Tayyaba and child labour

As the heart-wrenching tale of Tayyaba, the child maid, allegedly tortured in Islamabad, surfaces – it raises more questions on child labour.

Many people in Pakistan would argue that if underprivileged and poor children are being given a means of supporting themselves and their families that can only be a good thing.

Certainly, when people from wealthy countries try to tell families in developing countries, stricken with poverty, living under $2 a day, that they cannot determine how to best look after their families, it can seem quite paternalistic.

But there is a reason, deeper and more valid than obvious.High levels of child labour is in fact linked with adult unemployment and under-employment.

The reason many people and business choose to employ children is because ‘they slip so easily under the radar.’ According to Stop Child Labour, one of the reasons children are so vulnerable is because ‘there is no supervision or social control mechanisms, no unions that can help them to bargain for better working conditions. These are very low-skilled workers without a voice, so they are easy targets.’ Because of their vulnerability, many people and businesses in Pakistan will actually employ children in preference to adults.

According to the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations: ‘There is a clear link between child labour and low wages for adult workers, both in agriculture (cotton production) and in garment factories.’ They argue that if ‘child labour was banned, labour would become more scarce, which would actually allow adult workers to negotiate better wages and improve labour conditions.’

If children are being paid less than adults to do the same job, it means that families are actually worse off. If adults are paid a better living wage, their children can have the opportunity to get an education, thus giving them more opportunity to break the cycle of poverty.

2040 hours
Thursday 29 December 2016

Why trump is good for Pakistan

Many in west argue, Pakistan is at best a sometimes-ally when it comes to counterterrorism. But Pakistan is equally taken as an enemy, a state sponsor of terrorism a host to anti-Afghan, anti-Indian, anti-west jihadi militants. It is widely alleged that Pakistan’s military and intelligence services prefer to maintain friendly ties with some terrorists for two reasons. For Pakistan’s strategists, they are useful proxies to destabilise Pakistan’s enemy neighbours and but they are also be deadly adversaries if confronted head-on.

Tens of billions of American dollars with the carrots and sticks American approach –have clearly not succeeded in changing Pakistan’s core strategic calculations.

It’s true that the only time that Pakistan has changed its strategic approach in any significant way was immediately after 9/11, when fear of a vengeful America led then-President Pervez Musharraf to cooperate on a variety of counter terror operations that netted top Al-Qaeda leaders on Pakistan’s soil and to acquiesce, at least for several years, to an overthrow of Pakistan’s favoured Taliban regime in Afghanistan. As Musharraf has claimed in his memoir, he and other top Pakistani generals feared that unless they bowed to the Bush administration’s demands, they would be “bombed back to the stone ages” or, more likely, would suffer the strategic consequences of seeing the United States align with India.

Trump’s apparent “irrationality” could conceivably make American threats to Pakistan far more effective. One of the only sure things we know about upcoming policy is that he means to get tough against “radical Islamic terrorists.” Trump may be uniquely well positioned to deliver a credible ultimatum to Pakistan: “Begin a full-scale, verifiable, and rapid offensive against all terrorist groups on Pakistani soil, or else.”

None of this is to suggest that Pakistan will simply cave to Washington’s demands. It’s true that whatever happens, Pakistan will remain a nuclear-armed state of 200 million people with increasingly close ties to China. But at least this way, Pakistan could arrest or kill some top terrorist leader to demonstrate the value of cooperation, while suggesting that coercive ultimatums are really unnecessary.

1815 hours
Saturday 12 November 2016

The honour killing bill

Pakistan on Thursday passed laws to increase sentences for rapists and those who commit so-called honour killings of women, and closed a loophole that allowed many of the killers to go free Goof development.

But it hurts that only about a third of the 446 lawmakers attended the session, but debate was raucous, with the loudest opposition coming from hard-line Islamists. Senator Hafiz Hamdullah said parliament should instead address elopements by women, claiming 17,000 had done so since 2014.

He echoed a stance taken by many hard-liners that the law is bringing Western-style independence for women. "Why don't we see what are the reasons behind such killings? Why are girls eloping from their homes? They are trying to impose Western culture over here. We will not allow (it)," he said.

Conservatives even demanded that the Islamic Ideology Council, a body of conservative Muslim clerics, weigh in on the bill before the vote. Yes the same council that once ruled it was permissible for a man to "lightly" beat his wife.

It's a shame that honor killings are rooted so deep in traditions by which a family's honour is bound up with a woman's chastity. Killings met with acceptance, even approval, by neighbours and relatives.

2200 hours
Monday 10 October 2016

To honour is...to love and protect!

15 years old Ambreen was dragged from her home, injected with sedatives, strangled with ropes, tied up in a van and then burned while still alive.

Her crime: Helping her school friend flee the village to marry of her own free will.

