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Pakistan Press ( 2 Jan 2021, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Pakistan Press on Spreading Disinformation, Kashmir’s Future And Gendered Lens: New Age Islam's Selection, 2 January 2021

By New Age Islam Edit Desk

2 January 2021

• Spreading Disinformation Is Pakistan's Entertainment Industry

By Beenish Zia

• Kashmir’s Future

By A.G. Noorani

• A Gendered Lens

By Foqia Sadiq Khan

• Cleanliness: 50% Faith!

By Huzaima Bukhari

• Vaccine Is Floating In A Sea Of Fears And Myths

By Raja Khalid Shabbir


Spreading Disinformation Is Pakistan's Entertainment Industry

By Beenish Zia

02 Jan 2021

IT is astonishing but there are some women’s rights that are extensively protected in Pakistan through existing legal mechanisms. More surprisingly, some of them are practically implemented. One such right that enjoys proper legal protection is the right of a woman to dissolve her marriage. But then, one may ask, where does the problem lie? Why are vulnerable women still suffering in silence? One of the key bottlenecks is the disinformation mystifying these laws.

A woman’s right to divorce is protected under two, not one, different legal mechanisms: (i) dissolution of marriage on the basis of statutory grounds and (ii) dissolution of marriage on the basis of khula. The best possible way, of course, is to secure a delegated right to divorce in your nikahnama. It gives you exactly the same rights as a man to be able to legally initiate the divorce proceedings in a union council directly. The marriage can be dissolved with three notices to the union council in three months.

However, even if a woman does not have a delegated right to divorce, she can approach the family court of the district she resides in and file a case for either khula or dissolution on the basis of grounds. Acceptable grounds given under the law are both detailed and extensive — ranging from non-maintenance for two years to cruelty and abuse. For khula, a sole statement by the woman stating she no longer wants to live with her husband is sufficient for a decree of dissolution. However, through this form of dissolution, the wife has to let go a certain percentage of her mehr (dower). In case of dissolution of marriage on the basis of statutory grounds, the wife does not have to let go of any of her mehr.

In both these instances, the court notifies the husband and proceeds with the case even if the husband or his legal counsel does not appear in court. The legal procedure also mandates the court to facilitate a compromise if possible by inquiring about the reasons leading up to this decision. However, it cannot force non-compromising parties to compromise.

The word of the woman is the final call in these matters. If she chooses not to reconcile with her husband, the court will issue a decree of dissolution which is submitted to the union council to initiate the three-month process for finalisation of the dissolution. It is ideal to secure a right of delegated divorce to save the six to eight months that court proceedings can generally take.

The important point here is that women are not dependent on men to end their marriage. It is their choice and theirs only whether to start, continue or to end a marriage.

In light of these facts, it is shocking how often women (of all socioeconomic backgrounds) don’t know these rights and do not understand that the courts actually work quite efficiently in implementing these laws — particularly in Punjab.

One of the key perpetrators for spreading disinformation is our entertainment industry — in particular the drama industry. A majority of women religiously watch the dramas that air on different channels. The dramas regularly show women being physically abused or being portrayed as home-wreckers but what has caught my attention of late is the regular portrayal of what women have to go through to end an abusive marriage.

They also perpetuate the impression that if a woman doesn’t secure the delegated right to divorce from her husband through her nikahnama, she doesn’t have the right to divorce and has to suffer in silence. Contrary to popular opinion, even if a woman doesn’t secure the delegated right to divorce from her husband through her nikahnama, she still has the legal right to file for a divorce.

As a human rights lawyer, I have personally seen this disinformation being absorbed by women belonging to all classes and types of backgrounds who come for legal advice after spending years suffering in abusive marriages assuming they had no way out. So let me say this clearly: women have the right to dissolve their marriage without any reason and legally, no one can stop them, neither the judge nor their husband.

One also wishes that the drama industry wakes up to the fact that they have a moral responsibility. What they are showing every day is being watched and absorbed by viewers who are predominantly women — and many among them are suffering. When we share all the harsh realities of our society through the scripts of our dramas, we should also aim to share the progress we have made through relentless efforts. Otherwise, it takes us back decades which isn’t helpful and doesn’t allow us to change the mindsets that have been there for a number of decades.


Beenish Zia is a lawyer and an associate at AGHS Legal Aid Cell in Lahore.


