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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 27 Aug 2013, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Hindu Mother Who Raised Muslim Kid of Gulbarg Society Wins His Custody

New Age Islam News Bureau

27 Aug 2013

Photo: Women-Friendly Divorce Law Gets Rajya Sabha Nod


 Kerala Girl Says ‘Forced’ To Marry UAE National

 Women-Friendly Divorce Law Gets Rajya Sabha Nod

 Saudi Takes Keys Away From More Rogue Women Drivers

 Saudi Women Workers Demand Dedicated Spaces for Breaks

 Pakistan's Child Brides: Suffering For Others’ Crimes

 Unsafe Abortions Menace Pakistan

 Islamabad Standoff: Sikandar's Wife Sent On 2-Day Physical Remand

 Saudi Forces Free Woman Imprisoned 3 Yrs by Family

 HEC, Pakistan to Strengthen Women Universities in Country

 After 34 years, Iran appoints female diplomat

 Pakistan Beauty Awards Focus the Best in Fashion, Entertainment

 Women of the Wall Scorns New Non-Orthodox Prayer Site as 'Sunbathing Deck’

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau





Hindu Mother Who Raised Muslim Kid of Gulbarg Society Wins His Custody

Saeed Khan, TNN Aug 18, 2013

AHMEDABAD: There are many similarities between the story of Vivek, who was born Muzaffar, and that of Azhar Mody, the Parsi schoolboy who disappeared from Gulbarg Society during the 2002 riots in Gujarat and inspired the Bollywood film Parzania. While Azhar is yet to be found, Vivek's reappearance in 2008 triggered a tug-of-war between two sets of parents — one Hindu and the other Muslim.

This custody battle reached the Gujarat high court which turned down a petition by the boy's biological parents seeking him back. The boy separated from his father, Mohammed Salim Shaikh, and mother Jaibunissa, during the Gulbarg massacre in Ahmedabad in 2002 in which 69 were killed. Six years later he was found being raised by Meena (alias Vina) Patani, a Hindu woman. Today, he is 13.

This case came up for hearing this week before Justice Ravi Tripathi, who dismissed the petition since the child has now grown up and can decide his own future. Jaibunnisa's counsel MM Tirmizi said they would challenge the order in the SC. The court has allowed the biological parents to meet Vivek every Sunday for the next six months. "We can also seek the boy's custody under the Guardian and Wards Act now," Tirmizi said.

The Shaikhs aren't happy with the order and said they had no option but to appeal in a higher court. It was revealed that a police constable had found the child in 2002 and taken him to his own cousins — Vikram and Meena Patani in Saraspur, who named him Vivek. Vikram passed away and Meena took the sole responsibility of caring for Vivek.

After DNA sampling established the relationship, the Shaikhs approached a magisterial court for Vivek's custody. The court wanted to know Vivek's decision, and he made it clear that he would stay with Meena. The court then dismissed Jaibunnisa's application. In 2008, Jaibunnisa filed a petition in the high court.

Justice DH Waghela offered a middle path and said the Shaikhs could keep the boy on weekends. The court suggested the child should be given enough time to adjust to his biological parents, an arrangement that lasted five years.



Kerala Girl Says ‘Forced’ To Marry UAE National

Aug 27 2013

A 17-year-old girl has complained to the state human rights commission and the child welfare committee in Malappuram that she was forced to marry a UAE citizen, who abandoned her two weeks after the affair.

The class XII student, in her complaint said the orphanage where she lived, arranged the marriage on the pretext that the relationship would benefit the institution.

The UAE national, Jasim Mohammad, had given his mother's local Kerala address at the time of marriage and the orphanage arranged the marriage after showing the girl his photograph.

The girl said she was sexually abused after being taken to several places in Kerala. Mohammad left Kerala on June 30 after leaving the girl at his mother's house in Kozhikode.

Authorities at the orphanage said the marriage was agreed to by both parties. They ruled out the girl's allegation that the marriage was meant to bring financial benefits to the orphanage.

The SHRC has asked the police to submit a report on the incident.



