Modern-day slavery – 14 Jul 2022

EMPLOYING children as domestic help is a common practice throughout the country, and it is only when acts of barbaric violence against minors are reported that society takes notice of their miserable plight. However, the public outrage is for a limited period only, and soon enough, these forsaken children are forgotten, and left to fend for themselves against brutish employers. The latest incident involving violence against child domestic workers has been reported from Lahore, where Kamran, a 10-year-old boy, was allegedly tortured to death by his employers, while his six-year-old brother Rizwan managed to survive a savage beating. According to media reports, the boys were tortured for taking food from the fridge without permission. This `transgression` reportedly resulted in hours-long beatings, while police say they found deep bruises caused by sharp-edged weapons on the body of the murdered boy.

This may be a case of extreme violence, but the sad fact is that many children across Pakistan have to put up with beatings and abuse of a similar nature on a daily basis. In fact, it would not be wrong to say that many employers treat their domestic staff, particularly minors, as modern-day slaves. Hence, it is not an employer-employee relationship, but that of a master and slave. Poor parents are of ten forced by circumstances to send their children off to work in the homes of the rich for a few thousand rupees, and a few scraps of food for the youngsters. Despite various laws addressing child labour and child domestic work, implementation is practically non-existent. The fact is that those who murder and torture children must be punished under the fullest extent of the law. Moreover, there needs to be stricter enforcement of child labour laws, and only adults should be engaged by employers as domestic help. Provincial child welfare bureaus need to be more vigilant of these exploitative practices, while the state, civil society, community leaders and ulema must work together to create consensus in society against the menace of child domestic labour.

Read more

Pakistan and the rising global population – 14 Jul 2022

Just as we were getting used to the fact that there are seven billion people in the world, the latest World Population Prospects report asks for a minor addition. In November of this year, there will be a resounding eight billion people in the world!

If things keep progressing the way they are, by the middle of the century we will be 9.7 and by the end of this century, we will be over 10 billion strong. The more punctilious reader will have discerned that the global population is growing, albeit at a decreasing rate.

So how does the population grow? Higher life expectancy at birth and higher fertility rate combined together lead to a growing population. We are living longer than we have ever before. The global average life expectancy is close to 73 years; it is 67 years in Pakistan. Other established patterns hold true as well – women continue to live longer than men. Fertility rate refers to the average number of children birthed by a woman. The global average fertility rate is a little over two children per woman; it is closer to three and a half children per woman in Pakistan. Population only really drops when fertility rates decline.

Should we be able to reduce the global population if countries like Pakistan and Ethiopia would have a fertility rate that matches the global average? Not really. Even if that were to happen, countries like Pakistan, which have a youth bulge, will continue to experience population growth. That is another way of saying population increases due to an excess of births over deaths. But there is another way of calibrating population – immigration. According to the WPP report, Pakistan was the leading country from where 16.5 million people emigrated in search of work. For those of us who take pride in robust worker remittances, please note that more Pakistanis than any other nationality have left their country in search of decent work. Fewer people have left conflict-ridden Syria, Venezuela and Myanmar, combined.

In the business-as-usual scenario, eight countries alone will account for half the increase in population between now and 2050. Pakistan is one of those. By 2050, Pakistan will still be the fifth largest country by size with around 366 million people. Imagine a day, less than 30 years from now, when there are 132 million more of us – in a country which is one of the most rapidly urbanizing globally. This means less food to go around, less potable water, higher demands on our social systems. It also means Pakistan will have more voters in 30 years than it ever has. Interesting times as the country will ring in its centennial.

Luckily for Pakistan, it is in a good stage right now – the stage of a demographic dividend where you have more people of working age, between 25 and 64 years, than you have children and the elderly. So what can we do to avoid the doomsday scenario of too many in Pakistan fighting over a declining pie?

There has to be a shift towards enhancing human capital. This seems impossible today when the country teeters dangerously close to an international default and the political uncertainty has reached dizzying heights. But bear with me. A little introspection tells us that the only asset that Pakistan can really and actually count on is its people. Not a power plant, foreign ally nor a road network. Seventy-five years have gone by and Pakistan is short of a half, is a nuclear power, yet over 20 per cent of the population lives in poverty. The contradictions cannot continue to exist without threatening the fabric that holds the country together. Pakistan has imported policies for decades now. It might serve the purpose to pivot and focus on Pakistanis for a change. So how do we do it?