Kashmir’s Future

By A.G. Noorani

02 Jan 2021

HISTORY has placed an enormous burden on the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) and its leaders; especially on its president, Dr Farooq Abdullah, leader of the National Conference, and Ms Mehbooba Mufti, its vice president and leader of the People’s Democratic Party. Both were elected to these posts on Oct 24, 2020. Sajjad Lone, the People’s Conference chairman, was elected official spokesman, while the veteran leader of the Communist Party of India-Marxist Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami was elected convenor and NC leader Hasnain Masoodi as coordinator.

Lone announced that day that the PAGD has decided to prepare a “research-based white paper” for creating awareness of the fallout of the derogation of Article 370. “It will be completed in the next one month,” he said. It is understandable that the deadline hasn’t been met, for it is a massive task. Article 370’s attempted derogation is not only illegal but politically dangerous. Sheikh sahib had published a white paper after the Delhi Agreement of 1952; so had Mirza Afzal Beg’s Plebiscite Front.

Lone explained, “Every misunderstanding and lie will be countered with this document. We will present statistics to bust the false stories of how Jammu and Kashmir was in the dark ages and corruption before Aug 5 last year [2019].” The PAGD also adopted as its own the Jammu and Kashmir flag that the Modi government viciously disowned.

Thereafter, a convention will be held in Srinagar. There is a good precedent for this: Sheikh Abdullah’s People’s Convention in 1968 (which Jayaprakash Narayan attended) and 1970. Papers were invited and read at the conventions, and a liberal scheme of regional autonomy for Jammu was prepared keeping in mind its aspirations.

It is impossible to exaggerate the significance of the promised white paper. To fulfil its stated objectives it should be in two parts: one on aspects constitutional and political, and the other on economic, social and also political (for the lay reader). The governments headed by Dr Farooq Abdullah appointed a committee. Its report on Kashmir’s autonomy was an able study, rich in detail.

Meanwhile, the situation in Kashmir is getting worse. On Oct 27, India passed the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir Reorgani­sation Third Order, 2020 to enable people to buy land (except agricultural) in Kashmir. On the same day, it enacted the J&K Development Act empowering the government to declare any local area as a “strategic area” on the “written request of the army”.

As part of its educative effort through the white paper and the rest, the PAGD should bring out a black book on the repressive laws in Kashmir. There seems to be no end to it. First, the office of the Kashmir News Service was sealed; next, the office of the daily Kashmir Times. Founded by the veteran socialist Ved Bhasin, it heroically stood up for the rights of Kashmiris even in the darkest days of the 1990s. On his death, his daughter Anuradha Bhasin took up the mantle and performed as fearlessly. She has won international repute and is highly respected in India and Pakistan for her courage and integrity.

It is a grim situation that Kashmir faces today. Former J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah in an interview said, “What about the representative character of the government?” and stressed the Muslim majority of the area. “Please look at the make-up of our administration today. Your LG is non-Muslim; chief secretary non-Muslim; DGP non-Muslim; both your divisional commissioners are non-Muslims; both your IGs of police non-Muslims; the chief justice of J&K high court is non-Muslim; the rest of the high court bench, barring two judges, are all non-Muslims. How many of your deputy commissioners and SPs posted in Kashmir today are Kashmiri-speaking? It may appear minor, but please understand these are the issues that resonate with people. We are not a fundamentalist people. We don’t play the religious card, but when there is such a severe communal imbalance, there will be resentment.”

The Criminal Procedure Code was enacted in India by the British to rivet their colonial control. It has been abused in Kashmir to procure undertakings from arrested politicians as a condition for their release — surety demands to not indulge in “any unlawful, anti-national activities”.

Predictions are hazardous, but it is permissible to read the tea leaves. Home Minister Amit Shah’s statement on Oct 18 that New Delhi was duty-bound to restore Kashmir’s ‘statehood’ is only the latest in a series that began soon after J&K’s status was destroyed. Why was that constitutional crime perpetrated? It was to destroy Kashmir’s identity as a Muslim area. Delimitations of constituencies will give weightage to Jammu in the assembly elections, and a BJP government will do the rest. It will, of course, be supported by Kashmiri stooges of New Delhi.


A.G. Noorani is an author and lawyer based in Mumbai.


A Gendered Lens

By Foqia Sadiq Khan

January 2, 2021

The vaccine for Covid-19 is round the corner; yet, it will take quite some time for the pandemic to loosen its grip on the people and governments of the world. Covid-19 had a strong impact on the society, economy and politics of the developed and developing world. Both lives and livelihoods of people really suffered.

