Daily Briefs

Photo : Dawn.MacArthur Foundation

20 August 2020, Thursday, Vol 1, No.111

The tragedy of Scientists from Pakistan's minority communities

The response from Palestine on Imran's statement saying Pakistan will not recognizing Israel, felicitation of Dr Nergis Mavalvala for getting appointed as a Dean at the MIT, passage of five more FATF bills

PR Daily Brief | PR Team

In Focus
The tragedy of Scientists from Pakistan's minority communities
The Story of Dr Negis Mavalvala today, and Dr Abdus Salam then

The media in Pakistan is discussing with pride the appointment of Dr Nergis Mavalvala as the new Dean of the School of Science the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). According to the MIT portal, Dr Mavalvala is “a leader in gravitational-wave detection, a field defined by broad, global collaboration.” (MIT Portal)
According to MIT News, “Mavalvala, the Curtis and Kathleen Marble Professor of Astrophysics, is renowned for her pioneering work in gravitational-wave detection, which she conducted as a leading member of LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory. She has received numerous awards and honours for her research and teaching, and since 2015 has been the associate head of the Department of Physics. Mavalvala will be the first woman to serve as dean in the School of Science.” (MIT News, 17 August 2020)
Dr Mavalvala was born in Lahore into a Parsi family but grew up in Karachi. Her primary schooling was in Karachi. Says the MIT news, “A tinkerer by nature, she often got up to her elbows in grease as she absorbed herself in the mechanics of bike repair. In school, she gravitated to math and physics early on, and her parents, strong advocates of both their daughters’ education, encouraged her to apply to college overseas.” (MIT News, 17 August 2020)
In 2016, he was felicitated by the then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif “for being part of the team of scientists who have recently detected gravitational waves in space.” (“PM praises Pakistani scientist who played key role in the discovery of gravitational waves,” The Express Tribune, 15 February 2016)
She should be a matter of pride for Pakistan. Rightly so.
However, Dawn, in its editorial (“Scientific excellence,” 20 August 2020), asks two crucial questions: “…while Dr Mavalvala received her early education in Pakistan, she and several others like her reached the high positions they did through their own efforts and opportunities presented to them in other countries. Unfortunately, Pakistan has done little to invest in the sciences or to promote scientific thinking…So while we celebrate Dr Mavalvala’s achievements, we must ask ourselves: had Dr Mavalvala continued to study and work in Pakistan, would she have been able to reach the position she is in today? Would she have the space or resources to carry out her breakthrough scientific work here? And would her talent have been recognised by either the government or the society she lived in? Or would we have fixated on her identity, focusing on who she is, rather than what she can achieve, thus propping up barriers to her success?.”
One year later her felicitation by Nawaz Sharif, a report in the News, titled, “Two Decades from now, Pakistan will have no Parsis,” quotes “ the community has been reduced to 1,092, living in only Karachi, Lahore and Rawalpindi.” (The News, 29 April 2019)
 Dawn’s questions are two-fold: first, whether, someone like Dr Mavalvala would have had the infrastructural opportunity and governmental support to achive greatness within Pakistan. And second, whether Pakistan would have kept her away, and got “fixated on her identity, focusing on who she is, rather than what she can achieve.” She is a Parsi, a minority community in Pakistan.
Dawn has a point. It refers to the case of Dr Abdus Salam. A brilliant theoretical physicist, he was the founding director of the Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO) in Pakistan in September 1961. Despite his academic and administrative brilliance, he had to leave Pakistan in 1974, because he was an Ahmediya. In 1974, under the leadership of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Pakistan passed a legislation in the Parliament, declaring the Ahmediyas as non-Muslims. In 1979, he went on to become the first scientist born in Pakistan to receive a Nobel Prize!