Women-Friendly Divorce Law Gets Rajya Sabha Nod

Nagendar Sharma

Aug 27 2013

The country moved a step closer to making divorce less cumbersome for women as the Rajya Sabha passed a bill on Monday making it mandatory for the wife to get a share of her husband’s immovable property.

The Marriage Laws (Amend-ment) Bill now needs to be passed by the Lok Sabha to become law.

The bill provides for a three year deadline within which marriages can be dissolved on the new ground of “irretrievable breakdown” which will allow the party to file for divorce either jointly or separately in cases where the marriage has broken down for all practical purposes.

Speaking on the bill, law minister Kapil Sibal said divorce is “gender neutral” as either the wife or the husband can seek it. “However, the right over property will not be gender neutral as wife can lay claim over the husband’s immovable property,” he said.

The bill also empowers the court to decide on the compensation amount to be given to the wife from the husband's immovable property once the marriage is legally over.

In “irretrievable breakdown” cases, the married couple will be given a 18-month cooling-off period to reconsider their decision, but if any of the parties evades the court for more than three years, then the latest amendment in the law will allow the court to continue with divorce proceedings assuming that the application has been jointly moved.

The passage of the bill in the Rajya Sabha comes three years after it was first introduced in Parliament in 2010 and lack of consensus led it to be referred to a number of parliamentary panels.



Saudi Takes Keys Away From More Rogue Women Drivers

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation

27 Aug 2013

NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Police in Saudi Arabia, where women are banned from driving cars, recently caught and punished three women found illegally behind the wheel, according to a report in the Saudi Gazette.

The women, all caught on the outskirts of the city of Al-Qatif in Eastern Province, were subject to fines of 900 Saudi riyals ($240), and required to sign a document promising they would not do it again.

The three recent cases, which are among the six registered against women drivers in the last five years, involved a variety of women.

One was a 47-year-old woman accompanied by her father and brother, who videotaped her driving and posted the video on YouTube.

Another case involved a girl whose brother was riding in the car with her. The third involved a Turkish woman whose valid international driving license is not recognised and does not allow women to drive in the kingdom, according to police.

In a country where King Abdullah is slowly, if steadily, increasing women’s rights - such as the right to vote, work in lingerie shops, practice law and ride bicycles - the right to drive remains a contentious point.

Last year, more than 600 women petitioned the king to allow women to drive. The cause also has been taken up by such leading figures as Princess Ameerah Al Taweel and is being considered by the new female members of the Shura council, according to Arabian

“I feel unsafe driving here because no one follows traffic rules. It makes me worried when I’m riding with my driver,” said Zahra Ali, who drove herself regularly while she studied in Europe. “To make matters worse, it is difficult to find a driver these days and if you find one, he asks for a lot of money while not sticking to work times.”

It is estimated that the kingdom employs tens of thousands of foreign male drivers to ferry female Saudi citizens from one place to another, a cost some Saudi women find difficult to afford.

Under Islamic law in Saudi Arabia, women are not permitted to travel outside the home without a male guardian and must get permission from male relatives to work, travel or even undertake medical procedures.



Saudi Women Workers Demand Dedicated Spaces for Breaks


 27 August 2013

A group of female employees working at commercial retail centers are requesting that they be provided with rest areas during their breaks to avoid being exposed to strangers while in public.

Employers have expressed the difficulty of accommodating these requests due to the size of the mall where the shops are located and because the quick introduction of women into the work force has caught shop owners off guard.

Mohammed Alawi, the executive director of Red Sea Mall, said commercial centers are equipped and prepared to receive female employees because the centers are developed to accommodate men and women alike.

However, allocation of rest places for employees depends on the size of the mall, the number of shops and the number of employees, he said.

The lack of other necessities has resulted in the need for these rest areas, he said. For instance, the lack of transportation for women has kept many women at commercial centers until later shifts, and some employees have had no choice but to sleep in prayer rooms or changing rooms. Such circumstances have caused friction between the women, particularly as these places are not intended as places of rest or sleep.

Alawi stressed the role of municipalities in providing these rest spaces by listing them as a condition in work plans used during the construction process. The entrance of female employers to the retail sector has helped female employees a great deal. “It is important not to forget to provide them with rest spaces, prayer room, and toilets, especially for employees of open commercial centers and shops located on public streets,” Alawi said.