In Pakistan, there has been heated debate on whether to impose a strict lockdown or secure livelihoods. We refer to a draft report of the Institute of Development and Economic Alternative (IDEAS) authored by Faisal Bari et al for The Asia Foundation that maps the gendered impact of Covid-19 on women workers employed in the informal sector.

Back in March 2020, the government imposed partial lockdown in various parts of the country. Gradually, they closed down some leading sectors of the economy as well as educational institutes. This was followed by a six-week national complete lockdown that was lifted in May. Since then, there have been some ‘smart’ lockdowns but not a full one, despite the second wave of Covid-19. The IDEAS research largely focuses on the impact of a complete lockdown on women workers in the informal sector.

It is important to study the informal sector because as per the latest Labour Force Survey of Pakistan (2017-18), roughly 72 percent of non-agricultural employment in the country is in the informal sector. Though women’s labour force participation rate is only 22 percent (World Bank Indicators), roughly 72 percent of women who work are employed in the informal sector.

The question is: why focus on women while studying the impact of Covid on the economy? It was thought that the pandemic would have a differentiated impact on women workers compared to men.

According to Bari et al, “Women in the informal sector tend to earn and save less, have lower job security and have restricted access to social protection. Additionally, women working in non-essential service industries such as food service, hospitality and as domestic workers for housekeeping and child- care are more likely to be laid off or exploited for their labor during the pandemic and resulting economic crisis. The informal sector, which predominantly comprises women workers, is also marked by limited access to capital, credit constraints and high rates of business failures as compared to the formal sector. Gender norms also contribute to the layers of discrimination women experience with access to finance, buyers, networks, and technology. These issues are likely to be exacerbated due to the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Small businesses experienced decreased profits due to the impact of pandemic in Pakistan. Home-based workers endured more than 40 percent losses, arts and entertainment 33 percent, followed by industrial workers with 30 percent losses. Women who worked in the various sub-sectors of the economy also suffered “severe economic shocks” in terms of receiving reduced salary or wages, switching jobs, spending savings, borrowing, and selling assets to cover loss of income. At times, women even had to violate the lockdown to earn livelihoods.

Though the agricultural sector was not subjected to the lockdown, women generally worked for fewer hours than the previous crop cycle. Those involved in livestock farming and management also ran out of food and fodder due to the ban on transportation. Women who produced perishable food items also experienced their produce going wasted during the lockdown since it could not be transported to markets or supply chains. This put further financial strain on women workers and producers in the agricultural sector.

Workers in the informal sector also faced a decline in employment: most of the arts and industry workers temporarily lost their jobs, as did beauticians and domestic house helpers. Home-based workers suffered reduced wages. There were also reduced working hours across many sub-sectors for the informal economy workers during the lockdown. Women reacted to these economic shocks either by borrowing money or reducing spending. There was also uncertainty amongst small women business owners about keeping their businesses sustainable in the medium term. Women workers felt vulnerable and they had low expectations about their future during the pandemic.

In addition to work and financial pressures, the research also looks into the socio-emotional impact of Covid-19 on women working in the informal sector. There was substantial increase in women’s domestic and care-giving responsibilities. Having unemployed or partially working men of the household and children at home due to school closures meant that women had to work more and also home-school their children. This also led to a decrease in their agency and decision-making powers, and increase in gender-based violence in certain cases.

The study also found that most informal workers neither had access to social protection programmes nor much awareness about them. As the informal economy is not documented, it leaves “large gaps” in providing social protection to the workers. Even 10 percent of workers who are receiving some sort of social protection found it to be insufficient. Since women working in the informal sector have low literacy levels, they find it difficult to access government’s social protection; registering through SMS for the Ehsaas programme funding was not easy.

The study makes immediate, medium-term and long-term policy recommendations for business recovery, household work, conflict resolution, and educational issues to deal with the gendered aspects of Covid-19 on women workers and small-scale women business owners. The bottom line is that policymakers need to use a gendered policy lens for issues of employment, financial sustainability, and education, as well as to offer measures to deal with the social impact of the pandemic. The study is a welcome addition as there have been fewer attempts to do the gender impact analysis of Covid-19.


Foqia Sadiq Khan is an Islamabad-based social scientist.


Cleanliness: 50% Faith!