On Monday, Imran Khan made a statement: "Pakistan can never recognise Israel"
(Image Source: The News)

Palestine responds in kind to Pakistan's statement
From Palestine to Pakistan
On 19 August, in a statement made by the Palestinian embassy, said: “On behalf of Palestinian people and the Government of the State of Palestine, the Embassy of the State of Palestine, Islamabad, Pakistan, conveys sincere thanks … heartily appreciates the stance of H.E. Mr Imran Khan, Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan”. Further, the embassy noted Pakistan’s contributions to the Palestinian cause adding that “We Palestinians consider Pakistan as our second homeland, and Pakistanis as our dearest brothers, who always supported Palestine on every forum of the world. Ever since the creation of Pakistan, every government has always supported the just cause of Palestine on all the forums of the world.” (“Palestine appreciates PM’s stance on Israel,” Dawn, 20 August 2020)

From Pakistan to Palestine 
This statement comes a day after PM Imran Khan categorically rejected the possibility of establishing relations with Israel after it signed a historic deal with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to normalise bilateral ties. To this, he said, “Whatever any country does, our position is very clear. And our position was made clear by [Pakistan's founder] Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah ... in 1948: that we cannot ever accept Israel as long as Palestinians are not given their rights and there is no just settlement.” Further, he said his country will not recognise Israel until there is a Palestinian state acceptable to the Palestinians adding, “When you talk of Israel and Palestine, we need to think, will we be able to answer [God] if we abandon those people who have faced every kind of injustice and whose rights were taken away? My own conscience will never allow me to do this, I can never accept it.” (“My conscience will never accept Israel, says PM Imran Khan,” The News International, 19 August 2020) The same was voice by the Foreign Office last week who reiterated, “Pakistan’s approach will be guided by our evaluation of how Palestinians’ rights and aspirations are upheld and how regional peace, security and stability are preserved.” (Baqir Sajjad Syed, “Palestinian rights, peace dear to Pakistan: FO,” Dawn, 15 August 2020)

Pakistan’s approach to Palestine 
Pakistan has been a constant supporter for the creation of an independent Palestinian state. The two have shared a very close and political relationship with Palestine also having an embassy in Islamabad which was inaugurated on 31 January 2017. However, due to this pro-Palestinian stance, bilateral relations between Pakistan and Israel has been unstable over the last few years, with former governments and leader who have reiterated Islamabad’s longstanding position on the issue of formalising ties with Israel would only happen after Tel Aviv reaches a peace agreement with the Palestinians. However, at the same time, Pakistan has consistently supported the two-state solution for the dispute. Further, in particular, the current Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government the stance on the dispute and issue of ties with Israel has been much more flexible than that of past governments.


 (Image Source: The News)

All five FATF bills passed; but, the clashes between the government and the opposition continue in the Parliament
On 19 August, the Seated witnessed hurling accusations of corruption, money-laundering and promoting extremism thrown between the opposition and treasury soon after the smooth passage of the remaining two Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-related bills. (Amir Wasim, “Blame game returns to Senate after FATF bills’ passage”, Dawn, 20 August 2020) 

The trigger 
Chaos broke out when members belonging to the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) began protests over the Leader of House Shahzad Waseem made remarks against the religious parties, but also attacked the PPP and the PML-N and later when the treasury members raised objections over the use of certain “inappropriate remarks” made by PPP’s Quratulain Marri while responding to Mr Waseem’s speech.

Statements from the Opposition
Responding to the allegations PPP’s Quratulain Marri said those people were raising fingers on the opposition are those who called Osama Bin Laden a martyr, referring to PM Imran Khan’s statement made in the National Assembly. Further. From Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), Mushtaq Ahmed stated that by approving these “imposed and imported legislations”, the parliament had “handcuffed Pakistan and put chains on its feet.” Adding that it clearly shows that these bills are being “imposed” and being done on the pressure of FATF, International Monetary Fund and World Bank terming term it as slavery to anti-money laundering watchdog. Further, they once again criticised the PPP and PLM-N for cooperating with the government in the passage of the crucial laws.