Improve the quality of education before increasing access. You will see an increase in the latter when the former improves. Quality of education is improved if it is entrusted to people whose job it is to understand the science of education and not by labeling a failed reform riding on a wave of political compromise as the change we have all been waiting for. Quality education does not automatically translate into distance from religion. Equally, religious education alone does not mean quality education. Couple the supply side solution with improving the social attitude towards education. Link up with industry, entrepreneurs and people who study the future of work to determine what quality education actually entails.

Second, improve access and quality of healthcare. This will help reduce the adolescent birth rate as well which is very high in Pakistan. Provinces need to seriously reconsider how health is financed. Moreover, public health insurance needs to continue and be scaled up. Health is not a privilege, it is a right and should be treated as such. The number of practising physicians in Pakistan is abysmal. If you need a statistic more frightening than this one, look up the number of dentists in Pakistan.

Third, and this cannot be stressed enough, norms and attitudes towards women in Pakistan need a major revision. Women are more than mothers or mothers-to-be. Women have the same capabilities to contribute meaningfully to families, work and society. Treating them as less than is not just to the country’s detriment, it is just really bad economics. Women are almost half the population of Pakistan yet their participation in the labour force is insignificant. They continue supplying ample labour in low-paying dead end jobs.

Systematically, women in Pakistan have very little agency whether we look at their role in decision making in families, control over their bodies or owning assets. Approving a law here and there is no longer enough. The government can take the lead – at the federal and provincial levels – by having an equal number of men and women in cabinets. That ought to send a signal. A good one, irrespective of which political party is in power.

So while the population continues to grow globally and in Pakistan, there is still time to prepare. In a couple of decades, there will be a lot more of us. This does not mean they and we have to live poorer and more deprived lives. If we get our priorities right, we can be on the right side of history – for a change.

The writer is a faculty member at Beaconhouse National University, Lahore. She tweets @izzaaftab

Read more

Global Gender Gap report released: Pakistan is second-worst country in terms of gender parity – 14 Jul 2022

KARACHI: Pakistan, with a population of 107 million women, is the second-worst country in terms of gender parity. This key finding was shared by the World Economic Forum in its Global Gender Gap Report, released on Wednesday. The report ranks Pakistan 145 out of 146 countries.

According to the report, Pakistan has closed its gender gap by 56.4 per cent (a score of 0.564) — an increase of 0.8 percentage points. This is the highest overall level of parity the country has recorded since the report was launched in 2006. The report looks at countries’ performance in closing gender-based gaps in four critical areas: Health and Survival; Education Attainment; Economic Participation and Opportunity; and Political Empowerment.

In Education Attainment, with a score of 0.825, Pakistan stands at the 135th position. In Health and Survival, it has performed better than China (0.940) and India (0.937) and scored 0.944 — standing at the 143rd position. In Economic Participation, it has scored 0.331 and taken 145th position, a notch above Afghanistan (0.176). But the country has shown an impressive performance in Political Empowerment; with a score of 0.156, in the 95th position.

The report reveals that Iceland is the world’s mostgender-equal country after having closed its gender gap by 90 per cent. Pakistan is only behind Afghanistan, which has closed 43.5 per cent of its gender gap. Besides the two neighbours, the other countries in the list of the five worst countries in terms of gender parity are Congo, Iran and Chad. Overall, Nordic countries have been doing fairly well when it comes to closing the gender gap. Finland, Norway and Sweden enjoy second, third and fifth spots respectively. New Zealand is the only non-European country to make it to the top five. Rwanda (6th) and Namibia (8th) are the only two countries from the Sub-Saharan Africa region to be included in the top 10.

South Asia is the lowest-ranking region and has closed 62.3 per cent of the gender gap. It has the lowest regional gender parity scores in Health and Survival and Economic Participation at 94.2 per cent and 35.7 per cent respectively, and the second lowest in Education Attainment at 93.2 per cent. It has the fourth highest gender parity score in Political Empowerment at 26.2 per cent.

The best-performing country in the region is Bangladesh with a global rank of 71, slipping six places from last year’s rank of 65. Its scores in critical areas stood at 0.962 in Health and Survival; 0.923 in Education Attainment; 0.427 in Economic Participation and Opportunity; and 0.546 in Political Empowerment.

India has the lowest ranking in Health and Survival at 0.937. Its score in Economic Participation is just two points above Pakistan at 0.350. Its performance in Education and Political Empowerment is better than Pakistan — 0.961 and 0.267, respectively. Sri Lanka has scored 0.980, 0.556, 0.988 and 0.157 respectively in the four sub-indexes.

