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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 25 May 2014, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Kidnapped Girls Become Tools of US Imperial Policy in Africa

New Age Islam News Bureau

25 May 2014

DAP's candidate Dyana Sofya Mohd Daud has been a victim of sexist remarks. Female lawmakers say sexism is rampant in Malaysian politics. – The Malaysian Insider pic, May 25, 2014.


 Show Respect! Qatar ‘Dress Code’ Shocks Expats

 Dyana Not the Only Victim of Sexism in Politics: Malaysian Women Leaders

 Sharif’s Daughter Calls for Economic Bloc

 Gains — and Danger — Spur Women in Afghanistan

 Saudi Business Women Take Expo-Planning Market By Storm

 Qatari Women Nudge Their Way into Office

 Youth Generation at Risk in Afghanistan

 Delhi's Cops Help Woman from Kabul 'Escape'

 When Saudi Women’s Wealth Is Stuck In Bank Accounts

 ‘Nearly 5,000 Fistula Cases Surface Every Year in Pakistan’

 Jailed: Ranya Al-Huthaili, the Saudi Woman Who Robbed 5 U.S. Banks

Report highlights plight of Pakistani children

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau





Kidnapped Girls Become Tools of US Imperial Policy in Africa

May 25, 2014

All nations in the world surely condemn the recent abduction of the Nigerian schoolgirls by the Wahhabi-Salafi Al-Qaeda affiliated group, Boko Haram, but this has now turned into yet another excuse for the US to exercise its so-called "humanitarian" occupation in another country. Another 9/11 story to justify the US imperial policies; and this time again in Africa.

Many writers, journalists and intellectuals throughout the world have warned of the suspicious goals pursued by the US and its western allies in the Boko Haram story. From among the wide range of articles written in this regard, Black Agenda Report (BAR) has released a good commentary by its executive editor Glen Ford. Here is his article:

The “humanitarian” US military occupation of Africa has been very successful, thus far. “The Chibok abductions have served the same US foreign policy purposes as Joseph Kony sightings in central Africa.”

Imagine: the superpower that financed the genocide of six million in Congo, claims to be a defender of teenage girls and human rights on the continent. If you believe that, then you are probably a member of the Congressional Black Caucus.

"The Boko Haram, like other jihadists, had become more dangerous in a post-Gaddafi Africa – thus justifying a larger military presence for the Americans.”

A chorus of outraged public opinion demands that the “international community” and the Nigerian military “Do something!” about the abduction by Boko Haram of 280 teenage girls. It is difficult to fault the average US consumer of packaged “news” products for knowing next to nothing about what the Nigerian army has actually been “doing” to suppress the Muslim fundamentalist rebels since, as senior columnist Margaret Kimberley pointed out in these pages, last week, the three US broadcast networks carried “not a single television news story about Boko Haram” in all of 2013. (Nor did the misinformation corporations provide a nanosecond of coverage of the bloodshed in the Central African Republic, where thousands died and a million were made homeless by communal fighting over the past year.) But, that doesn’t mean the Nigerian army hasn’t been bombing, strafing, and indiscriminately slaughtering thousands of, mainly, young men in the country’s mostly Muslim north.

The newly aware US public may or may not be screaming for blood, but rivers of blood have already flowed in the region. Those Americans who read – which, presumably, includes First Lady Michelle Obama, who took her husband’s place on radio last weekend to pledge US help in the hunt for the girls – would have learned in the New York Times of the army’s savage offensive near the Niger border, last May and June. In the town of Bosso, the Nigerian army killed hundreds of young men in traditional Muslim garb “Without Asking Who They Are,” according to the NYT headline. “They don’t ask any questions,” said a witness who later fled for his life, like thousands of others. “When they see young men in traditional robes, they shoot them on the spot,” said a student. “They catch many of the others and take them away, and we don’t hear from them again.”

“When they see young men in traditional robes, they shoot them on the spot.”

The Times’ Adam Nossiter interviewed many refugees from the army’s “all-out land and air campaign to crush the Boko Haram insurgency.” He reported:

“All spoke of a climate of terror that had pushed them, in the thousands, to flee for miles through the harsh and baking semidesert, sometimes on foot, to Niger. A few blamed Boko Haram — a shadowy, rarely glimpsed presence for most residents — for the violence. But the overwhelming majority blamed the military, saying they had fled their country because of it.”

In just one village, 200 people were killed by the military.

In March of this year, fighters who were assumed to be from Boko Haram attacked a barracks and jail in the northern city of Maiduguri. Hundreds of prisoners fled, but 200 youths were rounded up and made to lie on the ground. A witness told the Times: “The soldiers made some calls and a few minutes later they started shooting the people on the ground. I counted 198 people killed at that checkpoint.”

All told, according to Amnesty International, more than 600 people were extrajudicially murdered, “most of them unarmed, escaped detainees, around Maiduguri.” An additional 950 prisoners were killed in the first half of 2013 in detention facilities run by Nigeria’s military Joint Task Force, many at the same barracks in Maiduguri. Amnesty International quotes a senior officer in the Nigerian Army, speaking anonymously: “Hundreds have been killed in detention either by shooting them or by suffocation,” he said. “There are times when people are brought out on a daily basis and killed. About five people, on average, are killed nearly on a daily basis.”

Chibok, where the teenage girls were abducted, is 80 miles from Maiduguri, capital of Borno State.

In 2009, when the Boko Haram had not yet been transformed into a fully armed opposition, the military summarily executed their handcuffed leader and killed at least 1,000 accused members in the states of Borno, Yobe, Kano and Bauchi, many of them apparently simply youths from suspect neighborhoods. A gruesome video shows the military at work. “In the video, a number of unarmed men are seen being made to lie down in the road outside a building before they are shot,” Al Jazeera reports in text accompanying the video. “As one man is brought out to face death, one of the officers can be heard urging his colleague to ‘shoot him in the chest not the head – I want his hat.’”

"950  prisoners were killed in the first half of 2013 in detention facilities run by Nigeria’s military.”

These are only snapshots of the army’s response to Boko Haram – atrocities that are part of the context of Boko Haram’s ghastly behavior. The military has refused the group’s offer to exchange the kidnapped girls for imprisoned Boko Haram members. (We should not assume that everyone detained as Boko Haram is actually a member – only that all detainees face imminent and arbitrary execution.)

None of the above is meant to tell Boko Haram’s “side” in this grisly story (fundamentalist religious jihadists find no favor at BAR), but to emphasize the Nigerian military’s culpability in the group’s mad trajectory – the same military that many newly-minted “Save Our Girls” activists demand take more decisive action in Borno.