All five bills passed by the Senate amid strong resistance
The Limited Liability Partnership (Amendment) Bill, 2020, and the Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2020 were passed after the government accepted the amendments proposed by the PPP’s Farooq Naek and Imamuddin Shouqeen. Both the bills were passed with a majority vote as the members of the JUI-F and the JI opposed them during a voice vote. However, both these bills will go back to the National Assembly for final approval as they contain amendments. Earlier this week, the Senate passed the Islamabad Capital Territory Trust Bill 2020, the Control of Narcotic Substances (Amendment) Bill 2020 and the Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Bill 2020 amid noisy protests from the senate. (Amir Wasim, “Senate passes two more FATF-related bills”, Dawn, 19 August 2020) 

In Brief
The Centre and Sindh agreed to come with six key areas of developments
On 19 August, the Federal and Sindh government have agreed on setting up a coordination committee to work on six key areas of infrastructural development in Karachi. The six areas were water, sewerage system, solid waste disposal, clearing nullahs and removing encroachments, repairing roads, and introducing a modern transportation system. Asad Umar said, “A list will be made, and the projects will be divided between the federal government and Sindh. The legal aspect and the source of financing the projects will also be worked out in the timeframe.” During the talks, it was decided that from Sindh, Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah and provincial ministers Nasir Hussain Shah and Saeed Ghani would take part in the committee and from the federal government, Minister for Planning Asad Umar, Minister for Maritime Affairs Ali Zaidi and Minister for information technology MQM-P member Syed Aminul Haq will participate. (“Centre, Sindh agree to solve Karachi’s 6 problems together,” The News International, 20 August 2020)
No government gave importance to human rights as is given by the PTI government
On 19 August, Federal Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari while sharing two-year progress said, “the Ministry has enacted six laws and drafted seven legislations, besides that it is also taking practical measure to implement the laws through monitoring, training, institutional development and sensitization process”.

Many ministries participated in the press conference organized by the Federal Minister for Information and Broad Casting Shibli Faraz. Shireen Mazari also pointed out “No government gave importance to human rights as is given by the PTI government. Protection of human rights is one of the priority agendas of Prime Minister Imran Khan,”. Many rights such as Zainab Alert, Response and Recovery Act, 2019, Legal Aid and Justice Authority Act 2020, Diyat, Arsh and Daman Fund Rules Amendment, insertion of “Child Domestic Work” in Part I of Schedule of the Employment of Children Act 1991 and The ICT Child Protection Act, 2018 and Juvenile Justice System Act 2018 has been enacted in the last two-years. (“Shireen Mazari unveils two-year performance report of MoHR,” The News International, 20 August 2020)

Balochistan: Extra-judicial killings return
An editorial in the Dawn critically states, “Extrajudicial killings, often in the form of staged encounters, are a stain on this country’s reputation, belying its claim to be a democracy with constitutionally protected rights to security of person and due process.” While addressing the recent case of Hayat Baloch who was shot by Frontier Corps has gone on to creating uproar and Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari condemned the “brazen killing” as “absolutely unacceptable” saying that an inquiry must be held. However, with knowing the state’s attitude while address such issues and given that extrajudicial killings take place with impunity the editorial states that one can hopes that justice is served. (“A tragic murder”, Dawn, 20 August 2020)

Coordination body established for Karachi
Leaders of the Pakistan Peoples Party and Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf met for the third time in one week and decided to form a collaboration committee between federal and Sindh governments and identified six areas for the improvement of Karachi. However, the PPP-led Sindh government insisted that the scope of the collaboration covered the whole province and not Karachi alone. Planning and Development Minister Asad Umar said the six-member committee would not be headed by anyone and would function on mutual understanding. The six areas of collaboration include solid waste management, clean waste management, clean drinking water projects and anti-encroachment drive, infrastructure development, road construction and transport management in the port city. The minister also said that the bottlenecks over projects like Karachi Circular Railway, K-IV water project and Greater Karachi Sewerage Project S-III would be removed through mutual consultations. This development comes in after the PPP staged protests on 19 August in Karachi and Islamabad against Imran Khan’s government’s ‘intention’ to separate Karachi from Sindh. (Aamir Yasin and Azfar-ul-Ashfaque, “Coordination body formed for Karachi betterment”, Dawn, 20 August 2020)

Nine vessels booked for wheat import to Pakistan 
On 19 August, the Ministry of National Food Security and Research said, “Nine vessels have been booked up to October 2020 for approximately 65,000 tons each,”. This import will further help the authorities to ease supplies of wheat flour and a check on domestic prices.