The report shows that globally, the gender gap has been closed by a little over 68 per cent. It predicts that the world will take around 132 years to reach gender parity – four-year improvement from the 2021 estimates of 136 years. These projections have been revised owing to the disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. All estimates up to the year 2020 — or before the pandemic hit — had indicated that around a hundred years were required to close the gender gap in the world. At an individual level, South Asia will need more than 197 years to reach gender parity – likely to achieve in the year 2219.

For this report, new metrics were developed with LinkedIn to better understand how health and economic shocks hit women in the workforce. Speaking to the Virtual Media Briefing on the Global Gender Report 2022, Head of Global Public Policy and Economic Graph Team LinkedIn Sue Duke said that “even in good times, work has not been working for women as well as it has been for men.” According to Duke, the data based on LinkedIn insights shows that the annual share of women in leadership goals has increased to 37 per cent in 2022 – from 33 per cent five years ago. Globally, women make just 31 per cent of leadership roles.

The report has also revealed that there is no industry or country in the world that has achieved gender parity in leadership. Its key findings further highlight that the vast difference between the career trajectory of men and women is due to two factors: transitioning to their first managerial role and internal promotion. The report also highlights how Covid-induced employment losses have hit women hardest. South Asia has been constantly performing dismally in gender parity for the labour-force participation rate.

Surveys carried out in the US, the UK and Germany have concluded that women also have to carry the burden of childcare and home-schooling — especially during pandemic times. Stress levels in women are 4 per cent higher than in men, affecting women’s well-being and adding more health burden on them.

Another roadblock that women face relates to wealth accumulation. Unequal access to wealth-building resources contributes to the widening wealth divide. Women are at a disadvantageous position in terms of wealth accumulation. The gender wealth gap has been calculated to be 11 per cent. The gap keeps widening; for technical and professional roles, it reached 31 per cent. It further expands to 38 per cent for senior expert and leadership roles.

And while gender gaps in leadership roles are getting wider – women make half of entry-level roles, about a third of managerial roles, and only a quarter of senior leadership positions — the share of women establishing businesses is much higher than men. In the last five years, this share has doubled. Part of this increase is also attributed to ‘necessity founders’ – women establishing businesses because of job scarcity. And while the number of women-owned unicorns has increased five-fold from 18 in 2020 to 83 in 2021, dollar investment in women-owned businesses is still significantly less than those led by men.

In 2019, women businesses received a 3 per cent share of the total dollar investment. In 2020, the number fell down to 2 per cent and remained stagnant in 2021.

Pakistan’s performance in terms of Economic Participation and Opportunity has been satisfactory – with a score of 0.331 – a 4.5 per cent increase from its last year’s score of 0.316. Wage equality got the highest score of 0.62, and women’s earnings also witnessed a 4 per cent increase in 2022. But this comes in the backdrop of a reduction of 1.9 percentage points in women’s labour-force participation in 2022.

The worst-performing area throughout the world remains Political Empowerment. The report suggests that at the current pace, it will take around 155 years to bridge the gender gap in the Political Empowerment area. There has been no improvement in the results as compared to last year’s.

However, the global average share of women in ministerial roles has increased to 16.1 per cent in 2022 from 9.9 per cent in 2006. The global share of women in parliament has also increased to 22.9 per cent from 14.9 per cent.

Read more

Covid-19 resurgence – 14 Jul 2022

With monsoon rains impeding people’s ability to get tested and vaccinated, everyone should be extra cautious

Whilst people have been focused on the devastating monsoon rains, the Covid-19 positivity rate is rapidly surging across the country. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), Karachi recorded the highest positivity ratio of almost 39% followed by Islamabad where the rate is more than 7%. Lahore, Peshawar, and Hyderabad have also reported an infection rate of over 2%. Even though high positivity ratios may not necessarily indicate another outbreak, there is an increased risk of a sixth wave amid a global resurgence.

Many countries including Pakistan rolled back on SOPs after cases declined. Now with a reduction in surveillance including testing and sequencing, it is particularly challenging to determine the impact of the sub-variants that are driving up hospitalisations and death rates. Thus, the WHO urged countries to continue implementing necessary measures to reduce transmission and improve immunity amongst the people. If countries fail to curb transmission, new and stronger variants can emerge with different degrees of virulence, transmissibility, and immune escape potential. Local health authorities have expressed fear of a rapid increase in cases during Eid-ul-Azha and the upcoming month of Muharram. With the country-wide monsoon rains impeding people’s ability to get tested and vaccinated, everyone should be extra cautious during this time and must self-isolate if they experience any symptoms.

