Foreigner ‘tortured’ by ‘rogue’ cops – 26 Nov 2022

All three suspects were identified as policemen when CCTV footage surfaced

Two civilians, one of whom was a foreigner, were allegedly tortured and detained by members of the Special Branch and Lahore police. The victims also claimed they were harassed and looted by the cops stationed at a police station in the provincial capital.

Three officers, including one from Special Branch, were charged with torturing and holding residents and tourists against their will in the Defence B area. After registration of an FIR, the local police took all three cops into custody late at night to conduct an investigation.

On Friday, a driver named Israr and Kevin, a foreign trainer, were traveling through Defence area when three individuals on two motorbikes intercepted them. One of the three suspects began searching the victims, while the other three started searching the car.

One of the accused allegedly grabbed the driver and threatened him with a weapon, while the accused tortured Kevin. In his complaint, Israr maintained that one of the three suspects was wearing police uniform. The driver foiled the accused’s attempt to abduct the foreigner. The three suspects rode away on motorcycles.

Police registered the incident after learning more about it. However, when the incident’s CCTV footage surfaced, it became clear that one of the suspects was Head Constable Mushtaq, posted in South Cantonment. Imran and Mohsin, two personnel of Police post Cavalry Ground, were among the accused, upon which they were summoned to the police station, where an inquiry had already been opened.

Sources said Special Branch personnel have previously been accused of collecting bribes from drug traffickers and other criminals, but nothing has been done to prosecute them.

The provincial capital’s guest houses, drug traffickers, gamblers and other criminal elements provide Special Branch officials with thousands of rupees in monthly payments.

Once they have formed a gang with the assistance of the police station staff, they start looting at all hours of the day and night, while falsely reporting to Special Branch that everything is fine.

The complainant has demanded strict action against “rogue officers” of the Special Branch, including Mushtaq. Police said an investigation was ongoing into the three suspects and strict departmental action is being taken.

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Man arrested for killing his mother-in-law after raping her – 26 Nov 2022

LAHORE: Sherakot Investigation police arrested a man Mehmood who had set his widowed mother-in-law on fire after raping her. The victim “S” was under treatment at Mayo Hospital for a few days but succumbed to her injuries. The accused Mehmood was married to the victim’s daughter a few years ago, who later died. The accused wanted to marry his mother-in-law.

Meanwhile, Nawankot Investigation police arrested three persons who had killed a citizen with the twine of their kites. A citizen Shahzad Hussain had died due to stray kite string a few days ago. The accused identified as Basit, Ghulam Mohiuddin and Khalid were arrested under the Kite Flying Act and 40 kites and kite strings were recovered from their possession.

In another incident, the police also arrested one Usman on charges of killing a shopkeeper M Iqbal over a dispute of Rs750. hit to death: A three-year-old child was hit to death by a high-speed Mazda truck in the Nishtar Colony area on Friday.

Rashid, a resident of Amar Block, Nishtar Colony, went to the store to buy medicine along with his three-year-old son Abdul Hadi. He made the child stand near the motorcycle and went inside. Meanwhile, a speeding truck coming from behind hit the child, resulting into his instant death. The driver escaped from the spot.

Meanwhile, two girls were killed and three others injured in a collision between a rickshaw and a bus on Manga Bypass on Friday. The victims were identified as Rashida, 18, daughter of Muhammad Ishaq, and Amina, 19, daughter of Barkat. The injured identified as Nasreen Rasheed, 45, wife of Rasheed, Shazia, 18, daughter of Rasheed and Sweera, 22, wife of Sadaqat, were admitted to hospital.

In another incident, six persons, including children, were injured when a speeding car rammed into a parked car near Mahmood Booti Toll plaza. The injured identified as Hadi, 7, son of Irfan, Umar, 10, son of Imran, Imran, 44, son of Atta Ullah, Shahzaib, 14, son of Imran, Hafiz, 35, son of Latif, and Meerab, 12, son of Irfan, were admitted to hospital and their condition was said to be out of danger.

Body found: The body of a 65-year-old man was recovered from the third floor of a hotel in the limits of Naulakha police on Friday. The man identified as Tejarat Ali was a resident of Harappa. Tejarat had been staying in the hotel for six months. Police shifted the body to the morgue.