Nora Al-Rimi, an employee at a cosmetic shop, says that employees “are often forced to sit in bathrooms or changing rooms due to the lack of special places for employees to take a break.”

The nature of the business requires employees to be presentable, which requires a need for female employees to have dedicated places of rest, she added.

Another employee at a neighboring shop agrees, confirming that the failure to provide rest rooms leads many female employees to sit in other areas of the mall between shifts, such as prayer rooms and restaurants. This is especially difficult for women to find a driver to transport them to each shift at a reasonable price.

As a result, women have been offended and disturbed by the scrutiny from employees of other surrounding offices visiting these centers, who question their ability to work without the basic necessities and privileges.

Ministry of Labor spokesman Hattab Al-Anazi said these regulatory issues are the responsibility of the management of the commercial centers and the owners of the shops. The ministry cannot force them to implement regulatory measures. That said, the ministry emphasizes the necessity of offering rest spaces for female employees in order to guarantee a suitable working environment for them, he added.

Meanwhile, Sultan Almajrashi, a shop owner, said the possibility of providing rest spaces for employees depends on the extent of cooperation of the center’s administration and management, which does not allow any changes to the design of the center to create specialized work spaces for female employees.

A common lounge where employees can take a break is a principle that should be economically considered and is a practical step, he said, and women should solve this problem by directly communicating their requests to their immediate supervisors.

While there are some social fears about creating closed spaces, there is greater dissatisfaction with the appearance of female employees taking breaks in prayer rooms, walking around in the center, or from the spreading of news that some spend breaks in the toilets and changing rooms.



Pakistan's Child Brides: Suffering For Others’ Crimes

By: Adriana Carranca Foreign Policy

Aug 26 2013

KHYBER PAKHTUNKHWA, PAKISTAN—At only 12, Nazia lives in expectation of the worst. As I step through the doorway of the humble compound her parents share with two other families in the Pashtun lands of northwest Pakistan, her small, fragile body trembles unwittingly. She knew I was coming, but learned too young to trust no one.

Nazia was only 5 when her father married her off to a much older man, a stranger, as compensation for a murder her uncle had committed. The decision to give the little girl away as payment, along with two goats and a piece of land, was made by a jirga — an assembly of local elders that makes up the justice system in most of Pakistan’s and Afghanistan’s tribal areas, where conventional courts are either not trusted or nonexistent.

Nazia was too young to understand what was happening when that man dragged her into the darkness. But she knew enough to realize something was terribly wrong. “I resisted, I cried and tried to hold on to the door jamb,” she remembers.

Nazia was taken to the jirga, displayed as a commodity before the circle of men and examined by the husband to be, who was allowed to decide whether she was good enough to be his wife. Nazia remembers the men staring at her deep brown eyes, her long, black hair — the humiliation of that scene is so utterly marked in her memory that she can barely finish the sentence before dissolving in tears.

The men in her family argued, unsuccessfully, that she was too young to be married off. In a rare decision, however, the jirga agreed the girl should not be handed over immediately. So the demanding husband would have to wait — and so has Nazia. Even among the women in the house, she wears a full-length black chador, as if a male intruder could suddenly enter that door again.

She is terrified of growing up. Her parents have been able to postpone their daughter’s fate — but not for much longer, certainly no later than age 14. Most child brides are pregnant by then.

Made to suffer

According to tradition, the compensation — a custom known as swara in Pashtun — should end the dispute and bring the two warring families together in harmony. In practice, however, the marriage only provides cover for revenge. Swara girls become the targets of all anger and hatred in their new home. They are often bitten, emotionally tortured and sometimes raped by other men in the family. They are made to suffer for a crime they did not commit.

The swara custom is a form of collective punishment. Nazia’s uncle — the perpetrator of the crime for which she is to be punished — killed a neighbour in a land dispute and then ran away. He left no children, so the jirga decided his older brother should pay in his place by sacrificing his own daughter.