Earlier, the NCOC also advised all provinces and regions to prioritise administering booster shots. Therefore, people who have received full vaccination should get a booster shot and those who have already gotten one booster dose should get a second booster shot. Both the authorities and the public must take timely steps to control the virus and reduce hospitalisations and death rates. Otherwise, a sixth wave will become inevitable, which would crumple our frail healthcare system and have a disastrous impact on the economy. We must avoid such a catastrophe because most people will not be able to survive another lockdown.

Read more

Thar suicides – 14 Jul 2022

Uniquely local factor is the demographic breakup of the region, which has the highest Hindu population in the country

Tharparkar may have the highest suicide rate in Pakistan, according to a recent report in a foreign news outlet. This is not entirely surprising, as the district is one of the poorest in the country and has been suffering from food shortages, drought and other adverse weather impacts for several years, while development efforts in the coal-rich region have failed to create high-paying jobs for locals. There is also the national-level problem of a mental health crisis which, for cultural and resource reasons, is not properly addressed in many population groups, and in places like Tharparkar, is almost impossible to address due to lack of facilities and medical professionals.

A uniquely local factor is the demographic breakup of the region, which has the highest Hindu population in the country. A disproportionate number of the suicides were among Hindu residents, who make up about 43% of the district’s population but accounted for 63% of suicides in 2020. Although not part of the formal data, there is circumstantial evidence to suggest that most of the victims were lower-caste Hindus, who have fewer education, employment and even relationship opportunities. Among all victims, 70% were under 30 and about half were teenagers. These worrying numbers have been attributed in part to social upheaval as the modern age sets in, and “suicide contagion”, where new technology allows people with suicidal tendencies to learn more about incidents of suicide due to the internet and news reports.

The report also admits that underreporting may well be an issue because of the religious and cultural taboos around suicide. But it also points to possible overreporting, as domestic violence incidents and other criminal acts may be covered up as suicides. This is also a situation that could be avoided if only the right services were available for abuse victims, and through better policing in general. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that even one of these areas will receive the attention needed, and we will continue to lose people who could have been saved.

Read more

157 women kidnapped, 91 raped in June: report – 14 Jul 2022

ISLAMABAD: At least 157 women were kidnapped, 112 were subjected to physical assault and 91 were raped across Pakistan in June, says a report compiled by the Sustainable Social Development Organisation (SSDO) and the Centre for Research, Development and Communication (CRDC).

Highlighting a growing trend of violence against Pakistani women by citing data from mainstream media, the report also underscored a significant increase in cases of domestic violence against women. At least 100 cases of domestic violence were reported last month, it said.

Similarly, about 180 children 93 cases of child abuse, 64 cases of kidnapping and 37 cases of physical assault across the country were subjected to sexual and physical violence in June.

Punjab reported the highest number of kidnapping incidents as out of 157 cases, at least 108 occurred in the province in June.

Sindh reported 22 cases, followed by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with six cases while four abductions were reported across Balochistan. Islamabad saw 17 abductions in the same month.

Punjab also topped in cases of physical violence against women. Out of 112 cases, 66 took place in Punjab, 27 in Sindh, 11 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and eight in Islamabad.

No incident was reported in Balochistan. Out of 100 cases of domestic violence, at least 68 were reported in Punjab, 17 in Sindh, 13 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and two cases were reported in Islamabad. Balochistan again did not report any case.

At least 91 rape cases were reported in the media in June. Once again, Punjab witnessed the highest number of cases, having reported 53 incidents. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa followed next with 16 cases, Sindh, 14 and Islamabad, six cases.

Balochistan reported two rapes in the same period.

Seven cases each of honour killing and workplace harassment were also reported in June.

Violence against children As many as 93 cases of child abuse were reported across the country in June.

Punjab saw 36 incidents of abuse, followed by 28 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and 18 in Sindh. The lowest frequencies were reported in Islamabad (6) and Balochistan (5).

At least 64 children were kidnapped and 37 were physically assaulted across Pakistan in the same month. In the previous month (May), there were no cases pertaining to child labour and child marriage but in June, five and seven cases were reported, respectively.

SSDO Executive Director Syed Kausar Abbas said: `The aim of regularly publishing this data is to bring attention to the rapid increase in violence against women and children.

According to the official, the cases increased in June as compared to the previous month. `We hope that with increased media attention and reporting, the government, police and judiciary dedicate their attention to the speedy processing of cases, their resolution and punishment.