Accidents: Around 10 persons were killed in different road accidents across the Punjab province during the last 24 hours. The Punjab Emergency Service Department responded to 1,168 road traffic accidents in all 37 districts of Punjab during the last 24 hours. In these accidents, 10 people died, whereas 1,240 were injured. Around 673 people having serious injuries were shifted to different hospitals. Whereas, 567 injured were treated on the spot by Rescue medical teams.

Fire: A fire broke out in a private bank at the fourth-floor of the Siddique Trade Centre, Gulberg, on Friday. Cause of fire was said to be short circuit. On being informed, the firefighters rushed to the spot and extinguished fire after hectic efforts. No casualty was reported in the incident.

Suspended: DIG Operations Lahore suspended three policemen on charges of receiving bribe from a citizen. The policemen were identified as ASI Ashiq Haider, Constable Muhammad Abbas and Constable Zahoor Ahmed. The three had taken bribe from a citizen at Babu Sabu police picket. In the inquiry of SP Iqbal Town, the three officials were found guilty, on which DIG suspended the three and ordered departmental action against them.

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High court denies bail to man over wife`s murder – 26 Nov 2022

PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court had rejected the bail plea of a man charged with torturing and strangling his newlywed wife over two months ago in Upper Dir district.

However, Justice Mohammad Ijaz Khan of a single-member bench granted bail to the prime accused`s younger brother for being a juvenile person declaring that apparently, he was not connected with the commission of the offence.

The bench observed that therecords showed that the `unnatural`deathofMuheebullah`s wife Saeeda Bibi, who was reported to be missing, had taken place in his room, so he would have to explain the circumstances, which led to the death.

It added that prima facie, the prime accused had not been able to offer any explanation for the death of his wife, so in light of the tentative assessment of the records, he was connected with the commission of the offence.

FIR of the incident was registered at the Gandigar police station in Upper Dir district on Sept 11, 2022.

The deceased`s father, Jalat Khan, was the complainant in it.

He claimed that he rushed to the house of his daughter after learning about her death and found herbody to be lying on a cot with the women family members insisting that she had committed suicide.

He, however, said he found marks of torture on the body as well as the sign of strangulation on the neck.

The complainant said his daughter was married to Muheebullah 40-50 days ago. He had accused Muheebullah and his younger brother of killing his daughter.

The police`s investigation ofhcerhadalsorecoveredtherope with which the deceased was allegedly strangled.

The main accused had also admitted before the investigation officer that he had killed his wife.

However, the motive behind the murder was not clear.

Assistant advocate general Alam Khan Adenzai appeared for thestate, whereas lawyer Shaibar Khan represented the complainant.

They contended that the petitioners were directly named in the FIR, so he didn`t deserve to be granted bail.

BAIL GRANTED: The bench also granted bail to a man charged with injuring his wife by torture and firing in the air to intimidate her in Lower Dir district.

It accepted the bail petition of the accused, Fazal Dayan, and directed him to produce two surety bonds of Rs200,000 each.

The woman, Rani Gul, was the complainant in the FIR, which was registered by the Munda police station in Lower Dir district on Sept 22, 2022.

She alleged that her husband was a drug addict and was in the habit of selling household itemsto buy drugs.

The complainant claimed that when she stopped her husband from that practice, he got infuriated and beat her up with a stick causing forehead injury.

She claimed that the accused also began firing in the air with a Kalashnikov rifle and threatened to kill her.

The woman insisted that she suffered a miscarriage a few days later.

The bench observed that the trial court would determine after recording evidence whether the miscarriage was caused by the alleged torture or not.

It added that the offence with which the petitioner was charged did not fall in the prohibitory provision of Section 497 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

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Two brothers shot dead `by rivals in land dispute` – 26 Nov 2022

LARKANA: Two brothers were gunned down and a third one was wounded in an attack near Essa Kalhoro village, some 40 kilometres from here on Friday.