Nazia’s father is a poor, uneducated farmer, and he could do nothing to contest this ruling. Having lost his land and livestock, he now works in temporary construction jobs, which pay $3 a day. His wife helps by cleaning neighbours’ houses for a few more rupees.

Nazia’s parents have decided this year will be her last year at school. The family has no money to pay for her books, and the expense seems pointless, given that she will soon be married.

Since her classmates found out about her fate, Nazia speaks to no one. “They point at me on the streets and call me ‘the swara girl,’ and they make fun of me,” she mumbles.

Eventually, she blurts out: “That was very painful, and I didn’t understand . . . It still hurts and upsets me. I’m so fed up with this feeling! I’m so afraid all the time! I’d rather never leave the house . . . People scare me, all people. I trust no one.”

Widespread custom

Despite being illegal, the custom of forcibly marrying off girls to resolve family and tribal disputes happens on an alarming scale across all provinces of Pakistan. It goes by different names but all its forms are equally cruel.

In Pakistan, at least 180 cases of swara were reported last year, due to the work of local journalists and activists. But there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of undocumented cases. Worldwide, an estimated 51 million girls below age 18 are married, according to the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW).

A further 10 million underage girls marry every year — one every three seconds, according to ICRW. The legal age to marry in Pakistan is 18 for boys, but 16 for girls, though they can’t drive, vote, or open a bank account until adulthood. According to UNICEF, 70 per cent of girls in Pakistan are married before then.

The average age of swara girls is between 5 and 9 years old, according to registered cases and local accounts. In the tribal areas, a girl older than this is probably already promised to somebody else.

Mohammad Ayub, a British-trained psychiatrist from Lahore, has worked with child soldiers in Sudan and young Taliban recruits in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He now manages the Saidu Sharif Teaching Hospital in the Swat Valley, an area that came under the spotlight when terrorists attempted to kill 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai because of her struggle to promote girls’ education.

“I saw small children holding guns bigger than themselves,” he says. “But these girls . . . It’s just as tragic.”

Many child brides come to Ayub with severe pain, sometimes blinded or paralyzed — the effects of a psychiatric condition known as “conversion disorder.” Practically unknown in the West since the beginning of the 20th century, it has reached epidemic proportions in the tribal areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan, according to Ayub. It is a sort of psychological stress that manifests in physical ailments, including convulsions, paralysis or fits.

Little change

During the days of the British Empire, the region’s colonial rulers granted titles of nobility to powerful tribal leaders known as maliks in exchange for their loyalty; all local matters were devolved to the jirgas. To counter rebellion, the British instituted a set of laws — the Frontier Crimes Regulations — that deprived residents of legal representation in the traditional justice system. At the least sign of rebellion, the British could arrest suspects without trial and sometimes arrested whole tribes.

It was only in 2011 that President Asif Ali Zardari signed amendments to the regulations that now give citizens of the tribal areas the right to appeal decisions made by local political agents. The amendments also prohibit collective punishment and the arrest of children under 16 for crimes committed by others.

Despite such reforms, however, little change has been seen on the ground. A century after the set of laws was established, minors continue to be jailed or suffer for the crimes of others, according to human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

Flaws in Pakistan’s judicial system also lead residents to rely on the jirgas. “Traditional courts in Pakistan have very bad records. There are unsolved cases going back more than 30 years, still in process, and the whole justice system is seen as highly corrupt,” says Fazal Khaliq, a Pakistani journalist and activist. “It is also very expensive. Courts charge for each and every service, so the poor can’t afford it, whereas the Islamic courts (jirgas) are free and speedy.”

In 2004, the Pakistani parliament passed an amendment to Pakistan’s penal code making swara a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Since then, around 60 decisions made by jirgas involving swara girls have been prevented by local courts, though in most tribal areas the law still does not apply.

The rise of Islamic militancy in Pakistan could only make things worse. As extremists grow more powerful, they have started imposing their own draconian rules on society — including even more discrimination against women.



Unsafe Abortions Menace Pakistan

August 26, 2013

ISLAMABAD - A report on post-abortion care in Pakistan has highlighted the need for expanded access to high quality family planning services and provided recommendations for promoting safer post-abortion care, and building capacity among healthcare providers to help achieve these goals.