The bush to which the Boko Haram retreated with their captives was already a free-fire zone, where anything that moves is subject to obliteration by government aircraft. Nigerian air forces have now been joined by US surveillance planes operating out of the new US drone base in neighboring Niger, further entrenching AFRICOM/CIA in the continental landscape. Last week it was announced that, for the first time, AFRICOM troops will train a Nigerian ranger battalion in counterinsurgency warfare.

The Chibok abductions have served the same US foreign policy purposes as Joseph Kony sightings in central Africa, which were conjured-up to justify the permanent stationing of U.S Special Forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Rwanda, the Central African Republic and South Sudan, in 2011, on humanitarian interventionist grounds. (This past March, the U.S. sent 150 more Special Ops troops to the region, claiming to have again spotted Kony, who is said to be deathly ill, holed up with a small band of followers somewhere in the Central African Republic.) The United States (and France and Britain, plus the rest of NATO, if need be) must maintain a deepening and permanent presence in Africa to defend the continent from…Africans.

When the crowd yells that America “Do something!” somewhere in Africa, the US military is likely to already be there.

“AFRICOM troops will train a Nigerian ranger battalion in counterinsurgency warfare.”

Barack Obama certainly needs no encouragement to intervention; his presidency is roughly coterminous with AFRICOM’s founding and explosive expansion. Obama broadened the war against Somalia that was launched by George Bush in partnership with the genocidal Ethiopian regime, in 2006 (an invasion that led directly to what the United Nations called “the worst humanitarian crisis is Africa”). He built on Bill Clinton and George Bush’s legacies in the Congo, where US client states Uganda and Rwanda caused the slaughter of 6 million people since 1996 – the greatest genocide of the post War World II era. He welcomed South Sudan as the world’s newest nation – the culmination of a decades-long project of the US, Britain and Israel to dismember Africa’s largest country, but which has now fallen into a bloody chaos, as does everything the US touches, these days.

Most relevant to the plight of Chibok’s young women, Obama led “from behind” NATO’s regime change in Libya, removing the anti-jihadist bulwark Muamar Gaddafi (“We came, we saw, he died,” said Hillary Clinton) and destabilizing the whole Sahelian tier of the continent, all the way down to northern Nigeria. As BAR editor and columnist Ajamu Baraka writes in the current issue, “Boko Haram benefited from the destabilization of various countries across the Sahel following the Libya conflict.” The once-“shadowy” group now sported new weapons and vehicles and was clearly better trained and disciplined. In short, the Boko Haram, like other jihadists, had become more dangerous in a post-Gaddafi Africa – thus justifying a larger military presence for the same Americans and (mainly French) Europeans who had brought these convulsions to the region.

If Obama has his way, it will be a very long war – the better to grow AFRICOM – with some very unsavory allies (from both the Nigerian and American perspectives).

Whatever Obama does to deepen the US presence in Nigeria and the rest of the continent, he can count on the Congressional Black Caucus, including its most “progressive” member, Barbara Lee (D-CA), the only member of the US Congress to vote against the invasion of Afghanistan, in 2001. Lee, along with Reps. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) and fellow Californian Karen Bass, who is the ranking member on the House Subcommittee on Africa, gave cart blanch to Obama to “Do something!” in Nigeria. “And so our first command and demand is to use all resources to bring the terrorist thugs to justice,” they said.

A year and a half ago, when then UN Ambassador Susan Rice’s prospects for promotion to top US diplomat were being torpedoed by the Benghazi controversy, a dozen Black congresspersons scurried to her defense. "We will not allow a brilliant public servant's record to be mugged to cut off her consideration to be secretary of state," said Washington, DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton.

As persons who are presumed to read, Black Caucus members were certainly aware of the messy diplomatic scandal around Rice’s role in suppressing United Nation’s reports on US allies’ Rwanda and Uganda’s genocidal acts against the Congolese people. Of all the high profile politicians from both the corporate parties, Rice – the rabid interventionist – is most intimately implicated in the Congo holocaust, dating back to the policy’s formulation under Clinton. Apparently, that’s not the part of Rice’s record that counts to Delegate Norton and the rest of the Black Caucus. Genocide against Africans does not move them one bit.

So, why are we to believe that they are really so concerned about the girls of Chibok?



Show Respect! Qatar ‘Dress Code’ Shocks Expats

May 25, 2014

A Qatari campaign urging tourists and foreign residents to respect the country’s strict dress code has sparked controversy and sent jitters among its majority expatriate population.

The campaign says a visitor or a resident in Qatar is required to wear “decent clothes.”

“Women should avoid wearing any garments that are too tight, too short or translucent such as mini-skirts or sleeveless dresses,” the according to a campaign poster posted on the campaign’s Twitter account @reflect_respect.

The banned attire were shown in a picture tweeted by the campaign. The pictures also appear to show a list of garments including short dresses, leggings and shorts.

“Both men and women should also avoid walking around in their swimming suits away from beaches or swimming pools,” according to the campaign.

The campaign says visitors and residents of Qatar “should know that courtesy and hospitality are of the virtues that are highly appreciated and respected in the Arab world. They will surely feel how friendly and gentle the Qatari people are.”

Expression of discontent

While some expats seem unperturbed by the campaign, others expressed discontent.

One American man living in Qatar, who preferred not to be identified, said the dress code should only apply to “religious and official places.”

“It is completely understandable to ask expats to dress appropriately in religious and official locations but not in malls, beaches or souqs, commonly known for being the first attractions of expats,” he said.

Egyptian expat Nada Ramadan told Al Arabiya News: “We should not forget the golden rule: when in Rome, do what the Romans do. We must respect the country’s local customs and beliefs.”

The dress code in Qatar is a sensitive topic among locals and expatriates alike.

Hammoud Brahim, an Arab expatriate who grew up in Doha, said: “Qatar is becoming a multi-cultural country and needs to accommodate the ‘cultures’ of other people.”

Show of support

“Restricting what people wear is absurd. If there is an imposed dress code, it will only encourage oppression and intolerance in Doha … people must be able to wear what they want,” he added.

Some Qatari nationals took to social media to show their support for the campaign.

“This is something we needed a lot earlier @reflect respect glad it’s starting now at least. ppl need to be aware of the country's customs,” remarked Twitter user @justaasim.

“This is how, we can preserve our religion and nation … Till the government adopts the idea of the campaign and issues a similar official law,” another user wrote.

@Asmaalkhatib wrote: “I totally support this and express my respect to everyone who respect our culture and heritage.”