Azizullah Memon, Tufail Ahmed and Shoaib riding a motorcycle were visiting a piece of land in the village when they came under fire. Azizullah and Tufail died on the spot and Shoaib was rushed to the Chandka Medical College Hospital, Larkana, for treatment.

Residents of the village and police believed that the attack was the result of an old dispute between the Memon and Kalhoro communities of the area over the ownership of the farmland, located within the village.

The victims belonged to Chajjira village, situated on the outskirts of Qambar town.

When the three brothers were visiting the land, armed men, purportedly their rivals in the dispute, chased and opened fire at them from the back and sped away, said local reporters.

The bereaved family and their relatives took the bodies to the nearby Qambar bypass to hold a protest demonstration over the attack. Raising slogans against the area police for failing to protect citizens` lives, they also accused Kalhoros of attacking the victims over the property dispute.

The vehicular traffic on the road remained suspended during the course of the protest.

The Qambar-Shahdadkot SSP held negotiations with the bereaved family and held out the assurance that the culprits would be taken to task soon. On his assurance, the protesters dispersed and cleared the road. No arrests were made till late in the evening.

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Inquiry ordered into `death` of woman in Lyari – 26 Nov 2022

KARACHI: Police authorities on Friday ordered an inquiry into the death of an elderly woman who died in the Chakiwara area on Friday when law enforcers resorted to firing into the air during a raid.

City-SSP Shabbir Ahmed Sethar told Dawn that the police conducted a raid in Singulane for arrest of a wanted suspect, Shoaib.

He conceded that during the raid some residents `encircled` the police upon which the team resorted to aerial firing to disperse the mob.

However, he claimed that the victim, 70-year-old Sara Bibi, had died prior to the firing.

The police took the body to the Civil Hospital for an autopsy. `No bullet wound was found during the postmortem examination,` said the SSP.

However, a large number of people protested outside the Chakiwara police station and alleged that the woman was killed by the police.

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Unnecessary censorship suffocates society, stifles creativity, rules SHC – 26 Nov 2022

KARACHI: The Sindh High Court has ruled it is not the job of judiciary to morally police the public by deciding what should be or should not be viewed by them as unnecessary censorship suf focates a society and stifles its creativ-ity and growth.

`In our view, where a cinematic work has passed through the censors, who have examined its content and cleared it for release with an appropriate certification, an individual cannot be allowed to trump that decision through a court proceeding based on his conception of morality. Indeed, it is not the function of the Court under Article 199 to make a moral judgment so as to curtail the freedom of speech and expression of a filmmaker, as safeguarded under Article 19 of the Constitution,` stated the detailed order passed by a division bench dismissing a petition seeking ban on the film Joyland.

The bench, headed by Chief Justice Ahmed Ali M Shaikh, added: `On the contrary, the default position of the Court underArticle 199 ought to be that of fully safeguarding the fundamental right by giving as expensive an interpretation to Article 19 as possible, and in that event of a restriction being imposed by the Board or any other authority that may be competent in that regard, testing the reasonableness of that restriction stringently, so as to ensure that the same is `reasonable` in the strictest conceivable sense.

`As such, in the absence of any restriction imposed by the concerned quarter, whether that be the Board of Provincial Government, it does not fall to the Court to morally police the public by making a determination of what should or should not be viewed and to take on the function of itself devising and imposing a restriction. Suffice it to say that unnecessarycensorship suffocates a society and stifles its creativity and growth`.

`Looking to the matter at hand, we are confident that Islam, being the great global religion that it is, is strong enough to withstand a cinematic work portraying a purely fictional account of a relationship humanizing a transgender character, and are equally sanguine that our society is not so weak as to crumble as a consequence,` the order stated.

`Suffice it to say that transgender persons are equal citizens of Pakistan in all respects and the stories of their life, their struggle, and their human relationships deserve equal space and recognition,` the court order concluded.

The petitioner sought a ban on the film, arguing that it apparently portrayed a relation-ship between a married man and a transgender woman, and averred that the storyline violates the Islamic teachings and the Constitution.

However, the judges observed that the petitioner did not make any attempt to show how any Articles would be violated by the screening of the film, other than confined his argument to the extent that the theme and storyline thereof offended the Article 277.

