younis Qambrani back in 1992, the club opened to female boxers for the first time last October.
Qambrani told Reuters:
A number of girls were keen on training, but due to social pressures, I had been avoiding the issue. Last year a girl came to me, asking why girls couldn’t train. I was moved when she said, ‘No one teaches us how to defend ourselves.’
Another boxing camp for girls also opened in the area last year, according to Dawn.

Riaz Haq said...

#Oscar winning film on "honor killings" exposes #SharmeenObaidChinoy to witch hunt in #Pakistan … via @WomenintheWorld

On a dark night in June 2014, a bruised and bloodied young woman stumbled into a petrol station in Gujranwala, a city in Pakistan’s Punjab province. She had been beaten, shot in the face, dumped in a burlap sack and thrown into a nearby canal. As her attackers fled, the cool water jolted her awake. She struggled out of the sack, and treaded water till she reached the canal’s banks where, grasping at reeds, she pulled herself to dry land. She followed the distant lights of cars and motorbikes until she ended up at the station, begging for help. Eighteen-year-old Saba Qaiser was picked up by rescue services that night and taken to a hospital, where she told doctors her father and uncle tried to kill her for marrying a man they did not approve of.

This was a clear-cut case of ‘honor killing’, a practice that claimed the life of at least one woman in Pakistan every day in 2015 alone — and those are figures gleaned from reported cases only — as she is murdered for bringing ‘dishonor’ to her family.

In her latest documentary, A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness, filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy met Saba’s father, Maqsood, shortly after he was arrested and charged with the attempted murder of his daughter. Furious that Saba married a man from a lower social class of her own free will, Maqsood claimed, “Whatever we did, we were obliged to do it. She took away our honor.” He describes his daughter’s decision to marry someone her parents did not approve of as “unlawful”.

“I labored and earned lawfully to feed her, this was unlawful of her,” he insisted. “If you put one drop of piss in a gallon of milk, the whole thing gets destroyed. That is what (Saba) has done.”

Unrepentant, Maqsood said: “If I had seen (Saba’s husband), I would have killed him too.”

While Saba underwent surgery for lacerations to her face and arm, her mother and sister did not visit her, Obaid-Chinoy’s documentary reveals. “Who can tolerate such betrayal by a daughter?” asked Saba’s sister Aqsa.

When Saba eloped, her family became the target of the neighborhood’s derision, Aqsa claims. “The people who feared us now taunt us.”

Saba’s mother Maqsooda says she did not know about her husband’s plan, but it doesn’t surprise her. “This is what happens when honor is at stake,” she explained. “Saba left no respect for me.”

Obaid-Chinoy’s film reveals the tenuous grip this concept of ‘honor’ has on many men and women in Pakistan and the lengths to which they will go to preserve it.

Riaz Haq said...

Excerpts of Architect and sociologist Arif Hasan in the News:

Pakistan is no longer what it was 25 years ago. There have been huge social, political changes. And these are not considered when dealing with policy.
There has been an eclipse of feudalism. Led by the collapse of the local system of commerce, governance, the panchayats, the jirgas, the patels, the numberdaars. They are no longer present. Moreover, the state has not tried to fill this gap. As a result of this change, many things have happened.
In the rural areas, the link between caste and profession has broken. The village artisans who provided services through barter system today work in cash. They have migrated to urban areas. The rural areas are entirely dependent on the urban produced goods. That is a very big change.
Another change is mobility. People move all over for trade and commerce. Where once roads used to be empty, today they are full of trucks. The Anjuman-e-Tajiran in various cities/towns has become an important political player. They are in constant negotiation with the state.
Women have emerged out of nowhere in public life. This trend is rapidly increasing. They dominate the public sector universities. Gender roles have changed. Extended family is disappearing.
All these changes require new society values and new governance structures, so that they can be consolidated.

All the reasons described above. Our population has increased 600 per cent since independence. There is technology/invention, cash has replaced barter, there are new varieties of seeds, farm sizes have become smaller, and the landless village labourer cannot afford the village’s dependency on urban produce.
Since 2000, over twenty universities have been established in small towns of Pakistan. Those who are studying in these universities are men and women from surrounding areas and villages. We have more people who are educated now. TV has also contributed in changing the values. Court marriages have increased. Migration abroad has also contributed to change in values. According to our study, migration and remittances have caused the breakdown of the family system.
All these factors have contributed to this change. Furthermore, you cannot close a country off from changes that are taking place all over the world. All these factors may lead to turmoil unless we can support them.

