The missing girls of Pakistan
An opinion article in the Dawn titled “The Missing Girls” looks at two issues, first, a critique of the response of the human rights ministry, headed by Shireen Mazari to the HRCP report, and second, the issue of trafficking.
Mazari, was critical of the HRCP annual report on the State of Human Rights in Pakistan (2019) stating it overlooked several major milestones towards securing and safeguarding the rights of vulnerable groups that were reached in the last year in the country. Further, questioning the intent if the HRCP. Although the report brought out an alarmingly high number of cases of violence against women and children, it failed to highlight the important institutional and legislative measures are taken to safeguard and promote their rights such as the Zainab Alert, Response and Recovery Act, 2020, which was introduced in the parliament in 2019, and other plans taken towards criminalization of domestic violence, child abuses, and others. However, the reality is that the government remains inefficient when it comes to protecting the rights of women, children, members of religious minorities. Legislations and measure taken by the government in the recent past have only been futile for violence against women has only intensified. (“The Missing girls,” Dawn, 22 May 2020)
When looking at human trafficking in Pakistan several factors contribute to the problem. The largest human trafficking problem is bonded labor. Workers are caught by an initial debt that only increases as time goes, thus entrapping them and their families. Other human trafficking problems include prostitution slavery, forced marriages, child soldiers, manual labor, and forced begging. Women are taken away from their families with promises of marriage, create fraudulent marriage certificates, and exploit the women in sex trafficking. Some traffickers force the victims to take drugs and exploit the drug addiction to keep them in sex trafficking. Concerning children, they are bought, sold, rented, or kidnapped and placed in organized begging rings, domestic servitude, small shops, and sex trafficking. The most recent issue that drawn attention is the women who have been trafficked as brides from Pakistan to China. Thus, the issue of human trafficking in Pakistan is complex as there are several issues behind the larger canvas.
“HRCP highlights plight of weakest section of society,”, Dawn, 1 May 2020
Jamal Shahid “HRCP ignored several steps taken to safeguard rights: govt,” Dawn, 3 May 2020
“Five Facts About Human Trafficking in Pakistan,” The Borgen Project, 16 March 2019
“2019 Trafficking in Persons Report: Pakistan,” US Department of State
The government publishes the Sugar Scandal report
On 21 May, Information Minister and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Accountability revealed details from a report issued by the Sugar Forensic Commission (SFC) constituted to investigate and assign responsibility for the shortage and price hike of the commodity in the country in recent times. The report exposed the misconduct by the sugar industry in the form of under-reported sugar sales, sale of commodity to benamidar (unnamed) buyers, double booking, over-invoicing, under-invoiced sale of bagasse and molasses which lead to cost inflation and other corporate frauds have been detected in the transactions of sugar mills. Further, six major sugar mill groups were identified to be posing as cartels, all have been found involved in committing corporate frauds that run into billions of rupees, revealed the names of several sugar mills owned by politicians, including those belonging to the ruling PTI and its allies, which were responsible for sugar crisis. The report also revealed the plight of farmers who have borne the brunt of the scandal. (Fakhar Durran, Mumtaz Alvi, “Sugar scandal report becomes public: Imran Khan fulfills promise on sugar report,” The News International, 22 May 2020)
The commission had been constituted by Prime Minister Imran Khan to investigate and assign responsibility for the sugar shortage and price hike of the commodity in the country in recent times. Further, stating that he would take appropriate action once to investigation and report is complete. This conflict has been going on for several years and has stemmed from the sugar cane farmers being forced to sell their produce to the mills at a lower cost.
Above 15-20 percent increase in COVID cases would be problematic, says NIH Director
Maj Gen Dr Aamer Ikram, Director General of National Institute of Health (NIH) told Dawn (21 May 2020) that he anticipates a moderate to sharp 15-20 per cent surge in the countrywide Covid-19 cases over the next week owing to the lifting of the lockdown, increase in coronavirus testing and the five to seven days incubation period of the virus. As per the National Command and Operations Centre 21 May report, 15,346 Covid-19 tests were conducted in 24 hours - 1,331 in Islamabad, 1,644 in KP, 5,439 in Punjab, and 6,164 in Sindh; the overall national test tally is 429,600. Meanwhile, on 21 May, 2,132 new cases and 42 deaths were reported; 35o patients remain critical and 726 hospitals saw a total of 10,900 new admissions.
Previously on 7 May, concluding an NCC meeting with all provincial Chief Ministers, Imran Khan announced the phase-wise lifting of the national lockdown from 9 May (beginning with the reopening of shopping centers, outpatient hospital departments, and construction-related industries); however, lacking federal-provincial consensus over the restoration of public transport and repatriation of overseas Pakistani nationals. The 18th amendment dispute remained a sore spot.