The Population Council, Friday, released a latest research report titled "Post-Abortion Care in Pakistan: A National Study." This study has outlined the ongoing gaps in the quality of post-abortion care following unsafe abortion procedures, societal stigmas and inequities in the healthcare system, burden of post-abortion complications, and the significant role of private and public sectors in ensuring access to care.

Launching ceremony of the report took place in a meeting in which included Saira Afzal Tarar, Minister of State, National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination, as chief guest and keynote speaker among a panel of experts from leading national institutions and professional organisations. People from different walks of life including representatives from the government of Pakistan, donor organisations, health professionals, academics, NGOs and civil societies participated in the event and shared their views on timely topics shaping the reproductive health and socio-economic climate in Pakistan and determined the best way forward for helping women and communities achieve optimal health outcomes.

This research study has founded that in 2012, nearly 700,000 women in Pakistan went to health facilities for treatment of complications resulting from spontaneous abortions or induced abortions using unsafe methods or with the assistance of an unskilled provider.

While safe procedures for post-abortion care were found to be more widely used in 2012 than they were in 2002, health facilities still rely on unnecessarily invasive procedures such as dilation and curettage (D&C). Additionally, many facilities do not have adequate equipment and supplies to provide quality care for complications and a majority are not equipped to provide around-the-clock services to manage severe complications. Lastly, the private sector plays an important role in the provision of care, as more than 60 per cent of all cases were treated by private sector providers.

The report has also highlighted that in Pakistan, 25 per cent of women like to avoid or delay pregnancy, but are not using contraception, and therefore are at risk for unintended pregnancy. As a result, many women resort to induced abortion to end unintended pregnancies. The current law in Pakistan permits abortion to save a woman's life and to provide "necessary treatment."

Due to some legal restrictions and the lack of clarity among women and healthcare providers in interpreting the law, women may be forced to seek abortion by untrained providers. The resulting morbidity and mortality places a heavy burden on women, their families, communities and the national health system.

Minister of State, National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination Saira Afzal Tarar in her keynote address on the occasion pointed out the urgent need for policies and planning at the highest levels to tackle the issues raised in the report. She also stressed to focus on actual implementation of the plans and policies.

"It gives us great cause for concern that nearly 700,000 women in Pakistan needed treatment annually for complications of induced or spontaneous abortion," Saira Afzal Tarar said, adding, "Many facilities do not have adequate equipment if complications occur. Lack of well-trained staff, stigma and financial constraints also pose inherent barriers to good service delivery. Coordinated efforts of Health and Population Welfare Departments must augment other actors together as a community to address these issues that threaten the lives of women in Pakistan each and every day." She also suggested that a pool of nurses, LHVs and other midlevel providers be trained and specialized in the provision of post abortion care.

It is worth mentioning that the study was funded by the Research an Advocacy Fund (RAF), UK Department for International Development (DFID) and the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) and was conducted by the Population Council in collaboration with the Guttmacher Institute and the National Committee for Maternal and Neonatal Health. The Population Council and the Guttmacher Institute collected data through two quantitative surveys and several qualitative methods, including surveys of 266 health facilities and 102 healthcare professionals; in-depth interviews of 44 women who had an induced abortion in the past six months; and 10 focus groups involving women with at least three children to gain an understanding of community norms regarding abortion and post-abortion care.



Islamabad standoff: Sikandar's wife sent on 2-day physical remand

August 26, 2013

ISLAMABAD: Islamabad gunman Muhammad Sikandar’s wife Kanwal was sent on an additional two-day physical remand, Express News reported Monday.

She was earlier sent on a seven-day physical remand and a one-day transit remand prior to that. Upon the end of the seven-day remand, she was taken to an anti-terrorism court. Following the judge’s ruling, Kanwal was taken for an additional two-day physical remand.

On August 15, Sikandar had shut down the heart of the heavily guarded capital for five hours in a standoff that ended with him being shot and wounded.

Waving two semi-automatic guns and occasionally firing into the air, Sikandar was accompanied by his wife and children throughout the tense drama that took place close to Islamabad’s political quarter.

