Covid resurgence – 29 Jun 2022

PAKISTAN is facing yet another wave of Covid-19 infections, with health experts predicting a surge in hospitalisations by next week. Sadly, pandemic fatigue is writ large everywhere with no one bothered about wearing masks at restaurants, shopping centres, wedding halls, offices, etc. People are going about their daily lives without following safety precautions, endangering themselves and others. During the past few days, hundreds of cases have been recorded all over the country, and infections are steadily rising. The highest number of cases are being reported from Karachi where the positivity rate touched 22pc. Other cities too have reported relatively high rates of Covid infections -Mardan has a positivity rate of 9pc, Hyderabad 8.5pc, Islamabad 3.45pc and Peshawar 3pc. The fresh wave of infections is being attributed to a super contagious Omicron subvariant, the BA2.12.1, which was first detected in the country in the second week of May. But lethargy has prevailed in the weeks since its detection. According to officials, the number of reported cases and positivity rates of different cities have more than doubled since the previous week, indicating the fast transmission of the virus.

Some health officials attribute this rapid transmission to the hot and humid weather prevailing in many areas of the country. Though the NCOC, now part of the National Institute of Health, has instructed people to wear masks while travelling by public transport and on domestic flights and trains, other parallel measures by the federal and provincial governments remain conspicuous by their absence.

It is against this background that a meeting of the NCOC was held on Tuesday where the authorities decided to ramp up testing, ensure contact tracing and undertake aggressive campaigning to promote mask-wearing. It was reported that the Sindh government might soon announce a strategy for curbing the alarming rise in infections.

The authorities should implement strict prevention measures at the earliest, because even a moderate rise in hospitalisations in the current economic climate might prove too much for the country`s fragile health infrastructure.

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Supreme patriarchy – 29 Jun 2022

THE dissenting opinion by three judges in last week`s landmark US Supreme Court decision on abortion spelt it out rather succinctly: `After today, young women will come of age with fewer rights than their mothers and grandmothers had.

This is neither the first time the court has stripped US citizens of their rights, nor will it be the last. Justice Clarence Thomas whose wife, coincidentally or otherwise, has been implicated in the conspiracy to overturn the popular verdict in the 2020 presidential election made it f airly explicit in his concurring judgement that related rights such as contraception and same-sex marriage could now also be rescinded.

That sense of mission wasn`t echoed in the majority opinion but then, the three Trump appointees on the bench also dissembled during their confirmation hearings when asked about Roe vs Wade, the 1973 judgement that established the right to terminate unwanted or risky pregnancies.

Notwithstanding the outrage it has sparked, last week`s verdict did not come as a shock, given that it conforms pretty closely with the draft opinion by Justice Samuel Alito leaked last month. But perhaps the entire trend should hardly be a surprise.

After all, at international `women`s health` conferences over the decades, the US has fairly consistently voted alongside some of the worst transgressors against the equality of the sexes,including Saudi Arabia and Iran. Furthermore, under some administrations it has withdrawn aid from organisations facilitating contraception in parts of the world where the rate of population growth poses a serious problem.

And besides, the Equal Rights Amendment passed by the US Senate 50 years ago wasn`t approved by enough states before the deadline for its ratification passed.

It remains in limbo, much like the United States itself. A majority of Americans of every significant faith agree that abortion on demand should be available in all or almost all circumstances. Evangelicals are the only segment of society where it`s the other way around. The American Taliban, as they are sometimes described, believe in a God-given right to prescribe what women can do with their bodies.

There is a monumental irony in the fact that women`s rights were paraded as one of the excuses for invading Afghanistan. One would like to know where were the `pro-life` activists when children were being killed by American artillery in Afghanistan, Iraq or Yemen or, for that matter, being bayonetted in Vietnam half a century ago by `our boys`? At a Trump rally in Illinois on the week-end, congresswomanMary Miller applauded the supreme court verdict as a `historic victory for white life`. Her campaign claimed she meant to say `right to life`. But it wasn`t necessarily a Freudian slip. Just last year she declared, `Hitler was right on one thing.

He said, `Whoever has the youth has the future`.` Yes, many people remember the Hitler Youth. Donald Trump himself, appropriately taking credit for the supreme court verdict after all, he appointed the three judges who made it a slam dunk hailed Miller at the rally as a `warrior for our movement and our values`.

A lot more of her ilk could end up in the House of Representatives in November.

There is no clear evidence so far that the national pro-abortion majority can pre-empt a Republican majority in the House, or prevent the Democrats from losing their fairly pointless parity in the Senate.