The bench noted that the petitioner did not directly challenge the certification of the film or even referred to the Sindh Motion Pictures Act, 2011 or impleaded as party the Board mandated to certify films for exhibition in the Sindh province under the 18th Amendment.

Nor was it even remotely alleged that the statue offends the aforementioned Article, they added.

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Out-of-school children – 26 Nov 2022

Multiple challenges over the years have significantly hindered development goals particularly with regard to education

Multiple challenges over the years have significantly hindered development goals, particularly with regard to education. The Covid-19 pandemic posed serious challenges in the form of prolonged school closures, limited access to technology and economic distress. As a result, either many children decided to drop out of school to pursue means of income, or parents were forced to take their children out as they couldn’t afford tuition fee.

In order to combat the rising rate of school drop-outs, the Ministry of Education, in collaboration with the World Bank and Global Partnership for Education, has initiated a national workshop for creating pathways to mainstream out-of-school children. This workshop is unique from other previous initiatives as it includes the strategic use of ‘design thinking’ to propose community-based solutions to encourage children to come to school. The workshop will help identifies social challenges as well as critical themes within the wider socio-economic context of Pakistan that are adversely affecting the education sector. This will provide a benchmark analysis as to where exactly focus is required. While this initiative will help build upon the existing structure, it is equally necessary to understand that a strong foundation in the form of adequate infrastructure, top-notch facilities and essential resources are required. Majority of schools across the country cannot offer nutritious meals or clean drinking water. Secondly, education must be thought off as a wicked problem. While reforms will enhance education across the country, government officials must also focus on other development indexes to ensure quality education.

The real dilemma is that during a financial crunch, a family will always prefer having their child earn money to put food on the table rather than letting him receive an education even for free. Curbing inflation, providing employment opportunities for parents and ensuring a healthy school environment are as important as providing educational incentives.

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How to bypass a university – 26 Nov 2022

In my last op-ed (October 19) on the issue of the attempted land grab of Quaid-e-Azam University (QAU) to build a bypass road I opined that it is a convenient path of least resistance for the Capital Development Authority (CDA).

It sidesteps the root-cause of the Bara Kahu traffic congestion bottleneck – encroachments along Murree Road. Instead of confronting its own impotence against encroachers, the CDA has identified a ‘weak’ party, the QAU, and has elected to take a short-term approach to solving its problem by grabbing the QAU’s land and building a bypass through it that will bisect the campus into two. Based on developments and documents that have come to light since then, this is beginning to look like the most innocent of possible explanations.

Two things are happening: The first is the Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training (MoFEPT) exercising authority over the HEC, which it recently took over through last year’s amendments to the HEC Ordinance. The 18th Amendment to the constitution has greatly clipped the MoFEPT’s authority since it cuts it out of decisions on school education in provinces. The ministry is now attempting to seize authority on matters of higher education, thereby expanding its turf, which had otherwise been reduced to the federal capital.

Second, like almost all public universities, the QAU too has been suffering from chronic underfunding for the last many years. That has prevented the QAU from timely payment of land lease charges to the CDA, something that should have been addressed in the QAU’s annual budget allocation. The CDA has assessed those charges to be approximately Rs35 billion. For context, that is roughly equal to half of the entire annual recurrent budget for higher education for all public-sector universities combined! Alternatively, that is the going cost of establishing five or six new universities. It is an amount that is impossible for any university to scrounge together. To see just how absurd, a faculty member shared that the QAU does not have money to buy paper for exams and departments are asking students to bring their own answer sheets.

The CDA has decided to use that fact as a cudgel. It has cited the QAU’s non-payment of these leasing charges as justification to declare it (in verbal discussions) an illegal occupier and (perhaps as a starting bargaining position) consequently lay claim to all its land. Apparently, in this country anyone with a little influence and / or power can be allowed (indefinitely) delayed payment, maybe pay a modest fine, or even have payments waived in the name of amnesty – anyone, except common people and universities.