In a statement to police, Kanwal, who was also injured by a misfired bullet from Sikandar’s gun during the final showdown, said they had been in Islamabad for a couple of days and stayed at a hotel in Aabpara. She said her husband had been a serious drug addict up until 2009 but had later sought treatment for his addiction.



Saudi Forces Free Woman Imprisoned 3 Yrs by Family

 August 27, 2013

RIYADH: Saudi authorities have freed a woman who was held captive for three years by her relatives over a family dispute, an official human rights organisation said Monday.

The 50-year-old woman had been imprisoned in a room in a house in the western Taif province, an official from the kingdom's National Society for Human Rights told AFP. According to local daily Okaz, Saudi security forces freed the woman at dawn on Sunday in the presence of representatives of the organisation.

The woman's son had alerted authorities that his mother was being held against her will due to a "family dispute over properties", the daily reported.

The woman, who lived in Riyadh, was "taken by force to Taif where she was held captive during these years," Okaz said. Ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia imposes many restrictions on women, who are banned from travelling without permission from male guardians and from driving.



HEC, Pakistan to Strengthen Women Universities in Country

August 26, 2013

ISLAMABAD - The Higher Education Commission (HEC) would continue to extend its support for strengthening the women universities across the country with special emphasis on capacity building of the newly established women universities.

This was expressed by Chairman HEC, Dr. Javaid R. Laghari while and presiding over a meeting at Government College Women University Sialkot, the first Women University of the Region. He said that women's universities are playing a vital role in the education of female professionals, artists, writers, thinkers who are the future leaders of an educated, enlightened and prosperous Pakistan.

"Since the inception of HEC, new women's universities have been established in Peshawar, Quetta, Lahore and Multan and priority has been given to such development projects which have been really helpful in increasing women's enrollment in higher education sector of the country," he remarked.

Dr Javaid Laghari stated that women enrollment in higher education has increased from 36 percent to 47 percent within last few years as an outcome of the HEC reforms.

The female researchers or faculty members are being encouraged to avail HEC programmes such as on scholarships, research and travel grants and holding of conferences.

He assured utmost cooperation of HEC to provide every sort of possible support to the administration of the university. Prof Dr Muhammad Nizamuddin, Vice Chancellor University of Gujrat and Additional Charge Vice Chancellor Govt. College Women University, Sialkot was also present on the occasion.

The meeting was attended by all the officials and faculty of the Women University. The meeting decided that HEC would assist in interim placement of faculty,provision of Digital Library, PERN-II and Video Conference facility and capacity building of faculty while the university administration would ensure implementation of quality assurance criteria.

The university administration and faculty members appreciated the contribution and efforts of HEC to promote female education in the country.

Smart card scheme in offing for students of govt schools: Minister

Sindh Minister for Education Nisar Ahmed Khuhro has said the government is introducing a smart card scheme for the students of government schools.

"These cards will be given to all students from the primary to the higher level of school education. They will help us in collecting data about exact number of school going students, distribution of free books among them and their attendance," he informed at a press conference at the Circuit House here on Sunday. The Minister said that the first launching ceremony of those cards would be held in Benazirabad district on August 27, adding that the other districts would follow.

Khuhro said the government also wants to provide electronic smart cards to the government teachers so that their attendance, payment of salaries amd ghost teachers could be monitored. "We are reviewing this proposal and also to take satellite help to watch if a particular teacher is attending the school during the duty time or if they are just drawing the salary without contributing their work," he said.

The Education Minister agreed that Sindh province lags behind others in the quality of education partly due to law and order, economic conditions and negligence on the part of those who were responsible. "Around half of Sindh government's over 500,000 employees in the province work in Education Department. They include about 150,000 teaching staff and around 100,000 administrative and other staff in the Education Ministry," he said.

The Minister said that an overhauling was being done in the cadres of administrative officials so that the junior officers were not posted to senior posts. Initially, he added, all the junior officers posted on BPS-18 posts of Additional District Officer (ADO) have been removed from those posts.