-Staff Reporter

Read more

Woman gets pre-arrest bail in `adultery` case – 14 Jul 2022

PESHAWAR: A local court on Wednesday granted pre-arrest bail to a woman named in an `adultery` case.

While ordering the production of two surety bonds of Rs80,000 each by the 19-year-old, the additional district and sessions judge directed the police not to arrest her.

The woman`s husband, who is the prime accused in the case, is behind bars and faces the charge of kidnapping her as well.

Initially, her mother had alleged that the main accused, his brother and parents had kidnapped her daughter in Peshawar`s Saddar area on Oct 13, 2020, to force her into marriage.

She had told police that she had left home to take her little children to school but found her daughter (petitioner) missing on return.

The police later booked the complainant`s daughter on `adultery` charge for marrying the Christian prime accused. However, the accused claimed that he had converted to Islam ahead of the marriage.

Advocate Nauman Muhib Kakakhel appeared for the petitioner and contended that the charge against his client and her husband was baseless.

Referring to fatwas (edicts) issued by various schools of Islam, he insisted that after conversion of a non-Muslim man to Islam, a Muslim woman could marry him.

The lawyer insisted that the husband of the petitioner was Muslim and therefore, their marriage was lawful. He also said that the nikkah (marriage) of his client and her husband was solemnised in accordance with the teachings of Islam.

The counsel said the husband of the petitioner changed his name after conversion to Islam, while their child, too, had a Muslim name.

He argued that his client`s husband was a convert to Islam, so he should be considered to be Muslim in line with the teaching of the Holy Quran and Hadees and that nobody could accused him of holding old faith, Christianity.-Bureau Report

Read more

Teenage boy shot dead in Lakki – 14 Jul 2022

LAKKI MARWAT: A teenage boy was killed over an old enmity here on Wednesday.

Police said that Abdullah, 19, was shot dead allegedly by his rivals in Mela Mandrakhel village in the limits of Lakki Marwat police station. They said that the attackers escaped on motorcycles af ter committing the crime.

Inamullah, brother of the deceased, told police in his preliminary report that Shah Wali, Syed Ghulam, Ihsanullah and Bilal came on two motorcycles and opened fire on Abdullah, killing him on the spot. He told police that his family had a blood feud with the attackers.

Police said that the deceased and killers belonged toKakkakhel village. They said that the body was taken to the Government City Hospital for fulfilling medico-legal formalities.

The police said that they had registered the case and started investigations.

Separately, a man was shot at and injured over a petty dispute in Mastikhel area of Lakki Marwat.

Police said Barkatullah was injured when Riaz Khan and Syed Rehman sprayed him with bullets. They said the injured was admitted to the Government City Hospital and a case had been registered against the alleged attackers.


Read more

Four women abducted in Wah – 14 Jul 2022

TAXILA: Four women were abducted in three dif ferent incidents in Wah on Wednesday.

Asfand reported to police that his teenage sister along with her cousinwas going to some relatives` house when unknown persons abducted her.

Iftikhar Ahmed reported to police that his wife was going to her parents` house when she was abducted whileFarzana Bibi reported to police that her teenage daughter was going to visit some friends when she was abducted by an unknown person. Correspondent

Read more

Kidnapped boy `found abandoned on a road` – 14 Jul 2022

LAHORE: A minor boy who was kidnapped by unidentified armed car riders in a crowded street of Sanda area on Monday last was found `abandoned by kidnappers on a road`, police claimed here on Wednesday.

As per initial police investigations,10-year-old Tayyab was kidnapped at gunpoint by a notorious gang of pickpockets who had been blackmailing the boy.

According to a police official privy to the investigation, the boy had been working for the gang in the past, but a couple of months back he discontinued his criminal activities.

However, he said, the gang members were in contact with the boy for the last several months and had been blackmailing Tayyab and forcing him to either start working for them again, or pay them a hefty amount as `compensation`.The officer says the boy used to steal belongings of other children visiting a video game shop in the street where he lived with his parents.

He said the police extended the scope of investigations into the incident when it transpired that many other children had also been trapped by the same gang.

The of ficer said the gang kidnapped Tayyab when he refused to revive his nexus with the criminals.

He claimed that on knowing about police`s vigorous search for the kidnapped boy, the criminals left Tayyab on a road and fled away.

He said the close-up shots of the kidnappers, obtained from the CCTV cameras footage, got matched with the police record, revealing they were habitual criminals.

The boy has been handed over to his parents, the police official said, adding that the kidnappers would be arrested soon.

Read more