Qatar’s Islamic Culture Center previously launched an initiative to educate foreigners on Qatar’s dress code.

“The amount of immodest clothing is growing in public places, especially shopping malls. Such foreigner behavior conflicts with our traditions,” Nasser al-Maliki, the center’s public relations’ chief told the UAE based daily news website Gulf News.

“We do not want our kids to be exposed to it or learn from it, and that’s why we will start this campaign,” he said.

Ever-growing majority

Article 57 of the country’s constitution stipulates that “abiding by public order and morality, observing national traditions and established customs is a duty of all who reside in the State of Qatar or enter its territory."

Qatar’s ever-growing majority expatriate population and its increasing visibility on the world stage - especially with its winning bid to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup - have turned the spotlight on the small Gulf country.

The campaign has raised questions about what conditions international fans can expect when they visit Qatar to watch the games, particularly in summer where temperatures can reach 50 degrees Celsius.

In 2013, more than 208,000 expats arrived in the country, making nearly 85 percent of the population foreigners.



Dyana Not the Only Victim of Sexism in Politics: Malaysian Women Leaders

May 25, 2014

The smear campaign against DAP's Dyana Sofya Mohd Daud highlights the sexism endemic in Malaysian politics.

In Parliament, men outnumber women by almost 10 to one. A female representative, whether in Parliament or a state assembly, has to fight sexist perceptions of her marital status, looks and dress.

DAP vice-chairperson Teresa Kok said she once argued in Parliament for the rights of single mothers, only to be interrupted by an MP who reminded the Dewan Rakyat that she was unmarried.

“They said I was single, not qualified to make comments on the issue of single mothers. And being a single woman in the eyes of some Umno MPs is akin to being a second-class citizen. They run me down, treat my status as a joke,” the Seputeh MP told The Malaysian Insider.

In Parliament, only 23, or 10.4%, out of 222 MPs are women, falling far behind Putrajaya’s target of 30% female participation in Parliament.

The figures are out of sync with demographics, where females make up 49.3% of the population.

The lack of female participation in politics gives rise to sexist remarks and heckling from the male-dominated assemblies.

Kok, 50, said that her single status became fodder for her opponents the moment she was first elected in 1999.

“When I first became an MP... I was teased constantly for being single.

“They would throw all sorts of remarks at us in Parliament, about our clothing 'menjolok mata' (eyesore), being unmarried,” said Kok.

At the last Parliament session in April, Kinabatangan MP Datuk Bung Moktar Radin took offence to Kok’s outfit, which he said was inappropriate because he caught a glimpse of her knees.

He tried to raise a standing order in Parliament and complained to the speaker: “The skirt reaches the knees, I can see the knees, how can this dress be allowed?”

Kok said she dealt with the sexist attacks by either fighting back or shrugging them off.

“I either ignore them or I fight back. There is no way for us to run away. Even if it doesn’t happen in Parliament, you see all this on the Internet.

“I am immune to them. After some time, you get used to it,” said Kok, adding that she could no longer recall the many sexist incidents.

She also said the smear campaign against Dyana and the constant reference to her looks would not die down should the young candidate be elected on May 31.

“I understand that her personal (telephone) number is out (made public) and she is facing a lot of harassment. I have gone through all that she is experiencing.

“As long as you want to be a public figure and society is not mature and has no respect for privacy, this is bound to happen,” said Kok.

Bukit Lanjan assemblyman Elizabeth Wong concurred, but said that sexist remarks were less prominent in the Selangor assembly, where female representatives comprise 25% of the assembly – the highest female participation in any state assembly in the country.

“Unlike Parliament, the Selangor state assembly has many women and that helps a lot in tempering those with an urge to utter sexist remarks, because the men know everyone will pounce on them,” said Wong.

She said in 2012, BN’s Batang Kali assemblyman Datuk Mohd Isa Abu Kassim was fined RM1,000 for making a remark on her “forest” during a debate session in the state assembly.

Isa had told Wong “not to forget to take care of our own forest” during the debate, sparking outrage among his peers. He later apologised for the comment.

But sexism was still rife, said Wong.

For instance, PKR Selangor’s entire executive council is made up of women, which has provoked sexist comments.

“People say, ‘oh, don’t tell me there are no men in PKR Selangor who are good enough’. But you don’t hear that type of talk when there are only male representatives,” said Wong.

“We women have to prove ourselves time and time again that we are capable of doing our jobs. There is a huge burden on us to prove ourselves.”

Wong said even in her party, “local leaders” were resistant to the idea of fielding female candidates for elections.

PKR has three female MPs: Fuziah Salleh (Kuantan), Zuraida Kamaruddin (Ampang) and Nurul Izzah Anwar (Lembah Pantai).

In last year’s PKR congress, Pahang representative Murnie Hidayah from the Srikandi wing, who contested and lost the Paya Besar parliamentary seat, complained about the lack of support for women from the party central leadership.

However, Wong said the PKR leadership was “sensitive” to gender representation and the party’s constitution stated that women must occupy 30% of posts at the local and national levels.

“But the sexism that the Teluk Intan candidate (Dyana) is facing is horrendous. She’s still a young woman, but everything under the sun is thrown at her,” added Wong.

Dyana, 27, became the victim of an online smear campaign when her face was superimposed on a bikini-clad Filipino actress and the picture went viral.

Yesterday, the DAP claimed to have found fake bikini photos of Dyana around Malay villages and even in a mosque in Changkat Jong.

Political analysts said the smear campaign was a concerted effort to undermine Dyana’s “Malay-ness” and depict her as not being true to her roots.

But at a recent ceramah in Teluk Intan, even Dyana’s political allies trumpeted her looks to drum up support from voters, according to media reports.

This prompted Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin to remind voters that the by-election was not a beauty pageant and urged them to choose a leader with experience who could serve the constituency.



Sharif’s daughter calls for economic bloc

May 25, 2014

Makes a case for the two neighbours to work together as an economic bloc

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s daughter Maryam Nawaz Sharif on Saturday made a case for the two neighbours to work together as an economic bloc like the European Union.

She used Twitter to articulate this hope. “Why the two nations are living like divided Korea. Why can’t they live like United Europe. Economic bloc perhaps?” she tweeted in the last of three tweets floating the idea of burying differences and working for the betterment of the people of the two countries.

“Why can’t India and Pakistan team up to win the wars against diseases, illiteracy and poverty? We can…,” she said in her first tweet and then followed it up with: “Why India and Pakistan have to be prisoners of the past? Should bury the enmity & start afresh.”