The MoFEPT, which is chairing a joint working group comprising representatives of QAU, CDA, and HEC, is obviously representing the interests of the federal government which is in election mode and digging up quick wins before the polls. It relayed an offer of goodies from the CDA to the QAU. Those goodies included compensatory land, an effective waiver of the land charges by the federal cabinet facilitated by the MoFEPT, building of a new road connecting the QAU to Murree Road, repaving and widening of existing roads, and a student discount on the use of Islamabad’s mass transit system.

Very significantly, the CDA was willing to break its own rule of prohibiting universities from conducting commercial activities on leased land which, in the past, has stymied attempts by at least some universities in the capital to become more self-sufficient and less dependent on sources of public funds. Apparently, this bypass road has become so important that the CDA was able to make an exception.

On top of all this, the MoFEPT had offered to sweeten the deal by bailing the QAU out of its financial difficulties to the tune of Rs5 billion, stemming from pension / endowment and other deficits. All these goodies would have been the QAU’s, if only it relented on its claim to the land. When that did not happen, the CDA withdrew the deal-sweetening goodies.

The regulator was proceeding with such haste that it even neglected to conduct an environmental impact study by the Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency (Pak-EPA). That has now become one of the arguments in the QAU community’s legal challenge to the bypass. On November 18, the Pak-EPA held a public hearing in Islamabad to which both the CDA and QAU community were invited. The meeting was well attended by a large number of QAU stakeholders.

According to attendees’ accounts, on seeing the large number of people in attendance (faculty and students, genuine stakeholders), an official of the CDA, itself party to the dispute, sidelined the officials from the Pak-EPA. Attendees report that CDA officials on the scene called for ‘reinforcements’ and, a little while later, several buses packed with those that claimed to somehow be on the CDA’s side arrived. It is unclear what their association was or who they formally represented; hooliganism ensued which forced an early end to the meeting. Images and videos of the incident are still floating around on social media. According to attendees these people were likely shipped in for the purpose of intimidation by the other party.

The Islamabad High Court has taken notice of this thuggery, set a hearing for November 21, and summoned the DG of the Pak-EPA to appear and answer the court’s concerns herself. On the day of the hearing the DG did not bother to appear but sent her deputy who, being a much junior civil servant, was said to have been sidelined by the same CDA member in attendance (party to the dispute) in the meeting that was the subject of the hearing. Thus, a regulator (the Pak-EPA) gave up its authority and bowed to the regulatee (the CDA) by first not appearing for a hearing on a matter that has garnered great public interest and then by sending in a much junior officer. So transparent was this to the court that it summoned the DG to appear in person for an explanation on November 25 (yesterday).

I said earlier that seizing the QAU’s land may just be the CDA’s way of following the path of least resistance, instead of fixing its own inability to deal with encroachers and resolving the traffic problem on the existing stretch of Murree Road passing through Bara Kahu. Others have even cited fears – unsubstantiated but in the realm of possibility – of property development being a factor in play.

Clearly, there is something broken in the way the QAU (and possibly other universities) are set up. What free inquiry can we hope for from universities, what autonomy do they have when anytime they are seen being critical or prove non-compliant with the wishes of the powerful, they can be threatened by having their land pulled out from under them?

Asking a public university to pay billions for a lease reminds one of a loan-shark. No public university in this country has that kind of money. And then offering a forgiveness of leasing charges and other goodies in return for a tract of land – what is that if not forcing a negotiation while holding a gun to your head?

The writer (she/her) has a PhD in Education.

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Can the media help our students? – 26 Nov 2022

We have often blamed politicians for ignoring the plight of the dismal nature of our education sector while focusing on other issues. We have critiqued policymakers, decision-makers and the establishment for not making education a priority.

But why don’t we ever beg the same question to the media who seem to be completely silent on the visible decay and crumble of our education sector while they run after lesser important yet juicy issues for the purpose of ratings and entertainment? Do all stakeholders, pillars of the state and the real handlers of this country even realize the impact of our poor education sector and what all have we missed out on because of our pathetic lack of focus on this primary issue and the best route to make Pakistan better?

We all know, have a fair idea or at least have heard the state of affairs as far as education is concerned. If nothing else, we have experienced it as students or as parents/ relatives of students in this country. A lot has also been written, spoken about and debated on this topic by civil society, NGOs and concerned educationists.