That, in turn, suggests Senator Elizabeth Warren and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are pretty much whistling in the wind when they bring up the worthyideas of enhancing the supreme court bench or impeaching the unworthy errant justices.

It may not be impossible to halt America`s regressive trajectory towards the kind of misogynist dystopia envis-aged in Canadian novelist Margaret Atwood`s The Handmaid`s Tale, but there is little evidence so far of the kind of popular mobilisation and the federal and state legal and legislative efforts that would be required to stave off the extremist on slaught.

More alarmingly accurate, perhaps, is the scenario sketched out by former PEN America president Francine Prose, who worries about how great the shock would be `to wake up one morning and find that while we were driving the kids to soccer practice and enjoying that welcoming after-work cocktail, more and more of our rights had been stripped away … The overturning of Roe v Wade should shock us … into looking beyond the dance floor of the Titanic and spotting that iceberg, looming in our path, not so very far away.

The analogy isn`t all that far-fetched.

President Joe Biden seems keen to `save Ukraine` by gifting it the firepower to prolong the war, but on the home front he is frequently missing in action as the retrograde Putinesque elements gather force, presaging unpleasant consequences on a global scale. m

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Accountability amendments – 29 Jun 2022

Amendments in the National Accountability Ordinance, (NAO) 1999 (XVIII of 1999) through the National Accountability (Second Amendment) Act, 2022 are in conformity with constitutional commands and various verdicts of the apex court on the protection of life and liberty, safeguards as to arrest and detention, right to fair trial and due process.

Article 8 of the constitution unequivocally stresses upon the fact that laws inconsistent with or in derogation of fundamental rights are void. The National Accountability Ordinance, (NAO) was a classic example of denial of the fundamental rights enshrined in the constitution and was used for political engineering and victimization for decades. The frequent and blatant abuse of the NAO against political rivals during the last four years sufficiently establishes that the NAO was nothing other than a draconian tool for persecution.

Upholding constitutional guarantees to citizens has always been stressed upon in light of the dictums laid down by the superior courts. The NAO was a void law in light of Article 8 of the constitution as the constitution stays at the top of the pyramid of the legal hierarchy and all other laws are subservient to the constitution; if any piece of legislation is repugnant to the constitution it is void ab initio. The law of the land prohibits forcing someone to give witness against himself but under the repealed NAO, this principle was completely shifted in another direction to force the accused to prove his/her innocence. On this sole score, the repealed NAO was not sustainable. Besides, it unprecedentedly provided for a 90-day physical remand with no legal provision for bail even after such a long and ruthless period of physical remand. This was against the settled judicial precedents, so the apex judiciary used to exercise its constitutional jurisdiction to entertain bail petitions.

The critics of amendments in the NAO have badly failed to appreciate Article 10 (4) of constitution, which categorically prohibits prevention detention except persons acting in a manner prejudicial to the integrity, security or defence of Pakistan etc. The promulgation of the amendment law will protect these constitutional rights as well as defend the inviolability of the dignity of man, privacy of home and protection against torture for extracting evidence.

Regrettably, upon instigation of the PTI government, NAB authorities badly misused their powers and gravely ruined the dignity of the citizens of Pakistan, violating basic human rights. Not only politicians but also government functionaries, civil bureaucracy and business community stopped working due to a fear of maltreatment by NAB. The apex court of the country noticed the atrocity of NAB authorities under the grab of the repealed NAO. Once former CJ Asif Saeed Khan Khosa while taking the accountability watchdog to task asked: “What does NAB do after all? Is NAB’s only purpose to make cases? Its only purpose is not to make cases; the only purpose is not to ‘pakar dhakkar’.”

Shifting of the burden of proof on NAB authorities is in line with the direction of Justice Khosa: “registering a case is not the only objective; NAB’s purpose is also to prove a case and have a suspect punished…NAB should also attach evidence for those who it has made cases against.” The CJ also pointed out that NAB law does not mean that it can be used “whatever the way you like”. He remarked that, “we used to hear that in the past, NAB law was misused to change political affiliations. But now, the civil laws are being treated under the criminal laws, and civil cases are also being heard under the NAB law, and it (NAB law) should not be misused.”

The amendment act rectifies the flaws pointed out in various dictums of the SC, as in another case a three-member bench of Supreme Court held that “the onus of providing tangible material and evidence against the accused was on NAB.” The view taken by the court affirmed that its utmost priority is to protect the civil liberties and fundamental freedoms of the individual which has been done through this amendment law. On a number of occasions, the Supreme Court found NAB authorities violating the well-celebrated constitutional principles of rights to fair trial and due process. The amendments to the law will protect the individual’s rights, improving the social and international fabric of Pakistan. In this context, the Supreme Court’s bail order in Khawaja Saad Rafiq and Khawaja Salman Rafiq’s case – who were detained for 15 months without reasonable grounds – held that the accountability bureau had “violated the rights to fair trial and due process.”