Our so-called Islamic values are being violated all the time. We see roadblocks (protests) against injustices and women are active in these roadblocks; be they against karo-kari, excesses by the wadera, water shortage or anything.
These things were unheard of before. It shows that the society is fighting back. They are fighting back conservatism with contemporary values.
Media projects a lot of injustices against women, but they do not project the changes taking place, nor are they projecting the role models who are challenging these traditional barriers. Role models, too, are just individual cases, like Malala.
The problem is that not only the state, even the opinion makers and academia are not grasping these changes. They are constantly dealing with conditions, not with trends. Societal changes need to be understood, articulated and brought into consciousness. Right now, these are not being articulated at all.

Who says there is no space for dialogue? Nobody is stopping people from reaching out. We are in a trap. We keep talking about jihad, cruelty of the state and society, and no doubt all this is there. We are talking about all this in the framework of nostalgia.
The past was a period of elitist politics. This is a period of populist politics. Karachi was the way it was because it was colonial port city being governed by colonial elites. Today, it is run by populist political parties.
The past was a very oppressive system, and it went on because people used to accept the oppression. Now there is freedom, most importantly, freedom to choose. The only thing is that people do not know what to do with this freedom.

Riaz Haq said...

More from Arif Hasan:

The institutional imbalance has harmed Pakistan. This imbalance is located in the very foundation of this country, which has been a consistent actual and perceived threat from India. And India, too, has done everything possible to help with the development of this perception.
No, it is not on its way to course correction. Our political establishment is far too weak, corrupt and very much involved in seeing its class interests served.

The list would be: (i) A general depoliticisation of police, to whichever extent it is possible; (ii) Provision of housing for low-income groups. It is doable; (iii) The development of union councils as effective service providers. A Karaciite should not need to go to his religious or political organisation to get a birth or a death certificate done, or admit his mother to a hospital, or get a friend released from police custody. All this has to come under the purview of the union councils, and a Karachiite should have access to its secretariat. These measures would go a long way in making Karachi peaceful.

Right now 72 per cent of Karachi’s population is engaged in the informal sector. Karachi cannot survive that way. We need institutions to manage this. We need to have proper services for them, the industrial sector needs to be developed, you need to have a better organised services sector. We have minerals in the land around Karachi. Instead of giving this land to the Bahrias and the DHAs, this land should be turned into an agriculture zone which should provide for the city.
The most important requirement is good governance; a system that ensures that the needs of the people in such a large city are met.

Riaz Haq said...

The 'Avon ladies' of #Pakistan selling contraception door to door. #BirthControl #Pills

From 8am to 4pm, 25-year-old Samina Khaskheli travels door-to-door in rural Pakistan handing out free samples of condoms, birth control pills, and intrauterine devices.

“I was told ‘This is sinful’,” Samina says about the initial opposition to her selling birth control. She took the job warily. Her off-the-map village, Allah Bachayo Khaskheli, is home to roughly 1,500 people in the country’s south-eastern Sindh province. The flatlands are covered by livestock, and economic desperation leaves women toiling alongside men as farmhands, livestock breeders and cotton pickers.

Samina is a worker for the Marginalised Area Reproductive Health Viable Initiative – Marvi – once a popular emblem of female independence in Sindhi folklore. Today, Marvi refers to a network of literate or semi-literate village women aged 18 to 40 who travel door-to-door selling contraceptives. “In our village, there was no information about family planning. Many women died during childbirth,” says Samina about what inspired her to join.

Trained by the Karachi-based Health and Nutrition Development Society (Hands), roughly 1,600 Marvis are dispersed throughout Pakistan’s remotest villages, where government healthcare facilities are scant or nonexistent. In the Sanghar district where Samina’s village is located, at least 400 Marvis fill a gap left by a lack of government funded lady health workers (LHWs).

Pakistan’s contraceptive prevalence rate is low – out of a population of more than 190 million, only 35% of women aged 15-49 use contraception. Nevertheless, demand is high in rural areas, where women give birth to an average of 4.2 children, compared to 3.2 children in cities. “In villages, electricity is not there and health facilities are not there, but the need for contraceptives certainly is,” says Dr Talat Abro, the deputy secretary of reproductive health service for Sindh’s population welfare department.