The tweets drew her bouquets and brickbats from both sides of the border. In fact, for the better part of the day, Ms. Sharif kept herself engaged on Twitter on the issue, stating that dialogue and not force is the answer to the Kashmir issue. “Aggression breeds aggression,” she said in one tweet while also using the platform to clarify that she would not be accompanying her father to India.

Through this week, Ms. Sharif has been speaking in favour of an India-Pakistan engagement despite jihadi groups based in her party’s stronghold — Punjab — building pressure against Mr. Sharif accepting the invitation to the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister-designate Narendra Modi. And, on Friday, she tweeted: “I personally think cordial relations with new Indian govt. should be cultivated. Will help remove psychological barriers, fear & misgivings.”



Gains — and danger — spur women in Afghanistan

May 25, 2014

SHORTLY AFTER speaking with US Representative Niki Tsongas last week about the “cautious optimism” she felt after a recent visit to Afghanistan, I checked the latest news about that country.

t wasn’t promising. “Taliban attacks across Afghanistan kill 21 people,” declared US News and World Report. An Al Jazeera report said 16 police officers were killed by fighters, who beheaded eight of them.

As The Wall Street Journal recently reported, violence levels are steadily rising as American-led troops continue to exit Afghanistan. According to the Journal’s report on an analysis by the International Crisis Group, the number of insurgent attacks in Afghanistan “increased 15 to 20 percent from a year earlier.”

Afghan forces now oversee their country’s security as the US-led coalition turns from combat to training and advising. According to the ICG report, at least 8,200 Afghan troops were injured or killed in 2013.

The Taliban’s annual spring offensive began on schedule this May. Tsongas was there for it, having traveled with congressional colleagues to Kabul from May 9 to 13. She told me that she woke up one day to explosions at the Kabul airport and witnessed rocket fire at a base north of there. Yet she insists this year’s trip — her sixth — revealed “a marked change” in atmosphere from last year’s. The sunnier vibes are due to what is tentatively hailed as the relative success of the April 5 presidential election.

Some 6.9 million votes were cast, 64 percent by men and 36 percent by women. Violence was moderate by Afghan standards. Also in the good news category, election results were accepted, and the two top candidates — Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani — are campaigning for a run-off vote June 14. Final results are to be announced by July 22.

“Despite all the Taliban’s efforts, there’s a renewed sense of a commitment to the democratic processes, and for women, cautious optimism in their own future role,” Tsongas said.

Tsongas was part of a bipartisan congressional delegation of female members. The group met with US military officials and, on Mother’s Day, they spent time with “military moms” — female coalition soldiers who have children back home. They also met with Afghan leaders, including a group of women parliament members, female journalists, and women’s rights leaders.

Tsongas said those meetings with Afghan women are the basis for her positive outlook. But it’s tempered with knowledge of the dangers these women face. Speaking about one of the female members of Parliament, she said: “Her life is at risk. But she was the one who said the election gave her the sense, ‘We can do this. We can deliver.’ We saw that in other places, but it does take determination. There’s no denying people’s lives are at risk.”

The 2015 National Defense Authorization Act, passed last week by the House of Representatives, included an amendment authored by Tsongas that addresses the need to protect the gains of women and girls in Afghanistan. It requires the Pentagon to report on American efforts to support Afghan women’s rights and encourages Afghan and coalition officials to include women in conflict resolution.

Yet to most Americans, who seemingly prefer to focus on elevator confrontations between Beyonce’s husband, Jay-Z, and her sister Solange than wars abroad, Afghanistan feels far away and irrelevant. Yet, as of May 2014, conflict there has resulted in at least 2,181 US military deaths and more than 19,000 wounded in action.

Thanking our troops for their service is now rote political rhetoric. But last February, a Gallup poll showed that for the first time since the United States became involved in Afghanistan, nearly half of those surveyed said American involvement was a mistake.

American support was strong when this country first took up its crusade against the Taliban for harboring terrorists involved in 9/11. Depending upon the headlines, that support has fluctuated over the 12-plus years the country has been involved there.

Public opinion might run more positively if the gains for Afghan women seemed more solid. However, Afghan women worry their freedoms will fade with the fading US presence, according to a recent LA Times report. A UN report released last December noted an increase in the number of reported acts of violence against women and girls over the previous year, adding that “prosecutions and convictions under a landmark law [to reduce such violence] remained low.”

Those are ominous signs, which help stir feelings of dread.

“We all share that sense, call it cautious optimism or enduring uncertainty,” said Tsongas.

It will take more than good karma from a five-day trip to determine whether optimism or dread will rule the day.



Saudi Business women take expo-planning market by storm

May 25, 2014

Saudi women have swept into the ever-expanding conference and expo-planning domain, now owning around 35 percent of these organizational companies.

“We expect to witness significant growth in this market, which is already expanding at a rate of more than 15 percent,” said Lamia Al-Ajaji, owner of Intilaq. “Such exhibitions are a marketing magnet for foreign companies wishing to promote their products in the area.”

“I think women are overtaking men in this domain because they have better organizational skills,” said Al-Ajaji.

“Women have invested more than SR60 billion the Saudi market, which accounts for more than 20 percent of investments in the private sector. Female participation is vital for enhancing the national economy. We have a lot of frozen wealth that must be activated and this is the perfect venue.”

“We often face objections in holding our exhibitions from the Commerce Ministry,” said Al-Anood Al-Fayez, the owner of another such establishment.

“We have certain restrictions imposed on us, such as being barred from engaging in buying or selling activity at the exhibition or face a SR10,000 penalty.”

“We are also forced to rent wedding halls or five-star hotels because there is no place for us to hold our exhibitions.”

“Another major problem we face is the lack of qualified Saudi personnel,” she said. “The majority of companies in this sector are managed by foreign staff.”

Al-Fayez suggests holding exhibitions every two months to attract female investors and motivate girls to take on this line of work. “We must find an entity to unify conference and exhibition organizers in the Kingdom and give it the attention it deserves,” she said.

Fadel Abu Al-Einien, an economist, said the exhibition and conferences market in Saudi Arabia provides varied outcomes.

“The strength of the Saudi market, which accounts for more than 65 percent of the volume of the Gulf market, is a magnet for production and marketing.

“As such, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is expected to play a prominent role in this industry in coming years because of the current expansion of these markets. In fact, this industry can serve as economic gateway to prosperity.”



Qatari women nudge their way into office

May 25, 2014

Tahani Al Merri, 23, has her future planned out. The Qatar University senior in communications is determined to work in public relations for the country’s Olympic committee. And when she marries, she has just one demand: a husband who supports her career.