The NAB law being in conflict with the constitutional provisions, coupled with its performance, demanded it be either repealed or revised. NAB could not hide from constitutional courts itd abuse of power in order to hamper the freedom of innocent people without any legal justification and evidence. That is why the country’s top judges have repeatedly lashed out at the performance of NAB, observing that it was “no longer fulfilling its purpose and being used for exploitation.” While heading the three-member bench of the Supreme Court, then CJ Gulzar Ahmad observed that “NAB has become a hurdle to the very role it was supposed to play for the betterment of the country. The purpose for which it was formed is now lost.”

On all these illegalities and violation of the constitution, parliament could not just choose to shut its eyes. A vigilant and prudent parliament is always expected to respond to address such issues promptly. Due to all these anomalies, NAB has lost its credibility, respect and justification of existence in the eyes of all the pillars of the state. People – including government functionaries and the business community – no longer trust in NAB to get fair treatment. Therefore, this enactment is a fair and legitimate response by parliament to protect the fundamental rights of the citizens as guaranteed by the constitution of Pakistan. It embeds all the possible provisions to address the maladministration and abuse of powers highlighted by the apex court of the country.

The writer is the federal minister for human rights.

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Sofia Mirza demands custody of daughters – 29 Jun 2022

LAHORE: Actress and model Sofia Mirza alleges she is receiving life threats from her former husband Umer Farooq Zahoor and his family for demanding the recovery of her two daughters from their custody.

She told a press conference at Lahore Press Club on Tuesday her former husband had taken away her daughters several years ago, changed the maternal relationship of her daughter, showed them the daughter of Sadaf Naz and transported them to Dubai.

She said that she presented her evidence in the Lahore High Court and the court ordered a case against Mr Zahoor who challenged it in the Supreme Court but the court ordered the FIA and interior ministry to send a team to bring the girls to Pakistan on March 29.

She said the court order had not been implemented yet and she was running pillar to get the custody of her daughters.

She said she wanted to know why the Supreme Court order was not yet implemented.

She said Mr Zahoor was in Dubai and no one was taking action against them. She demanded Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif take measures and bring her daughters back.

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Dua`s father files plea for new 10 – 29 Jun 2022

KARACHl: The father of Dua Zehra on Tuesday moved a district and sessions court seeking replacement of the investigating officer of the case.

Syed Mehdi Ali Kazmi, through his lawyer, filed an application expressing reservations over the present 10 and argued that apparently he was investigating the matter in an alleged biased manner.

The counsel argued that the applicant and his family members had no faith in the 10 and pleaded to remove him from the investigation and appoint an honest and competent 10.

Meanwhile, a 10-member special medical board headed by principal of Dow Medical College Prof Dr Saba Sohail to ascertain the age of Dua Zehra has been notified.

The board is scheduled to hold its first meeting on Wednesday (today).

Another case referred to trial court The Sindh High Court has referred a matter about an alleged free-will marriage of a couple to the trial court after the father of the girl submitted that she was underage girl.

Ume-e-Hani along with her husband filed a petition in SHC stating that she was a resident of Hyderabad and contracted free-will marriage with Aftab Ali, but her parents had lodged a case against her husband.

However, her father submitted that she was underage and hence her marriage was not permissible under the Sindh Child Marriages Restrain Act 2013.

The 10 had recorded the statement in which the girl denied of being kidnapped.

While disposing of the petition, the court directed the 10 to file his investigation report before the trial court which must pass an appropriate order in accordance with law.

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Social media gang professing black magic smashed – 29 Jun 2022

MUZAFFARGARH: A couple of weeks ago, several YouTube channels offering black magic to win over the power of witchcraft were doing a roaring business in terms of subscriptions, views, reviews and paid subscriptions for the complete course of the magic world.

One such channel attracted more than 200,000 subscribers by offering simple tricks to learn about the power to see the deposits of gold.

The Federal InvestigationAgency`s (FIA`s) crime wing of Multan has managed to block over a dozen of such channels and arrested the group running them.

The gang, based in Jatoi area of Muzaffargarh, claimed to be expert in practicing black magic with owl blood and meat.