Marvi workers receive a six-day initial training by Hands and have their sessions in the field supervised by LHWs. Marvis emerge from the underserved populations they work with, so understand how family planning is best presented to the women they target.

“I wish I had learned about birth control 15 years ago,” says Azima Khaskheli, a 45-year-old livestock breeder in Allah Bachayo Khaskheli village, her black bangles clinking together as goats bleat nearby.


“We are not trying to limit the number of children – a woman or a family has a right to choose as many number of children as they want, but they must keep in mind the pregnancy period is important for a woman’s health,” says Anjum Fatima, the general manager for health at Hands.

Opposition to birth control in Pakistan often takes on a religious hue, so Marvis are trained to sensitise local religious leaders on the health benefits of family planning. The Marvi programme relies on community mobilisers – ranging from religious leaders to influential landlords – to communicate the benefits of contraceptives. In 2014, approximately 40 Islamic religious leaders approved birth spacing for women in Pakistan. Samina adds that she enjoys the support of the village’s maulvis, or religious authorities, who endorse her door-to-door campaign, and never issue anti-contraceptive messaging over the mosque’s loudspeakers.

“Before the culture was rigid, but now they’ve gradually accepted family planning,” says Samina, the Marvi worker, motioning to the group huddled around her. “I am proud I can teach women about both the Qur’an and birth control.”

Riaz Haq said...

#PMLN Senator Sardar Yaqoob Nasr: "Poor are born to serve the rich... God made people rich or poor" … via @indiatoday

"The poor of this country will never get to decide their own fate," Haidar said.
To this, Nasar remarked that if everyone were to become wealthy, there would be no one to grow wheat or to work as labourers.
"This is a system created by God and He has made some people rich and others poor and we should not interfere in this system," he said.
Haider countered that socio-economic classes were man-made and God had nothing to do with it.
Another Senator, Mohammad Usman Khan Kakar, too said that God created all people as equal and that the poor were not meant to serve the rich.
But Nasar could not be convinced and said: "Once in China all people were considered equal, which did not work out well.
"Those who cannot get an education and cannot earn more have no right to live the life of a bureaucrat," he said.

Riaz Haq said...

More access to education could close the gender inequality gap

PAUL SOLMAN: So now you’ve studied gender roles, you teach that at the Indian Institute of Technology, you are married to the guy, so maybe you are reluctant to disagree with him. But to what extent do you agree? Does your work support it?

RAVINDER KAUR: To some extent it does. I think the change that is happening today is very rapid. But I would still say that there is a way to go before we close the gender gap. Different countries are at different points in this and India, you might always hear, lives in several centuries. So if you were to come to New Delhi you will see that many more women are educated and can give the men a run for their money. But if you were to go to Rajasthan or if you were to go to Behar you would find that the women are still wailed and child marriage is quite rampant. But I think where I would agree with the thesis is that education is extremely transformative. And the more you make available opportunities for education to everybody, it’s going to be a win-win generally.

Riaz Haq said...

Her Father Gave Her The Courage To Speak Out Against 'Honor Killings'

In the tribal region of Pakistan where Khalida Brohi grew up, girls didn't typically go to school. Instead, some were forced into marriage at a very young age — and punished by death if they don't act according to plan.

That's what happened to Brohi's 14-year-old cousin, Khadija. Khadija's family had arranged a marriage for her, but Khadija fell in love with someone else and ran away. Then, Brohi says, "Three men arrived and they took her ... to a place where her grave was already dug and she was murdered by my uncle right there."

Brohi herself would have been betrothed before she was even born had her father not refused to sign the marriage contract. "It saved my life, definitely," she says of her father's refusal.

Instead, Brohi became the first girl in her village to go to school. After being exposed to books and ideas — as well as to the suffering of girls and women in her village — Brohi dedicated herself to educating women. She's launched several nonprofit organizations and speaks out against so-called "honor killings" — in which women are murdered by family members because of a perceived shame. Her new memoir is I Should Have Honor.