"We also want to do the same to the BPS-20 District Education Officer posts where many junior officers are occupying these posts," he said adding that a Departmental Promotion Committee meeting would be held in the next few days.

The committee, he added, would scrutinise the cases of 500 officers for promotions so that the senior positions in the department which were lying vacant and made the government to post junior officers on them could be filled.

According to Nisar Khuhro, the promotions to the said posts had not been done since year 2002. About the newly passed Sindh Universities Law (Amendment) Bill, 2013, the Minister said "The new legislation has been done in the light of the country's Constitution which vests the authority over the higher education institutions in the chief minister rather than the governor of a province," he explained.

Responding to a question about the new local government system, he said the provincial government carried along all the stakeholders in consultations over the Bill. The leaders of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) including Aftab Khanzada, Roshan Solangi, Mir Fateh Talpur and others were also present on the occasion.



After 34 years, Iran appoints female diplomat

Aug 27 2013

Iran is set to appoint women to key diplomatic roles for the first time since it became an Islamic republic 34 years ago, an official said Tuesday.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will next week name the new ambassador to an as yet unspecified country, as well as the ministry’s new spokeswoman, a spokesman said.

President Hassan Rowhani earlier this month named Elham Aminzadeh, a law professor and former legislator, as vice president for legal matters.



Pakistan Beauty Awards Focus the Best in Fashion, Entertainment



KARACHI: An entertainment extravaganza featuring live fashion segments, music, dance and beauty awards was held at the Expo Centre late Saturday night to celebrate the best of Pakistani beauty, fashion and entertainment.

The Veet Celebration of Beauty hosted by Azfar Rehman and Aamina Sheikh opened with a dance segment featuring near-invisible performers adorned with led lights in what was a visually-spectacular display of acrobatic skills and dance choreography. It was followed by the first of four fashion segments that depicted fashion through the ages. The Vintage segment featured Khadija Shah of Elan who paid homage to the bygone era of Pakistani cinema. Traditional ghararas, open-front long coats, jamawar fabric in rich shades of deep red, ivory and peach were displayed by the models with Zeba Bakhtiar as the showstopper in this segment.

The first two of the eight beauty awards for which voting was conducted online were later announced and presented by the Main Hoon Shahid Afridi lead cast, Humayun Saeed and Mahnoor Baloch, to Syra Yousuf who won the Most Beautiful Smile award and Saima Azhar for Most Promising Model of the Year.

The golden times of the decade after Pakistan’s independence were the focus of the song and dance tribute to Madam Noorjehan and performed by Sara Raza on vocals. Mehwish Hayat in a peacock theme costume danced to Mehki Fizayain from the film, Koel (1959).

The fashion segment entitled the Retro ’70s featured the designs of Sadaf Malaterre with film star and TV host Sana as the showstopper. Afterwards, the Best Posture award was given to Nadia Ali and the Miss Catwalk trophy to Aamna Ilyas by presenters Nomi Ansari and Mehreen Raheal.

After Zoe Viccaji’s cover of Nazia Hassan’s Aap Jaisa Koi, the revolutionary ’80s period was heralded in that saw the Most Beautiful Skin and Miss Photogenic awards being given away by Asadul Haq and Zoe Viccaji to Ayyan Ali and Aamina Sheikh, respectively.

Designer Ali Xeeshan showed his collection focusing the era of pop with Ali Azmat performing his hits Neeli Neeli Aankhoon, Mera Mahi and Sajna with Nadia Ali as the showstopper in the fashion presentation.

The present age entitled the Eclectic era witnessed the Miss Elegance 2013 award going to Mahnoor Baloch with Humaima Mallik of Bol fame bagging the coveted Veet Beauty of the Year trophy.

Next, designer duo par excellence Sana Safinaz showcased a superlative collection with varied silhouettes including toga-inspired dresses, slim-fit pants, etc, and Ms Mallik as the showstopper.

Finally, a song and dance medley featuring film and TV actress Sara Loren concluded the ceremony and brought the evening to a close. The event was styled and choreographed by Nabila and her team with show production.