The imported wheat will be exempted from the Anti-Hoarding Act imposed by the provincial governments. Department of Plant Protection (DPP) has issued the import permit to 380 private importers for 1,576,000 tons of wheat in the country. As per the analysis, “Three recipients have endorsed the quantity of 1.5 tons of imported wheat -- Punjab (700,000 tons), KP (300,000 tons) and PASSCO (500,000 tons)”. (“First imported wheat cargo to reach Pakistan next week”, The News International, 20 August 2020)

Pakistan exported tons of mangoes, President Arif Alvi decided to send "gift of mangos" to head of the state
According to an analysis, this year Pakistan has achieved higher mango exports. It is reported, exports have crossed 125,000 tons of the fruit, worth $72 million, despite the COVID-19 crisis. President Arif Alvi decided to send the “gift of mangoes” to all heads of states with a view of improving diplomatic ties with these states. Under the Pakistan mission abroad, the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) conducted mango promotion-related activities in 24 cities of the world. Waheed Ahmed, patron-in-chief of Pakistan Fruit and Vegetable Exporters, Importers and Merchants Association (PFVA) said, “the current mango season was one of the most difficult seasons in the history of exports”. However, the appropriate and realistic strategies, including the switching export through sea and land routes of mangoes have proven beneficial. (“Pakistan exports 125000 tons mangoes worth $72 million”, The News International, 20 August 2020)

The increasing burden on pensions
An editorial in the Dawn talks about the increasing pension problem. It has stated that Imran Khan’s remarks on the pension bill being a far more serious problem than the huge power-sector debt seems exaggerated as the government can continue the pension payments but warns that the increasing pension expenditure will become Pakistan’s biggest budgetary challenge unless tackled quickly. Data shows that the annual federal pension payments of Rs 470 billion mostly consisting of military pensions and excluded retirement benefits paid by SOEs to employees, have grown. At the provincial levels, the pension budget has spiked. The editorial points out the reasons for the increase in pension payments like the growing size of the public sector, increase in life expectancy, hikes in pension benefits and so on. To tackle the problem, the editorial suggests that different countries have adopted different models to avoid the dangers associated with the pay-as-you-go-based pension system in recent years and have been successful. It states that any model adopted should come with a long-term focus to ensure post-retirement income security for government employees while reducing the burden of pension payments on the budget. (“Pension burden,” Dawn, 20 August 2020)
2.3 million Pakistanis could lose jobs this year due to pandemic
A report titled “Tackling the Covid-19 Youth Employment Crisis in Asia and the Pacific” released on 18 August by the Asian Development Bank and the International Labour Organisation warns that Pakistan is on the risk of 2.3 million youths losing jobs this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. The unemployment rates in the country are expected to reach double even in a scenario of short Covid-19 containment. Pakistan’s comparison made with different countries shows that Indonesia may register lower job losses (around 1.9 million) despite a larger workforce as Pakistan has a higher concentration of youth in badly hit sectors and lower labour productivity. (“2.3mln Pakistani youth may be jobless this year due to pandemic,” The News International, 20 August 2020) 

Analysts state that women still face pervasive sexism in the country
According to the analysis, the murder of journalist Arooj Iqbal, in November 2019 is a sign of growing anarchy in the country. It highlights the government’s apathy towards women journalists which has aggravates the plight of all the women across the country. (“Women journalists & Aug 14”, Dawn, 20 August 2020)

In another analysis, Durdana Najam highlighted two main issues women face, first, the society does not support working women. second, the workplace does not provide basic infrastructure to facilitate child-rearing. Pakistan had passed two legislations, first enacted in 2010 as “The Protection Against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act-2010” and second, “The Punjab Shops and Establishment (Amendment) Act 2013”. Both the legislative value of laws and manifestation was seen negligible on-ground reality. As the women continue to bear pervasive sexism, vulnerable, inferior, and dependable on men of society. (“The workplace still isn’t equal for women”, The Express Tribune, 20 August 2020)

"No government gave importance to human rights as is given by the PTI government. Protection of human rights is the one of the priority agendas of Prime Minister Imran Khan"

-  Shireen Mazari, Minister for Human Rights


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