Interview Highlights

On her cousin's family getting money after Khadija's murder

This is this is very hard for me to speak about, but when [Khadija] was murdered, the boy's family had pleaded with them to take money instead of murdering him, and the money would bring food to the table of this family. And the mother would refuse to eat, and because there was nothing else to eat they would force her to have a few bites. And one day she ate from that food, and the next day she said, "I feel a cancer growing in me, because I ate my daughter."

On exchange marriages, in which each tribe trades a bride to the other in order to establish trust

Exchange marriages are usually very common between two different tribes. ... People who don't know each other and cannot trust each other. A lot of times even in small villages, trade also happens between their own tribes and so do relationships. But when there is a persistent offer ... for starting a relationship, then one tribe gives a daughter to the other tribe and demands a daughter in return. This is usually so that the daughter they've given is kept happy, and in any given good facilities of life, and if she's ever beaten in the other tribe, they would beat this daughter.

On how she was nearly in an exchange marriage before she was born

Before I was born, my uncle ... who at this time had murdered his own wife, decided that he's going to marry again and he needed another wife, but the family he was asking that woman from demanded an exchange, and there was no one else to be given, so he asked my father, who was his youngest brother, ... to give his first daughter as an exchange. ...

This was the first time when [my father] said no. He refused his father, he refused his brother, because he said ..., "Before even I hold her in my hands in my arms I cannot make such a decision." And because of that he disgraced his family and eventually left the family to give us a new life.

On how her father's education affected the family

It's shaped the family to become who we are, and to give us the path that we chose, because when he made it to university, he started realizing the injustices even more. He had started thinking about women's rights and about the position he would one day give to his daughters. At the time of university he discovered that his village not only had given him opportunity to go to school, but at the same time had also made him suffer by putting him through this tragic exchange marriage to a girl he had not met ... and at the time my mother was nine and he was 13.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan's Rural Transformation With #Education, #Remittances, #Healthcare & #Communications: Motorized Vehicles replacing horses & bulls, sturdy brick/cement replacing mud houses, TVs & Mobile Phones everywhere, Migrant workers bringing money & ideas.

Islamabad:The countryside life in far-flung areas of Pakistan, once considered totally isolated and secluded from the rest of the world and devoid of modern-day facilities, has undergone a massive transformation during the last two decades or so by changing the entire landscape of village life.

The rural life is often considered backward, fixed and hostage to tribal culture and traditions. Similarly, the popular social discourse that nothing has changed in Pakistan contradicts with historical facts.

Looking at the national picture of rural life in Pakistan rapid changes have occurred in almost all spheres of life from communication to education, socialization to healthcare, transportation to banking, governance to farming and cultivation to harvesting due to technological advancement, developmental works, penetration of information technology, remittances and domestic tourism.

Among others, the two factors of economic and technological developments as the agent of change had proved instrumental in shaping the process of change not only in the urban areas but also in suburbs of the country. Not more than twenty years ago when mobility was considered difficult in the remote areas not only due to missing road infrastructure but also due to poor transportation facilities.

‘Tonga,’ a carriage pulled by a horse, was the only facility for public transport while bullock-cart was commonplace phenomena for weight transportation in almost all small villages. The houses made of mud have also slowly been replaced by cemented buildings while the social structure was also changed due to disintegration of combined family structure to separate family system.

Likewise, only a few professions of handicrafts have survived due innovation to capture the pace of time and demand of the market while others have totally faded away. Similarly, the obsolete tools, techniques and methods are no more used in farming, cultivation and harvesting due to low production. Therefore, it could not survive at all in the face of modern technologies.

The media revolution in the country with more than 100 private TV channels has brought the whole world at the doorstep of the villagers while the mobile phone companies and 3G/4G technologies have brought it further closer to the palms of people. Hardly there is anyone left without having a smartphone even in the remotest parts of the country.

Almost everybody has got access to the unbridled flow of information on social media in every nook and corner of the country. Thus the electronic media and communication technologies have brought together the collective experiences of the whole world into rural households. The occupation and profession in rural areas once used to be farming and handicraft only. Now it has also transformed into government services, urban migration, overseas workers and businesses. The migrant workers are not only bringing money to the rural economy, but also ideas and experiences about how people in urban areas and the world outside live.

The villages, the basic components of civilization, where a large segment of society is living, have either transformed into model villages/towns or merged with nearby cities having urbanized lifestyle and lots of hustle and bustle. But in developed parts of the globe, the difference between village and city life is still quite visible due to well-planned construction, proper waste disposal mechanism, sewerage system, cleanliness and greenery.