Women of the Wall Scorns New Non-Orthodox Prayer Site as 'Sunbathing Deck’

27 Aug 2013

Religious Services Minister Naftali Bennett hailed Sunday’s completion of a large platform for non-Orthodox prayer at the southernmost portion of the Western Wall as a history-making event. But the Women of the Wall, who have led the fight for non-Orthodox prayer at the Kotel, derided the new platform as “a sunbathing deck that overlooks the Western Wall from a distance.”

The 450-square-meter project stands in the archeological park in the area known as the Robinson’s Arch compound. Built at Bennett’s behest, it will enable non-Orthodox prayer services to take place 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It will have its own ark with Torah scrolls and prayer books. The State of Israel, Bennett said, would be “making history” by opening, under its auspices, a compound for mixed and egalitarian prayer services at the southern wall. Since 1998 there has been a prayer area at Robinson’s Arch that was basically run by the Masorti (Conservative) Movement, but it was small and open for only limited hours.

But something else that had been expected Sunday did not happen: The committee headed by Cabinet Secretary Avichai Mandelblit did not present its expected recommendations for a comprehensive solution for prayer at the Kotel, given the complex challenges posed by the demands of the Women of the Wall, a group that is demanding the right to pray in its fashion – singing out loud while wearing prayer shawls and tefillin -- at the Western Wall itself.

The Women of the Wall strongly denounced any attempt to mix up the two issues, reiterating that its struggle was to be allowed to pray in the main women’s section of the Kotel, not off to the side.

“Instead of generating change and marching the Jewish world in the direction of equality and pluralism, on the eve of Rosh Hashanah the government has adopted a policy of separation and exclusion and has built the women a sunbathing deck that overlooks the Western Wall from a distance,” the Women of the Wall said in a statement.

Indeed, it does not seem that the Women of the Wall were Bennett’s main concern. He was seeking to demonstrate that he had found a solution on the ground for the non-Orthodox movements, though the result is rather clumsy. Worshippers cannot see the main Kotel plaza from the new platform, since the managers of the archeological park forbade any construction near the sensitive antiquities.

Bennett also seriously confused matters by issuing two announcements about the prayer area, one in Hebrew and one in English, which were different. In the Hebrew release he said he was proud to have presented a compromise in the dispute involving the Women of the Wall that was meant to instill peace among the Jewish people. But the English version did not mention the group at all. That announcement said the new egalitarian prayer area had been built by government decision, stressing that it was a gesture to the Reform and Conservative movements (which were not mentioned in the Hebrew announcement).

PMO’s embarrassing clarification

As a result, the Prime Minister’s Office had to release an embarrassing clarification: “Reports that a government decision has been made regarding prayer arrangements in the Western Wall plaza are incorrect,” the statement read, to counter the impression that the new platform was the government’s response to the Women of the Wall.

While one cannot minimize the fact that from now on, under state auspices, mixed services can be conducted in the area at all times of the year, the principle remains that the area in front of the Kotel remains Orthodox, and whoever is not Orthodox is kept at a distance. This principle, however, is also preserved in the more extensive plan proposed by Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky. The Sharansky plan includes a much larger plaza, one entrance plaza for all the prayer areas, and a structural change in the Western Wall Heritage Foundation to include Conservative and Reform representatives. Bennett presented the new prayer platform as an “interim solution” until the Sharansky plan can be implemented.

Bennett’s proud announcement regarding the new platform is indicative of his and the government’s attempt to circumvent and isolate the Women of the Wall by making a bold gesture to the Reform and Conservative movements abroad. This seems rather naïve, given that the group has very wide support among American Jewry.

On Sunday, the Reform Movement announced that it would not agree to anything less than the Sharansky plan, but it did not attack either Bennett or Mandelblit. Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, executive vice president of the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly, said that while she thought important steps had been taken, accepting these steps did not mean yielding on the demand for full equality.

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, said that while Bennett's proposal may be "a gesture of good will," it falls short of achieving Jewish equality at the Western Wall. "Were it to be the first and last step regarding the Kotel, it would create a painful and unnecessary conflict with in the Jewish People," said Jacobs, who urged Netanyahu to implement Sharansky's proposal "which, in its entirety, promises full equality for all streams of Judaism."