By Huzaima Bukhari

January 2, 2021

“Fifty percent of faith is attributable to cleanliness”―Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) Sahih Muslim, Chapter No.2, Hadees No. 534

As staunch Pakistani Muslims, we appear to profess complete faith in the teachings of Islam and sayings of our holy Prophet, Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH). If anyone dare utter a single word against his Holiness, we are set to kill and be killed. Such is the strength of faith and love that disregards even one’s own life. The connection is so strong that we want to imitate our Prophet (PBUH) in every aspect—clothing, food, mannerism, etc.—sometimes without considering that a particular thing may not commensurate with our region, culture or climatic conditions. If a religious cleric even mistakenly associates anything with his Holiness, it becomes sacred to the extent that it must be earnestly protected. Undoubtedly, no one can raise a finger with respect to the awe and admiration that we have for our beloved Prophet (PBUH).

Regrettably and despite our adoration for the holy Prophet (PBUH) and of course our claim of unshakeable belief in the Quranic injunctions and Ahadees, our faith remains at a threshold of fifty percent, the principal reason being our extremely callous attitude towards cleanliness. Religious scholars have interpreted this Hadees to cover cleanliness of both body and soul which is good enough because the two are closely connected. They say that spiritual cleansing implies strong faith in God by erasing false and confusing notions from the mind in addition to focusing on noble and pious deeds. Our biology teacher used to say, “A healthy body, houses a healthy mind.” Using similar jargon, one can say: “A clean and hygienic environment, houses an unquestionable faith.” Therefore, if we want to prove ourselves sincere followers of Islam, then we should observe cleanliness, keeping every detail meticulously in account, but do we really?

In the bygone days, people generally relied on permanent stuff for daily usage. Thus, crockery, cutlery, containers, shopping bags made out of natural elements etc. were commonly available in all households that helped to keep garbage at a minimum. These days, use of disposable utensils, plastic bags and packing material have increased large scale accumulation of waste and in the absence of proper management, one finds heaps of undisposed rubbish in every nook and cranny of especially, the cities. The last Chief Minister of Punjab had engaged the services of a Turkish company to clear up mess created by Lahoris but apparently, the present government has shooed them away although their monstrous trucks can still be seen roaming on the roads. Resultantly, Lahore, which was comparatively cleaner than other Pakistani cities, has gradually started giving a shabby look. In the first place, we as citizens of this country should be consciously aware to maintain cleanliness without the need of hiring foreigners for this purpose, and secondly, we have a large community of cleaners in need of jobs and who have been loyally providing their valuable services throughout the Sub-continent’s history.

Much has been written about the advantages of cleanliness and one keeps reading articles on this subject on and off. Muhammad Ali Musofer in an op-ed published in Dawn back in 2013 laments about the insensitivity displayed by people in general: “It is also observed that people clean their homes and shops and throw the garbage on the street without considering its implications. It is evident that even students of elite schools throw garbage on the ground even in the presence of garbage bins.” Within many people’s homes, it has been usually noticed that rooms frequented by guests are beautifully maintained and if someone wants to test the true nature of the host with regard to cleanliness, all they need to do is check out their toilets and kitchens.

Writers have persistently mentioned the necessity to educate the public and have requested the government to introduce measures to manage waste and ensure cleanliness of the streets, drains and canals. Suggestions regarding propagation of significance of hygiene and proper sanitation procedures come from all walks of life. Educational institutions, mosques and media have been called upon to instil the message of cleanliness among the public. Many environmentalists have constantly approached the authorities to follow in the footsteps of civilized countries in making productive use of garbage. The most advanced country in the world that has efficiently handled its share of filth is probably Singapore even though it has limited land mass and a dense population. Maybe it is because Singaporeans firmly believe in practicality rather than a theoretic vision of a Pakistani Muslim whereby the present life is to be sacrificed for a better life in the after-world.

Someone posed a question that why do towels get dirty when they are supposed to clean? I guess we treat are environment like towels. In scrubbing ourselves, we in fact, destroy our surroundings in the most despicable manner. We first cut trees for manufacturing paper, convert into tissue rolls, cups and plates, only to dispose them after use—merely for the sake of avoiding ‘menial’ work. What a shame and how unfortunate for the health of the environment!