Riaz Haq said...

Meet & Greet Went Wrong at Minare Pakistan
Now here are some facts that need to be cleared out because what Ayesha Akram said on TV is different. Because the whole incident occurred while a meet and greet occasion. Yes! Ayesha Akram is a well-known TikToker who called out her fans for a meet and greet.

One of the most important aspects, she even didn’t file an FIR on that day (after the incident involving assault by 400 men), she was fully active on her all-social medial handles and posting stuff. After that Ayesha and her fiance made a video where they totally changed the whole scenario and claimed that they were just standing there.

14th August 2021, Independence Day where Pakistani youngsters, elders, and everyone were celebrating the day on their own. But after few days something came up on the internet that became the main center of attention and took control over every social media account.

An incident is known as “400 Vs 1”. Yes, the incident where the TikToker Ayesha Akram has been harassed by 400 men. This incident shook everyone, from common people to celebrities everyone rushed towards their social media platforms and showed their support.

Every girl started calling out men as the rapist, culprits and so many words that they can use it. It was a horrifying incident, that one woman was groped by almost 400 men in daylight, and no one took any action to stop them. That made everyone even more angry and furious.

Up till now since the FIR was filed against those 400 harassers, Police have also arrested around 33 suspects. Within hours many of their faces were also revealed and published on different internet platforms.

It was considered as a big tragedy on the historic day of Pakistan and at a historic place. But there are always two sides to any story, not one?

Till now everyone came on and listened to Ayesha’s side which sort of look like preplanned. Why preplanned, because she paraphrased the whole incident and didn’t tell the actual truth to the people.

Meet & Greet Went Wrong at Minare Pakistan
Now here are some facts that need to be cleared out because what Ayesha Akram said on TV is different. Because the whole incident occurred while a meet and greet occasion. Yes! Ayesha Akram is a well-known TikToker who called out her fans for a meet and greet.

To the response lot of her male fans came and took numerous selfies. Even though her fiancé was also there and touching her very inappropriately in front of 400 men.

At the beginning of the meet and greet everything went smoothly. But as soon more people came on aboard her overenthusiastic fans couldn’t control her emotions and rushed over her which turned out to be a terrifying incident.

So, those 400 men weren’t strangers at all, they were her fans who brutally treated her, harassed her, and tore apart her clothes.

Which is worse and every single person should be punished at any cost. But why she waited for two days until the video went viral and people started talking about it.

Because day after the incident she uploaded her pictures where she was happily smiling and can be seen there’s no sign of traumatizing at all.

Riaz Haq said...

Four key trends - Newspaper - DAWN.COM

By Umair Javed

The cultural indicators are about how people understand the world around them and the degree to which they are engaged with it. The first of these relates to consumption of information, especially among young people, who constitute a majority in the country. For this, we can turn to Table 40 of the last census, which reports that 60 per cent of households rely on TV and 97pc rely on mobile phones for basic information. The corresponding figures in 1998 were 7pc and 0pc respectively.

What this overwhelmingly young population is watching on TV or through their mobiles is something that we can never completely know. But what is clear is that a lot of information is being accessed, and a lot of ideas — about politics, about religious beliefs, and about the rest of the world — are circulating. Controlling or regulating this flow is an impossibility. Will it lead to an angrier population or a more passive one? A more conservative one or one with some transgressive tendencies? So far, the outcome leans more towards anger and conservatism.

Another slow but steady sociocultural transformation is the vanishing gender gap in higher education. Men and women between the ages of 20 and 35 have university degrees at roughly the same rate (about 11pc). Between 20 and 30, a slightly higher percentage of women have a college degree compared to men. And just two decades ago, women’s higher education attainment in the same 20 to 35 age bracket was 3pc lower than men. This gap has been covered and there are strong signs that it will reverse in the other direction as male educational attainment stagnates.

What does a more educated female population mean for societal functioning? Will these capabilities threaten male honour (and patriarchy) in different ways? Will there be new types of gender politics and conflicts? And will the levee finally break in terms of the barriers that continue to prevent women from gaining dignified remunerated work? As in other unequal countries, Pakistani men hold a monopoly over economic benefits and public space. And they are unlikely to give these privileges up passively.