Imran Khan defended the decision to lift the lockdown by stating Covid-19’s economic and financial impact and the lack of fiscal space to divert resources to healthcare alone and endlessly dispense cash to the needy. PM Khan said the government had to maintain a balance between precautionary measures and running the dwindling economy. Previously, IMF had forecast a 1.5 per cent shrinkage of Pakistan’s economy in FY20 and increased dependency on loans from multilateral lenders.
The lack of special precautions during Eid may cause a further spike in infections. Notably, the PM, Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar, and Dr Ikram have warned that in case of violations of precautionary methods, standard operating procedures (SOPs) and a surge in contagion, the lockdown will be re-imposed. Ikram cautioned that the 15-20 per cent surge could be handled but any further increase would force the government to reconsider the decision of lifting the lockdown. Meanwhile, the Pakistan Medical Association sought the protection of healthcare practitioners through letters to federal and provincial heads. (“Covid-19 cases may increase by 15-20pc next week”, Dawn, 22 May 2020)
A retired Air Marshal writes how the hardliners in India will benefit Pakistan
During the recent months, there have been multiple writings/comments by former diplomats, academics, journalists and retired military officials, criticizing the government of India’s approach towards J&K. The print media in Pakistan also seems to be providing a larger space for such anti-BJP writings, with different pivots.
Today, in the Nation, a former Air Marshal, currently the Director of Centre for AeroSpace and Security Studies writes on how the Indian hardliners will benefit Pakistan. His comments can be divided into three sections.
The first one is historical; according to Air Marshal (retd) Ashfaque Arain, who has also served in New Delhi during 2002-06 as Pakistan’s Air Adviser, “the Indian leadership has always been hostile to Pakistan; however, historical events suggest that the hardliners in India, in their fanatical hatred for Muslims in general and Pakistan in particular, have unwittingly aided Pakistan’s cause – even in its creation.”
Second, the retd Air Marshal believes that the hardline approach has provided a space for the Pakistan Air Force to prove its quality. According to him, “for the last three decades, PAF had not had an opportunity for an actual combat operation…The failed surgical strike (in 2019) not only exposed IAF’s weaknesses and low standards of professionalism, it also provided PAF the opportunity to exhibit its professional competence by shooting down two IAF aircraft, causing chaos in the IAF ranks, which led to IAF’s air defence downing its own helicopter, killing six people on board.”
Third, he focusses on the Indian government’s approach towards J&K and concludes: “Since the use of IAF, the Indian Army, and Navy have proven to be disastrous in the past, the Indian government may opt for some novel gamesmanship and provide Pakistan an opportunity to test its indigenously developed weapons. Only time will tell, how once more, the hardliners in India will unwittingly benefit Pakistan, and what the BJP government’s humiliation threshold is, if at all there is one.” (M Ashfaque Arain, "How the Indian hardliners benefit Pakistan," The Nation, 22 May 2020)
Pakistan's Ambassador to China writes on "69 years of cooperation and connectivity" as going beyond "symbolism and rhetoric"
Amb Naghmana A. Hashmi, Pakistan's Ambassador to China in a commentary published in the Nation highlights why Pakistan-China relationship remains special. This should be a part of a series that one could expect, as Pakistan and China complete seven decades of their diplomatic relationship.
The first section was on history. Pakistan was the first Muslim country to recognise China in 1950. Pakistan remains one of the jubilant countries over "China's re-emergence on the world stage." According to her, "Pakistan sees a stronger China as a force of good in the world. China, in turn, sees a strong, safe and prosperous Pakistan as a source of strength and stability."
The second section was on COVID-19 and Pakistan's response to it by having faith in China. She writes about, "while others withdrew their citizens from the affected areas – ignoring the scientific evidence and perhaps contributing to the global pandemic we face today – local Pakistanis stayed put." Also at the height of the pandemic, Pakistan's President visited China to express "solidarity with China in its people’s war against the disease." For Pakistan, "China’s assistance for Pakistan has been both timely and generous."
The Ambassador, in the next section, writes about CPEC and the rise of China. For her: "China’s principled approach and dignity in the face of antagonism will serve as a stark contrast to the behaviour of other parties. Amid shrill warnings of de-globalisation, trade conflicts and “decoupling”, China’s experience in fostering greater cooperation and connectivity promises a far more attractive alternative for the world." ("From Khunjerab to Gwadar: 69 years of cooperation and connectivity," The Nation, 22 May 2020)