The ‘honour killing’ was ordered by a tribal jirga, including some family members of the eloped girl, who then carried out the killing.

This is not the first time such a heinous crime is committed against a woman on the order of the tribal council. According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, over a thousand women were killed in Pakistan last year in the name of so called 'honour killing.'

Pakistan is currently ranked 147th out of 188 countries on the UN Gender Equality Index. We all are seeing, since the passage of the Punjab Protection of Women Against Violence Bill recently, more than 30 religious groups have spoken out against the bill, calling campaigning in favour of the bill as promotion of obscenity and the destruction of the family system. The bill offers a bare minimum protection for women from crimes of physical, financial and psychological abuse, among latest reports that 70 to 90 percent Pakistani women have suffered some kind of abuse at least once in their lives.

The criminal justice system is completely not working very effectively. There has been a complete failure of the state and the society to deal with such premeditated crimes.

Ambreen's father, a poor local labourer from Abbottabad, said his daughter had just quit school at grade eight.

It’s not only a cold-blooded murder, it’s savagely barbaric.

2105 hours
Saturday 7 May 2016

What is with Maulana Sherani, anyways!

The latest in the series of imprudent remarks by Maulana Sherani is his comment this Sunday that the Panama Leaks were somehow a Western conspiracy aimed at destabilising Pakistani democracy and to ‘implement their nefarious designs in the country.’

This is of course not the first time Maulana Sherani has voiced any opinions that is not grounded in facts. His ignorance over the global state of affairs and controversial verdicts on various laws, insisting on men and women on unequal footing, makes one wonder how this advisory council could be held in high regard by most in the country.

In February, the provincial Punjab assembly passed a landmark women's protection bill, establishing hotlines and shelters for women to protect them from domestic, psychological and sexual violence. The harshest criticism against the legislation came from the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII).  Commenting on the bill, Maulana Sherani said: ‘The law is wrong and that the lawmakers had not taken the Islamic teachings about ‘family protection’ into consideration.’

Prior to this, Marvi Memon tabled a bill in the National Assembly in January. The bill was aimed to address the issue of child marriages. UNICEF estimates that about 3 percent of girls in Pakistan are married before they turn 15, and 21 percent before age 18. This bill though didn’t even see the light of day as the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) immediately shot it down.

The council also ruled in the past that DNA could not be used as evidence in rape cases, endorsing controversial ‘Hudood’ laws that mandate that a rape victim get four male witnesses to be able to testify in court.

The CII was formulated in 1962 under Ayub Khan as a constitutional body that would provide Islamic guidance when it came to lawmaking. Its ruling on bills however never was, nor is mandatory; rather just an opinion that should not decide the fate of any bill. Unfortunately this has not been the case.

The CII is a redundant organisation. Under the 73’ constitution it was supposed to submit an annual report up till 1996 after which it would no longer be necessary. But the council keeps on going, priding itself on speaking exclusively on issues relating to women.

Stopping important legislation that protects the rights of those who cannot protect themselves doesn’t only give Pakistan a very ‘negative image,’ it forces half of country’s population to live a life of fear, devoid of due self esteem.  This is what forces the world to reason that we are a country of misogynistic bigots.

2237 hours
Saturday 30 April 2016

Of Valentine’s Day and that advert

This morning, I spotted this ultimate advert at the back page of a leading daily, to my horror!

Why don’t I share this amazing sense of morality with the person who decided to place this advertisement? I wish I had such wits, but unfortunately, whatever angle I look at it, I just can’t seem to find the exact element which makes this worthy of a quarter-page advertisement in a top newspaper!

Though, I am not an advocate or an opponent of Valentine’s Day as such, even then, I can’t help but spot this deliberate twisting of facts about St. Valentine and the day, in an obviously not so witty manner.

The story of origin of Valentine’s Day centres Emperor Claudius II deciding that unmarried men made better soldiers so he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine, a Roman Saint (and not a Jew), defied this ridiculous decree by performing marriages for young lovers in secret. When this was found out, Valentine was put to death and thus, in his memory, lovers started to profess their love for each other on this day.

Please when will you get your facts right?

Besides, this argument that Valentine’s Day is spoiling the youth and culture of Pakistan, and is against religion, doesn't seem to sit well with me. The only things that spoil the youth, culture and name of Pakistan are our obnoxious practices of child marriages, honour killing, treating women as commodities, giving them in swaras, victimisations of raped women, one of the highest numbers of rape cases of minor girls, acid throwing, crippling sectarianism and extremism, intolerance and terrorism that’s eating this country to its cores.

Sorry to spoil it, but the narrators of this advert clearly didn’t do their jobs well. I hope I’m not the only one who finds this advert utterly misleading, and depressing at the same time!

Or did I simply miss my cue to find it otherwise?