“Of course when I get married I want to keep working,” Tahani says. “If he says he wants me to stay at home, I’ll just show him the door.”

The studious, confident women in Qatar’s universities show how much has changed since Qatar’s rapid development began in the 1970s. Women have yet to make equivalent gains in the workplace, even as their world has expanded. “Before Qatari women were like a shell, totally closed. We were afraid to speak out and get involved in society, especially dealing with men,” Tahani explains. “But now the shell is open.”

Women outperform the men at every level of education in Qatar and outnumber them in college classrooms by nearly two to one. High school and university instructors often complain male students seem bored and unmotivated.

Still, Qatar remains a patriarchal society in which boys grow up knowing that they will inherit family businesses or easily find high-paying government or military jobs that may not require a degree. Men have more social freedom than women, which helps explain their low university enrollment rates, says Mouza Al Maliki, a Qatari psychologist.

“Boys have their cars, their friends, their own lives. Girls don’t get that at all, so they have more time to study.”

Signs of progress

For all their education, women remain underrepresented in the workforce: Only 35 per cent of Qatari women work, compared with 68 per cent of men. Qatar has a goal of bringing female participation up to 42 per cent by 2016, but it’s a hard sell because generous welfare benefits remove any financial incentive. For families, a second income is rarely necessary.

Then there’s tradition. Shareefa Fadhel, founder of the Roudha Centre, which trains women who want to start their own businesses, says that most families have no objection to their daughters working, but about 80 per cent of them prefer that they work in gender-segregated offices. That limits promotion opportunities by preventing interaction with supervisors, who are usually men.

Senior positions

And men are still preferred for senior positions.

“There are not enough Qatari men that could be in leadership positions. So when a potential leader or manager is identified, firms and companies, including government entities, hold on to them tightly and promote frequently, even if that means this man is moving from one organisation to another,” Fadhel explains. “Consequently women are forgotten and left behind in the development and leadership ladder.”

Among younger Qataris, there are signs of progress: More than 60 per cent of women between the ages of 25 and 34 work.

Aisha Erbad, 30, says all of her friends work. The instruments engineer at Maersk Oil Qatar acknowledges that some industries, like hers, are difficult to mesh with local customs, but that companies are trying to strike a balance.

Many families don’t want their daughters to work on offshore oil rigs overnight or for extended periods of time away from home, as workers often do in the oil and gas sector, she notes. So Maersk allows women to conduct day visits to offshore sites.

Michael Ross, author of The Oil Curse, says the Gulf’s dependency on oil explains why there are so few women working in the region. Rapid oil-driven wealth means that countries skip stages of industrialisation that would normally bring more women into the workforce.

Moreover, most available jobs in Qatar are in construction and petroleum industries, which are male-dominated around the world, says Prof. Ross, who teaches political science at the University of California at Los Angeles.

Changing expectations

Many young Qatari men say they expect to marry women with jobs.

Mohammad Al Mulla, a 29-year-old who co-founded a local coffee shop, is married with two young sons. His wife works as a legal assistant at Qatar Petroleum.

“Let’s be honest, most Qataris don’t really need the money from the wife working,” he says. “But I think it’s almost an expectation that if a man marries, the woman would be working because Qatari women want to have a career and a professional network.”

His wife’s experience has been transformative, he says. He guesses that many men would be prepared to do more childcare and housework to make it work.

“She even has more energy for the kids because she has more personal goals outside of the family to focus on,” Al Mulla says. “It will definitely be a good thing. I mean, this is basically more equality in a relationship instead of just dumping everything on the mom.”



Youth Generation at risk in Afghanistan

May 25, 2014

As the International force  approaches their  2014 deadline for military withdrawal from Afghanistan, one often overshadowed aspect of the conflict is the hard-won progress made by previously marginalized segments of the Afghan population, particularly women, girls, and young people.

This country has one of the highest proportions of young people in the world. The median age of the population is 15.6 years old, the median age of marriage is 18.

“If there is no cooperation between the Afghan government, international community and the youth it will be very hard to make a better future for Afghanistan beyond 2014,” said Imad Ahmad Haroon the Afghan youth activist. He insisted, “Cooperation is the most important thing in this process.”

“While more than 70 percent of Afghanistan’s population are under 25 years of age, young peoples’ voices are rarely heard,” said Nasima Jalalzai, an Afghan youth activist based in Kabul.

“Let’s not be immature about the current reality,” she said by Skype interview with Khaama Press in Singapore. “Afghan society is conservative and hierarchical,” making it difficult for young people to contribute meaningfully to policymaking and government reform. But over the last decade, there have been improvements in schooling, health, and opportunities for young people,” she added.

 “With all of these challenges, it is easy to believe that it is possible for youth to mobilize and influence the country’s future,” said Nasima. “However, I would like to challenge the popular perceptions about Afghanistan,” by showing there is “an emerging generation that is striving to transform a war-torn country into a safer, more secure, and prosperous place to live.”

She said, “Once I decided to go abroad and start new life there but I was engaging on a regular basis with a broad network of young Afghan entrepreneurs, youth activists, and civil society activists. I eventually realized that I was not alone – that my frustration was shared by many other Afghans. I realized that leaving Afghanistan was not the solution…there was simply too much at stake. I knew at a fundamental level that genuine development in Afghanistan would only be possible if the new generation could collectively advocate for a common vision, values, and goals.”

Empowering Afghan youth to advocate for them is a crucial investment for the country, said Nasima, who has since helped organize the Afghan youth for better Afghanistan (AYFBA) online network of active afghan youths.

 “Youth movements are changing politics by providing a platform that ties their present and future to a stable and democratic Afghanistan – this is a generation that actively seeks to contribute to their community,” She said, adding that “This is a sector that has seen tremendous individual and collective maturity over the past decade…becoming more relevant, viable, vocal, and effective. Some youth organizations have even started refusing international funding to showcase their independence.”

Historically speaking, Afghanistan’s large proportion of young people – called a “youth bulge” by demographers – presents many challenges to achieving democracy, said Said Adib Modaser, an Afghan youth activist and international youth delegates in WCY 2014 in Sri Lanka.

Without access to education and livelihood opportunities – goals that become increasingly more difficult with each successive generation of growth –“youthful populations are statistically risky populations, and have a high risk of civil conflict and a low probability of attaining high levels of democracy,” he said.

According to Mr.Modasir, youth populations apply significant pressure to job markets that do not have the means to incorporate new workers. Faced with a large percentage of unemployed and dissatisfied young people, elites are more willing to back an authoritarian regime to maintain stability.