In the socioeconomic domain, there are also two things worth highlighting. The first is urban migration, not just in large metropolitan centres, but in smaller second- and third-tier cities as well. Fragmenting land holdings and climate change are compelling young men in particular to move to cities in large numbers. A 10-acre farm inherited by five brothers will lead to at least three seeking work outside of agriculture.

The official urbanisation rate may be at around 38pc but this is a significant underestimate. Many villages are now small towns, and small towns are now nothing less than large urban agglomerations. The perimeters of these urban areas are dotted with dense informal settlements that provide shelter — often the only type available — for working-class migrants.

Finally, the last trend is employment status in the labour force. In the last 20 years, the percentage of people earning a living through a daily/weekly/monthly wage (as opposed to being a self-cultivator, self-employed, or running a small business) has increased by 10pc. Much of this increase is taking place in the informal economy and that too in the services sector.

Starting your own business, however small, requires money, which most do not have. Getting higher-paying, formal-sector jobs first requires getting credentials and training, which again is beyond the budget of most. Large swathes of the working population will grind out a living by taking care of the needs of the better off — fixing their cars, cleaning their houses, serving them food. Given the condition of the economy, this trend is unlikely to change.

Riaz Haq said...

In Pakistan’s Tharparkar, single mother defies gender norms to take up drumming as profession

MITHI, THARPARKAR: Rocking a colorful Rajasthani dress, singing Marwari folk songs, and playing a drum that hangs from her neck attached to a sturdy blue strap, Maryam Naz, 40, impresses her audience with her performance standing atop sand dunes in Tharparkar, a southern Pakistani desert region where seeing a woman publicly singing or playing instruments had largely been unheard of.

Playing a drum, which is a two-headed hand drum, is common all across the subcontinent in countless folk genres, devotional traditions, and family functions. In Pakistan, most drum players are men, therefore, seeing a woman playing the percussion instrument in public is a rare sight.

But for Naz, a single mother of six children hailing from Tharparkar’s Mithi city, traditionally-defined gender norms could not become a hurdle and she chose drumming as a profession when things turned difficult for her following her husband’s death in 2016 nearly a decade ago.

“After my husband’s death, I faced many problems, I was unable to feed my children,” Naz told Arab News. “I had to earn for my children, so I decided to sing and play in public.”

Naz, who also sings in Urdu, Sindhi, Dhatki and Marwari languages, belongs to the Manganiar community, which has produced many traditional folk musicians in India’s Rajasthan and Pakistan’s Tharparkar. Members of the community are known for their unique folk style and have contributed significantly to the region’s rich cultural heritage.

She says she learned singing and playing drum at the age of eight from prominent local singer and drum player, Ustaad Soomar Faqir, while her skills were further polished by her father, who also used to sing and play drum at weddings and other events.

Naz initially sang and played drum at weddings, but she was criticized when she took it up as a profession due to cultural norms. She, however, defied the norms and continued doing what she was best at, so much so that many Sindhi-language entertainment channels invited her on shows and appreciated her music skills.

Imtyaz Dharani, a local journalist, told Arab News he reported Naz’s story for the first time on his YouTube channel, Indus Globe, in 2020.

“I saw her first time playing dholak in a wedding function in Mithi, where she was playing dholak in an amazing way,” he said. “So far I haven’t found such a woman dholak (drum) player in the Sindh province.”

Naz says it is often difficult for her to make ends meet amid rising inflation in Pakistan and due to inconsistent earnings, but she is passionate about what she does.

“I could have another profession for earning, but I was passionate [about playing drum and singing],” she said. “I did not quit.”

Nadeem Jumani, a local poet from Tharparkar, said Naz had been playing drum alongside many prominent Sindhi singers, including Sanam Marvi and Allah Dino Junejo, but she did not get her due share of fame.

“She is a very talented artist, therefore [Sindh culture minister] Sardar Shah should give her a stipend,” Jumani said.

He added that Naz’s skills should be lauded as she was challenging the gender stereotypes created by the society.

“In a male-dominated society, it is difficult for women to do a government job, but she sings and plays drum [alongside] her male counterparts,” he said.

“After her initiative, the trend is changing here as other girls from her community are also coming forward to learn drum-playing skills.”