2302 hours
Friday 12 February 2016

When people like Maulana Sheerani govern our laws

Maulana Sheerani, Chairman Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), never falls short of stirring controversies every other month or so through his rounds of statements. In his latest statement to the press he announced that he intended to discuss three important issues in the meetings. (i) Deciding whether Ahmadis are non-Muslims or apostates; (2) Imposing jizya on non-Muslims (iii) determining which sects fall under Islam.

Earlier, the CII recommended to the government to round up those who were not born Ahmadi but had embraced the sect as “normal” Muslims and put them to death.

Pakistan is a democratic state and a democratic state treats all its citizens equally, irrespective of their cast, creed, religion or ethnicity. The Ahmadis are already under disabilities that a modern democratic state should be ashamed of. They can’t say the word ‘masjid’, pointing to their mosque, among many other words associated with Islam, otherwise they go in jail for six months. Routinely attacked, desecration of their old graves, corpses thrown on the roads and ‘true Muslims’ going round trying to trap an unaware Ahmadi into pronouncing an Islamic phrase before putting him in police custody are common practices in Pakistan, according to human rights watchers.

On top of this, comes the role of CII to incite hate and violence, in a society already wrecked with religious intolerance, jihadism and religious terrorism. Following are some of the recommendations CII has made over past couple of months:

  • Among issues taken to the council by the religion ministry was the issue of girls marrying of their own choice. The CII announced that the nikah of a girl without the permission of the wali (a male member of family or guardian) was un-Islamic and those girls getting married of their own choice should be punished under law.
  • It also declared that sending anyone to prison was against Shariat and recommended that prison sentences be abolished. Early Islam had no jails, no police, and no banks. Thieves used to have their hands cut.
  • They also want to recommend, to ban kite-flying, organ transplant and smoking.
  • The other enlightened opinion of the CII was that co-education be banned and that all lotteries like prize bonds be banned.
  • The CII ruled that insurance of all kinds was against Islam and should be abolished forthwith.
  • It had earlier endorsed the destruction of Afghanistan’s archaeological heritage by the Taliban.
  • It also said women should be disallowed from appearing in ads and that only men should be used to promote products.
  • Women were allowed to work as air hostesses but they should be wearing the burqa or hijab (veil) on board.
  • This is not it for their obsession with women, they recommend no tailor should be allowed to sew women’s clothes and only women tailors should be used by women. 

At a time when Pakistan is said to be fighting a final war against terror, extremism and radicalization, when our forces and civilians are sacrificing their lives, the Chairman CII has decided to lead petty discussions to impose some medieval laws that have little to do with Islam or modern statecraft.

1334 hours
Sunday 7 Febuary 2016

Killed in the name of honour

Shameen Obaid-Chinoy’s film on honour killing cases in Pakistan, A Girl in the River, got nominated for the Oscars today. It tells the story of a young woman who survived attempted murder by her father and uncle after she fell in love, eloped and married a man who was deemed ‘unsuitable’ by her family.

Talking about the film, Shameen Obaid-Chinoy, the film’s director says: ‘you can go into small towns and villages across Pakistan and you will find that people think that honour killing is not a crime because nobody ever goes to jail for it.’

Ironically, over a thousand honour killings were reported in Pakistan last year, with the victims including 923 women and 82 minor girls – that makes it almost all women. These numbers are way shorter than the fuller picture as the vast majority of honour killings are never reported or registered, especially in rural areas.

Human rights agencies in Pakistan have repeatedly emphasised that women victims of honour killings were usually those wanting to marry of their own will. In many cases, the victims held properties that the male members of their families did not wish to lose if the women chose to marry outside the family. More often than not, the honour killing murder relates to inheritance problems, feud-settling, or to get rid of the wife in order to remarry.

Thanks to our deep rooted feudalism, tribalism and the continuing presence of elder councils, especially in rural Pakistan. The fact that much of Pakistan's Tribal Areas are semi-autonomous and governed by often fundamentalist leaders makes federal enforcement difficult when attempted. Such councils are the root cause of these heinous crimes as they allow the families to settle honour killing cases among themselves so that there is no legal punishment. The victim's family is given monetary compensation instead.

Also, the 1997 Retribution and Compensation Act allows a victim's legal heir to close a case at any point in the court, take monetary compensation for the honor killing and pardon the accused. So, if and when the case reaches a court of law, the victim's family may 'pardon' the murderer, who may well be one of them. The murderer then goes free. Once such a pardon has been secured, the state has no further writ on the matter although often the killers are relatives of the victim.

It's big time our state needs to take concrete actions to end this heinous practice. Removing the possibility of compromise, waiver, and compensation between the victim's family and the perpetrator can be an effective measure to curb these murders.

1905 hours
Sunday 31 January 2016