However, increasing levels of education for women is one of the strongest drivers of decreased fertility rates, which can put the country on track to turn a youthful population into an advantage through what demographers call the “demographic dividend.” Already there are major differences in the total fertility rate of Afghan women based on education levels (5.3 children per women for those with no education compared to 3.6 for those with a secondary education),” said Imad Ahmad Haroon, another Afghan youth activist and the international delegates of Afghanistan in world conference on youth (WCY 2014).

Further, as experience across the world has shown, when women of all education levels are given a choice in the matter, they tend to have fewer children.

The education and engagement of women is therefore central to a more peaceful and democratic Afghanistan, he said.

“Education is the only way, but increasing schooling is challenging in a country with poor infrastructure and a weak central government, especially for girls, who face a legacy of strict segregation and exclusion from the education system,” he added.

Jan’s foundation works to address the right to education in Kabul with a free private school for girls of all ages.

Expansion of education and youth engagement are positive signs for Afghanistan

According to the Afghan government, even though the anti-education elements put acid on girls and cut their throats just for going to school, they blew up vans of girls going to class but still the afghan girls are strongly committed to go to school and be part of government in the future.

Nasima said the majority of Afghans believe negotiating with the Taliban risks undermining many of the hard-fought gains of the last decade. “I can’t emphasize more the importance of education for young men and young women,” she said. “Access to quality and equitable educational opportunities will transform Afghanistan – it already has.”



Delhi's cops help woman from Kabul 'escape'

Raj Shekhar,TNN | May 25, 2014

NEW DELHI: It's not every day that police let go of their quarry with a cheerful wave, but Aaliyah's determination to lead a better life disarmed them completely. The Afghan woman is now waiting for a visa to pursue her dreams in the US after narrowly escaping the web of lies her family spun to get her sent back to Kabul.

Just a month ago, Aaliyah was a worried 20-year-old eager to live life on her terms but aware that she would eventually marry some old Arab sheikh and settle into a routine of dull domesticity, possibly shared with one or more wives in the sheikh's harem. Unsure about what she should do, she told a US-based Facebook friend about her predicament, and together the two scripted an adventure that sent police in Afghanistan and Delhi scrambling to find her.

Late on the night of April 30, Aaliyah left home with her friend Huma. They journeyed to Kandahar across the Hindu Kush range and next afternoon flew out to Delhi. While the two friends quickly got busy preparing for the onward journey to America, Aaliyah's family reported her missing to Kabul City Police, which treated her disappearance as a case of abduction by the Taliban.

The case became international when, a week later, Aaliyah called up her family-who count among Kabul's elite- from two Indian numbers: 8*8*0**553 and 828***12*8. Her brother, who works with a European country's embassy in Kabul, informed the Indian embassy that her life could be in danger. "He reported that Aaliyah was being kept in a house with other girls under the watch of an old Indian woman at an unknown place. He said she was terrified and could not explain how she landed up there," a source told TOI.

Suspecting the involvement of an international human trafficking racket, the Kabul cops alerted the Afghan arm of Interpol, which referred the matter to Interpol in India. Before long, Indian intelligence had roped Delhi Police into the investigation and Crime Branch sleuths were digging through call records.



When Saudi Women’s Wealth Is Stuck In Bank Accounts

May 25, 2014

JEDDAH — According to a recent World Bank report, the volume of deposits by Saudi women in local bank accounts is estimated at SR60 billion.

Several economic experts underlined the need for investing this wealth, benefiting them in the best possible ways, Al-Madinah daily reported.

Talaat Hafez, secretary-general of the Media and Banking Awareness Committee of Saudi Banks, said there are exaggerations in the World Bank report about women’s deposits in banks.

He said that there are no frozen assets for any male or female customers at the banks.

He said: “It is the customer who has to decide what to do with the money in their accounts. They have the final word whether to deposit them in any investment projects or other ventures and banks have nothing to do with it.

“There are some customers who want to put their deposits in their current accounts while some others want to keep a part of their wealth in current accounts and the rest either in saving accounts or depositing them in mutual funds.”

Reacting to reports about frozen bank assets of women, Fadl Al-Buainain, another economic expert, said the economy depends basically on circulation of wealth in a way helping to realize real development.

He said: “This wealth is supposed to be the means for development and hence, money remaining in banks won’t be helpful.

“Banks normally give loans only to a limited section of traders. Similarly, this wealth would not go to develop small or medium projects through banks because of their keenness in the clients’ financial capability and solvency.”

According to Al-Buainain, keeping assets at banks would be harmful economically.

“The value of this money would be decreased with the passage of time due to inflationary trends. In other words, the purchasing value of the money would be diminished and this will be a loss for the women customers.”

Al-Buainain noted that women keep their money at banks mainly because of their failure to find better ways to invest it in the local market.

Their investments are confined only to the stock market or the real estate sector, he claimed, adding that the government is not taking any initiative to create investment opportunities to utilize these frozen funds.

There are also several other impediments for women for making direct investments in development projects, he said.

Similarly, the existing rules and regulations are not conducive for women to make investments in the market and there should be amendments in the regulations to promote women’s investments, he claimed.

Al-Buainain suggested that a part of this wealth should be invested in Islamic bonds and securities.

Some women are not ready to make investments in the fields that involve high risk and great scope for profit and, instead, prefer more safety and less profit, he said.

Al-Buainain urged the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) to play a greater role in proper utilization of these funds by guiding women to invest in specialized and viable projects.

Muhammad Al-Qahtani, professor of economics at King Faisal University, said around 30 percent of current accounts in Saudi local banks belonged to women and this accounted for a total of around SR70 billion.

He said: “There should be operational programs for women to utilize their wealth in the best possible manner.

“Women’s wealth can be utilized in projects like establishing educational institutions or firms for stitching of dresses or beauty parlors and such other projects.”

He called for setting up women’s investment committees at all chambers of commerce and industry across the Kingdom.

Saad Al-Hashim, an employee at the health sector, said women wanted to make their investments in projects that were safe and yielded attractive returns.

She said: “We all know that women’s investments encounter several obstacles and these force them to invest their money mainly in real estate projects because they are comparatively safer.

“A large number of women incurred huge losses due to their investments in stock markets a few years ago.”

She called for opening consultancy offices for women to advise them on how to invest their money in the proper manner.

“The chambers have to play a crucial role in this regard.”

Amir Al-Dawood, a consultant psychologist, said unlike men, women in general are not ready to spend money on business and other projects because of their fears of incurring losses.