There is no point in labelling ourselves as faithful followers of a Prophet (PBUH) who is supposed to be a blessing for not just Muslims but the entire universe, if fundamentals are to be blatantly neglected. An outsider entering this country ought to be totally astounded by the quality of cleanliness like we are enraptured by that of Japan for example. (By the way and as per our tenet, Japanese too are a nation with fifty percent faith because of their love for cleanliness but not their religious ideology). The roads, neighbourhoods, buildings, shopping areas, gardens, public toilets etc. should appear impeccable with no visible signs of dirt and grime. If this were the position then definitely we could have proudly claimed that we are people with faith level of one hundred percent. However, we leave no stone unturned to prove that we are half-baked unclean Muslim Pakistanis who have no regard for hygiene or sanitation yet we have the nerve to call non-Muslims impure. We forget that the dirtiest of mess created by us is picked up by those whom we consider foul even though they are likely to be closer to professing a deeper faith by their act of cleanliness.

One stops to think why our nation is so obsessed with being God’s favourite when our actions strongly speak otherwise. Littering and spitting are our preferred pastimes so naturally we end up with surplus waste material strewn all over as we are not pressed about disposing it in a scientific way. Before we look towards the government to carry out this job, we should be assessing our own attitude and behaviour that requires immediate reformation. Hold a small function and at the end of the day, the ground or the floor becomes extremely messy with half eaten chicken legs, soiled tissue papers, wrappings etc. The hosts do not care to place dust bins and even if they do, the guests hardly care to use them. The importance of cleanliness cannot be denied, therefore all municipal administrations existing in the country must be forced to immediately set upon fulfilling their duties for which they are being paid by the taxpayers.


Huzaima Bukhari, lawyer and author, is an Adjunct Faculty at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS)


Vaccine Is Floating In a Sea Of Fears and Myths

By Raja Khalid Shabbir

January 02, 2021

The road towards achieving immunity is not going to be smooth, at least for Pakistan.

I realised how weak a Covid-19 vaccine would be for us at a barber shop. On December 9, the same day England became the first country to inject its people with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, I entered the shop where a corona conversation was in full swing. The talk took an unexpected turn when one person said, “The vaccine has a chip in it through which they will track and control us.”

Growing up, we were made to believe that our existence as Pakistanis is under some kind of foreign threat. We have been fed this delusion of persecution and that the whole world is against us. Our belief system has grandiosity written all over it. We believe we have exaggerated abilities and powers the outside world is intimidated by and wants to implant an all-controlling chip, under the guise of a vaccine, into us.

With nothing to support, these false beliefs are the reason why we are one of the two countries in the world where polio is still prevalent.

The first Covid-19 case in Pakistan was reported in February 2020. Since then how have we contributed towards the pandemic, global health and biotechnology? We stood in front of our TV sets and pointed fingers, raised eyebrows and doubted those busy making history in the field of science and technology. We questioned those who developed vaccines the very year a deadly pandemic rocked our core. Our only contribution has been keeping the flame of conspiracy alive.

Biotechnological advances of the outside world are seemingly dragging us deeper into the cave. Fear looms that we might bid modern science farewell and resort to rubbing sticks and stones.

Multiple vaccines have come forward as a rare window of hope during these dark times such as Russia’s Sputnik V, China’s CoronaVac, US’ Moderna and Pfizer vaccines (in collaboration with Germany’s BioNTech company) and Britain’s Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. These golden bullets may not be able to change the course of our country as many are dreading this ‘tool’ and calling it an attempt by our enemies to weaken our bodies. IPSOS’ December national survey concluded that 40% of Pakistanis are reluctant to get the vaccine while the percentage willing to get vaccinated has dropped from 62% in November to 60% in December. Our people fear that Third World countries like ours will be used as a testing ground for these vaccines. Same is the case with polio vaccination campaigns in Pakistan and Afghanistan where vaccinators are killed on the pretext that the campaigns are a facade for intelligence gathering by outside elements.

Pakistan is aiming to secure the under-trial vaccine made by China, a close confidante, and expects to start immunising its people from April 2020. Amid the rising tide of fear and scepticism, it is a wise decision to put our trust in China who has played the role of a big brother in difficult times and is better versed with the virus and its dynamics. The downside of this is the cost; a single dose is around Rs5, 000. This will be another roadblock in our vaccination drive.

This uneasiness is also shared by the outside world. The Canadian government is keeping the conspiracy burner boiling by offering those reluctant money in exchange for vaccine shots. Questions such as, “Is it going to make me infertile? Does it contain a 5G chip? Is it going to kill me?” are also being asked in the US and other developed countries.

The vaccine is floating in a sea of fears and myths. The fascination with conspiracies and anti-vaccination sentiment run high in our country and need to be controlled as swiftly as possible or else we would see a new addition to the dusty polio vaccine cabinet.



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