FIA Assistant Director Adnan Khan said he deployed ASI Rai Muhammad Tanveer to trace the whereabouts of the gang af ter coming to know about the roaring business of the black magic world. The FIA learned the gang operated from their studios at Mehrab Hotel in Jatoi. Those running the channels include Mehr Ghulam Mustafa, Muhammad Shahbaz, Jahangir Akhtar,Amir Raza,Irfan Shah and Muhammad Shah.

The FIA said the suspectsextorted millions from the people by of fering them complete courses of black magic on YouTube channels and other social media platforms. Interested people were told to pay a certain amount of money for access to `premium videos` and for buying `wands` `owl blood` and `owl meat` to perform witchcraft. The gang also offered their services to solve people`s problems through these spiritual channels.

Their usual clients included people desirous of having children and those facing problems in their lovemarriage pursuits.

The suspects also blackmailedseveral of their wo m e n client sby making their videos and pictures and minted money from time to time.

Locals also noticed their activities when suspects started living a luxurious life and started buying agricultural land, plots and expensive vehicles.

The FIA registered a case against the suspects under sections 419, 420, 468, and 471 of the Pakistan Penal Code, sections 3, 4 of the Anti-Money Laundering Act and 4, 17 and 21 of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016.

According to the FIA report, the gang used techniques to receive cash from the clients.

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Two commit suicide in Haripur – 29 Jun 2022

HARIPUR: Two more persons, including a married woman, committed suicide here on Tuesday, taking the tally to four in as many days, police said.

Khanpur police quoted Shabir Ahmed of Pind Gakhra village as saying that his wife, 25, was home when he left for the job in the morning. However, in the afternoon when he got home he found her hanging from the ceiling fan of a room.

He said his wife ended her life over unknown reasons.

The second suicide was reported from Karwala Town area of the city, where Ali Mohammad, 19, shot himself dead with a pistol.

The reason behind the selfkilling was not known, police quoted family sources as saying.

It may be added that two young men had committed suicide on June 25 and 26.

LAID TO REST: The mother-in-law of Chief Justice Islamabad High Court Justice Athar Minallah was laid to rest in her ancestral graveyard in Sirikot village of Ghazi tehsil on Tuesday evening.

Family sources said she was living with her son, Syed Asif Shah, a former federal secretary in Islamabad, where she passed away during early hours on Monday. Her body was transported to her native village, where her funeral prayers were of fered. Correspondent

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Woman held for killing husband in Kohat – 29 Jun 2022

KOHAT: The Lachi police on Tuesday solved a blind murder case by arresting the wife, son, daughter and a brother-in-law of the victim and recovering a hatchet used in the crime.

DSP Lachi Nazir Hussain told mediapersons that on June 19 a woman had filed a report about the missing of her husband, Riaz Ali.

He said a team constituted by the district police of ficer recovered the body stuffed in a gunny bag from a well. He said the body had serious wounds caused by multiple strikes of a hatchet.

He said as the family gave conflicting statements, the police arrested wife of the deceased, who admitted that she along with her children and a brother had killed her husband over some domestic dispute.

FIRE: A sudden increase in voltage caused a huge fire at houses in the Paracha town located adjacent to the Rawalpindi Road grid station on Monday night, damaging wiring, UPS systems, stabilisers, f ans and bulbs.

The Rescue 1122 teams had to be called to put out the blaze with much dif ficulty.

FOOTBALL ACADEMY: A football academy was launched at the divisional sports complex on Tuesday.

Regional sports of ficer Sikandar Shah launched the academy during a function.

On the occasion, Mr Shah said the academy`s purpose was to bring out hidden talent and promote it to provincial and national levels.

INJURED: Ten persons were injured when a mud restaurant collapsed near the Lachi toll plaza the other day.

A Rescue 1122 official said rescuers pulled out10 persons alive from under the rubble of the restaurant, and shifted them to a local hospital.

Meanwhile, an Afghan boy died and his father and five others sustained injuries when a motorcycle and a pick-up van collided on the Peshawar Bypass near the Bona Baba Springs on Monday.

The victim was identified as Haroon, 11.

BOYCOTT: The divisional government contractors` association has announced to boycott new tenders and halt work on ongoing projects f rom July 1 over non-revision of rates and lack of funds.

The association`s members made the announcement while speaking at a meeting the other day. Correspondent

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Kidnapped girl recovered – 29 Jun 2022

PESHAWAR: A three-year-old girl, who was kidnapped last month, was recovered during an action on Tuesday. An official said one Afzal had lodged a case about the abduction of his three-year-old daughter last month. The official said the Rahman Baba Police Station staff recovered the girl and arrested the alleged kidnapper Ghufran.

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