This is the major reason why women’s wealth are stuck most often in their bank accounts.

He called for conducting awareness programs and orientation courses for women to change this mindset and come forward to make investments irrespective of the concerns over incurring losses.

“There should be special programs to strengthen their perspective toward investment and shed fears of losses,” he added.



‘Nearly 5,000 Fistula Cases Surface Every Year in Pakistan’

May 25, 2014

KARACHI: The medical fraternity will be joined by women rights activists and artists to observe the first-ever International Day to End Obstetric Fistula in Karachi like elsewhere in the world.

A variety of events will be held to raise public awareness of the highly neglected health issue, according to health experts and community leaders.

Addressing a press conference at the Karachi Press Club on Thursday, officials of the Pakistan National Forum on Women’s Health (PNFWH), the Pakistan Medical Association, the Society of Gynaecologists and Obstetricians Pakistan (SOGP) and Tehrik-i-Niswan declared that they would launch an awareness campaign of the medical condition until they succeeded in getting the entire society aware of how easily fistula that devastated lives of millions of women for no reason could be treated.

They said one of the most serious injuries of childbirth; obstetric fistula was a hole in the birth canal caused by prolonged, obstructed labour due to the lack of timely and adequate medical care.

In most cases, they said, the baby was either stillborn or died within the first week of life, and the woman suffered a devastating injury — a fistula — that rendered her incontinent.

“Many women and girls with fistula are shunned by their families and communities, deepening their poverty and magnifying their suffering,” said Dr Mirza Ali Azhar, PMA secretary-general.

Dr Sajjad Ahmed Siddiqui of the PNFWH said it was unacceptable that the poorest, most vulnerable women and girls suffered needlessly from the devastating condition.

“These vulnerable women and girls are at the heart of UNFPA efforts to ensure that every pregnancy is wanted, every child birth is safe, and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.”

PMA Karachi’s Dr Qazi Wasiq said victims of obstetric fistula were usually among the hardest to reach, and often illiterate and with limited access to health services, including maternal and reproductive health care.

The experts said the persistence of the problem reflected broader health inequities and health care system weaknesses, as well as wider challenges facing women and girls, such as gender and socio-economic inequality, lack of schooling, child marriage and early child bearing — all of which impeded the well-being of women and girls and their opportunities.

“Obstetric fistula has been virtually eliminated in industrialised nations, as it is preventable and, in most cases, can be surgically repaired. However, an estimated 3,000 to 5,000 new cases surfaced each year in Pakistan,” said Dr Siddiqui.

Over the last seven years, he added, the UNFPA had directly supported more than 3,400 women and girls to receive surgical treatment for fistula in the country through their seven regional centres. The campaign was based on the three key strategies of prevention, treatment and social reintegration of the patients.

He said his organisation was implementing that project across the country by providing surgical treatment, training for doctors and mid-level healthcare providers and raising awareness of the social issues related to obstetric fistula.

Dr Azhar said in Pakistan recently very high number of iatrogenic fistula had been reported. He expressed concern over such a serious issue and demanded health authorities to use their resources to stop such practices specially the premier health sector regulators had to redesign their policies for registration and trainings.

Sheema Kirmani, popular classical dancer belonged to non-governmental organisation Tehrik-i-Niswan, which highlights women’s issues through performing arts, said her group would strive for increasing awareness of the gravity of the issue.

Last year, the General Assembly of the United Nations designated May 23 as International Day to End Obstetric Fistula.

Events on that day will include a special observance at the United Nations in New York, with the participation of fistula survivors, advocates and practitioners who have dedicated their careers to putting an end to this devastating condition.



Jailed: Ranya al-Huthaili, the Saudi woman who robbed 5 U.S. banks

May 25, 2014

A U.S.-Saudi woman sentenced earlier this week to three years prison over a spate of bank robberies was described by her lawyer as a “naïve” individual who “had been trained her whole life to be submissive,” according to a transcript of the sentencing obtained by Al Arabiya News.

Ranya al-Huthaili was sentenced this week to three and a half years in prison for committing five bank robberies in both Wisconsin and Minnesota, in four weeks, in 2013.

See also: The Unusual Suspect: Saudi woman accused of robbing 5 U.S. banks

During the sentencing hearing, Huthaili explained how “ashamed” she was of the crime she was being sentenced for.

Huthaili, now 23 years old, was born in Saudi Arabia to a reportedly well-off family but moved to the U.S. at 17 and lived a modest life in Minnesota, where she went to school, and graduated from Roseville High School. Her family and a large group of supporters were present at her sentencing hearing on Wednesday.

The government of Saudi Arabia reportedly paid for her tuition and gave her a stipend of over a $1,000 when she attended Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota. She was a senior at the university at the time of her arrest. The Saudi government often pays for their citizen’s college tuition.

Huthaili’s mother, whom she moved to the U.S. with as a teenager, said that she had no reason to believe her daughter was in need of money.

Relative life of privilege

In fact, in a transcript of the sentencing, provided to Al Arabiya News by the court, Huthaili was described as having “had a life of relative privilege.”

“I know what I did is horrible … what I did is unacceptable … I deserve to be punished for what I did,” Al-Huthaili told the court, during her sentencing hearing.

“I’m just so ashamed and so disgusted with myself for my mistakes,” she said.

Huthaili pleaded guilty to robbing the Dairy State Bank in Menomonie, Wisconsin, on September 9, 2013 as well as another bank in Wisconsin and three in Minnesota.

Reports show that she went on the robbery spree to get money to support a boyfriend, Thomas Rubino, who claimed he needed money for cancer treatments and to pay off the Mafia.

Court documents reflect Huthaili’s sentiments that Rubino did not ask her to rob the banks, in fact, it was reflected that he did not know she was planning on committing the robberies.

'Very naïve'

Huthaili’s lawyer described her as a “very naïve and dependent young woman” that is the product of being raised in Saudi Arabia and having a strict father.

“The psychological testing shows that she was trained her whole life to be submissive,” her lawyer, Daniel Scott, told the court during her sentencing trial.

“Her mother, who spent her time here … as a regular American, spent her time in the house basically for [Huthaili’s] whole upbringing,” which did not give Huthaili the skills or the understanding of “how to deal with each other in a social setting,” her lawyer said.

Despite her apparent naivety, records show that Huthaili robbed the five banks systematically —slipping a note to the tellers, reading: “I have a gun. Do not make noise. You have one minute to give me the money.”

While she did not have a gun on her, in actuality, the threat still worked. In just one of her robberies — the Dairy State Bank incident — she walked out with $2,350 in cash.

At Hutaili’s sentencing trial on Wednesday, Mary Zacharias, who was the teller at one of the banks that Huthaili robbed, told the court “she terrorized us. She terrorized everybody that she hit.”

Five of the $20 bills that Huthaili walked out of the Dairy State Bank robbery with were actually marked bait money — money that has serial numbers that are recorded with the bank, so, in the case of a robbery, can be passed on to the police.

The marked bills are what eventually led police to arrest Huthaili, after she used some of the bills to purchase a laptop from an Apple Store in her hometown. She was arrested in the parking lot of the shopping center. She had also purchased another wig and sunglasses, leading authorities to believe she was planning another robbery.

“There’s no sign that this crime spree was going to come to an end voluntarily had you not been arrested,” the judge told Huthaili during her sentencing. “You were on a roll with this criminal activity.”

It was with this understanding that Huthaili accepted the sentencing to three-and-a-half years in prison with three years of supervised release.



Report highlights plight of Pakistani children

May 25, 2014

KARACHI: An annual report released by a non-governmental organisation here on Saturday showed dismal conditions of Pakistani children suffering in every aspect — ranging from education and health to sexual assaults they suffer, particularly girls.

The report titled “The State of Pakistan’s Children-2013” prepared by the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC) was formally launched at a hotel.

In his keynote address at the launch, Javed Jabbar, former federal minister and prominent media analyst, said that Pakistan was the first country that convened a world leaders’ summit 24 years ago for children in which leaders of 74 countries showed up at the venue in the United Nations. Similarly, he added that Pakistan’s first women’s bank was established in 1989 — 24 years ahead of a similar bank established in India.

He praised the Sindh Assembly for passing a law against child marriage and said the plight of children, women and other marginalised communities could be alleviated through debate and legislation by lawmakers.

Kashif Bajeer and Zahid Thebo of the SPARC, Iqbal Detho of the Save the Children and Mustafa Baloch of the Strengthening Participatory Organisation spoke on various aspects of the report.

The report said that in 2013, some 2,033 cases of abuse of young children (1,365 boys and 668 girls) were reported. They included 1,115 kidnappings along with 294 murder cases, 102 cases of boys’ sexual assault while 97 children were sold into slavery.

It, however, shared another independently conducted report, called Sahil’s Cruel Numbers Report 2013, which said that 3,002 children (2,017 girls and 985 boys) were victims of sexual abuse or harassment.

It said 42.5pc of child sex abuse cases were recorded in urban areas while 57.5pc of the cases were reported from rural areas. Girl children were most affected with 71pc of cases affecting females.

Punjab had the highest incidence of child sexual abuse at a staggering 68pc, followed by Sindh (19pc), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (5pc) and Balochistan (3pc). Islamabad reported 3pc of the cases, however, there was little or no data available from Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and Gilgit Baltistan (GB).

The most vulnerable age group was 16-18 year olds, which accounted for 22pc of the total victims. A total of 16pc of them were between the ages of 6-10.

It referred to the Acid Survivors Foundation (ASF) as saying that there were 142 cases of acid attacks in 2013. Out of the victims, almost 20pc were below the age of 18. Some 47 cases were prosecuted in 2013, of which there were seven successful convictions.

The report said some nine per cent of Pakistani child-brides gave births to children between the ages of 15-19 putting them at high risk of birth complications as well as endangering their health.

It referred to the Sindh Assembly’s recently passed Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Bill 2014 which rules that legal age for marriage to be 18 years (for both boys and girls) with a prison sentence of minimum two years and a fine of Rs50,000 for violators.

It referred to a study by the Rutgers World Population Foundation on 5,000 women that found that 77pc of marriages were made through traditional exchanges. A report of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) listed that 913 young girls and women were killed in the name of honour in 2012, out of which 99 were girl children.

At least 91 children were killed and 137 maimed in 2012 due to bombings and suicide attacks in public areas. Around 900 girl schools had been affected by militancy, denying 120,000 girls access to education in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata.


The report said one-fourth of the 19.75 million children in Pakistan aged 5-9 were out-of-school and factoring in adolescents; increases the number to 25 million. Pakistan ranks second with the most out-of-school children in the world. It is estimated that 23pc of rural and 7pc of urban children are not enrolled in any form of schooling.

It said seven million children (aged three to five) had yet to receive primary schooling. A total of 67pc children in urban areas had completed primary education compared to 40pc in rural areas.

It said only 61pc of females were literate as compared to 79pc of males in the age group of 15-24 years. Punjab has a student-teacher ratio of 42:1, Sindh 32:1, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 38:1 and Federally-Administered Tribal Areas 31:1. The highest net primary enrolment rate is in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (81pc) followed by Punjab and Islamabad (70pc); Sindh and GB (63pc); Fata (60pc); AJK (58pc); and Balochistan (51pc).


It said the U5MR (Under 5 Mortality Rate) in Pakistan was 72 per 1,000 births as of 2012. But it was still far from reaching its Millennium Development Goals (MDG) target of 52 deaths per 1,000 births. An estimated seven million cases of pneumonia occur every year and out of these, as many as 92,000 children die before their fifth birthday due to the infection. Full immunisation coverage of children between the ages of 12-23 months is 81% as of 2010-11; it is still short of the MDG target of 90% by 2015.

In 2013, the number of suspected cases of measles nearly tripled. From 2012 to 2013, 600 children died of measles. An estimated 53,000 children died of diarrhoea every year which makes up 30pc of the current child mortality figure.

Juvenile justice

By end of 2013, a total of 1,383 juvenile offenders confined to detention centres in the four provinces — 1,246 under trial and 137 convicted. Punjab had the highest number (783), followed by Sindh (276), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (217) and Balochistan (107).

By the end of October 2013, three female convicted juveniles were in the prisons of Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. IG of Prisons of Sindh distinguished no such prisons.

In 2013, a total of 288 juveniles were released on probation — Punjab (156), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata (71), Sindh (51) and Balochistan (10).

Child labour

Referring to the International Labour Organisation figures, it said some 12 million children were involved in some form of labour activity in Pakistan. Unicef estimated 10 million child labourers in 2012. Coupled with the large figures of out-of-school children and families working under bonded labour, there are many more children playing an active role in the workforce, it added.

Out of these figures 264,000 children are estimated to be domestic workers, working in unprotected and unregulated environments. In 2013 there were 21 cases of torture of child domestic workers reported, out of which eight resulted in deaths.

The bonded labour remained endemic in Pakistan which ranks third on the list of countries in which slavery is most prevalent with two million bonded labours.