Yet, the media seems to give scant attention to, or simply ignores, the plight of students and education on a regular basis. We did see some attention on education when the Single National Curriculum was on the table, but soon this ‘boring’ topic was shelved for everyday masala and the regular leg pulling and ugly politics.

Just switch to prime time TV on any given day of the week and see what all is played on a daily basis while education burns. We do have those rare insights into other issues too but politics seems to dominate our screen time. No mainstream anchor has taken up the cause of various issues within the education sector in a sustained manner to help form opinions, policies and debate across the country.

This article is also an open letter to some of our most celebrated TV journalists and anchors to please pay attention to this most important and yet most ignored sector of Pakistan and help the country and its future – the children – get a charter of education, an education emergency, and a plan to deal with the severity of issues within education and more. Nobody is asking them to give up their daily focus on politics and give all the time to education, but can we please talk about education on a regular basis so that even the nation realizes the importance of education as a route to be educated individuals and not just literates? Can news channels introduce regular weekly shows, discussions and debates on the structural, philosophical and every-day gaps in our education sector?

Millions stand outside the education sector, while millions within its ambit are not getting quality – or any – education. Millions lack so much that would be a given in any responsible state.

The recent floods destroyed whatever little the poor had in this country. While the media took their voices to their screens, nobody asked the burning question of who and how governments and political parties plan to reconstruct schools, what plans they have to rehabilitate schools, what budgets, and how they will get those budgets.

The cost of this apathy towards education has now turned dangerous. Look at the birth rate in this country and then see the growing gap between children born and schools available for them. This article is keeping aside the glaring issues of quality education, poor and no teaching, female literacy statistics etc. and for now is simply demanding attention. It is too late and the results of these grave oversights and deliberately designed poor priority has, is and will cost us even more severely. This does not just have terrible social issues, but also paves the way for economic mayhem and political madness.

Just a basic look around Pakistan’s neighbourhood and across the world will tell you how far behind we are and how far ahead others are. Just study the role of heavy and quality investments in education in the more developed countries and see where they are today and then match it with the peanuts we allocate towards education in our country and then the poor structure of education we have and its impact on Pakistan as a whole. Simply match the innovations, developments and research in countries with better and quality education versus ours. Talk to students abroad and then speak to Pakistani students to see the gigantic gap in terms of thinking, skills, knowledge and attitude towards education.

Millions of Pakistani students – from primary to university level education – deserve to be heard and made stakeholders in deciding an education policy or even curriculum. They deserve to be counseled about their options, careers, skills and much more on a weekly if not daily basis. Those students living in smaller towns, villages or marginalized areas of cities, whose parents can’t afford good schools, expensive student counselors or international/ national exposure can demand to get all that through a responsible, aware and involved media. They need the attention of the country’s media houses so their issues can be addressed on the micro and macro levels. Popular anchors across TV channels can create, influence and control attitudes towards education and then pressurize governments, politicians and political parties to listen, act and implement what is missing in education.

Pakistan is light years behind where we should have been in the education sector; 2023 is an election year and this is the right time to help political parties debate, deliberate and design and later implement an education policy. This is the time to allow our students to ask hard questions from the decision-makers of this country. If the media can spend umpteen hours on a completely time wasting discussion on who will be the next army chief day in and day out. If our anchors can talk at length about less important issues of the country and if our politicians, influencers and establishment can make or break ideas in this country over time, then why can’t they make education their priority as well?

The students of Pakistan are now begging for the kind of attention they deserve and which has not been given to them by the media. This is simply the right thing to do by the fourth pillar of the state for a better, progressive and developed Pakistan.

The writer is an educationist and International baccalaureate (IB) consultant.

Twitter: @TBandey

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Data for governance – 26 Nov 2022

ON Barack Obama`s first day as president, he pledged to make information about government operations readily available to US citizens. He then `signed an executive order that made open and machine-readable data the new default for government information`. Since then, the US administration has made significant progress in opening up its administrative data, and as envisaged, the openness has resulted in improving the efficiency of government agencies and strengthening their democracy with more informed civic engagement.

The data was already there, however, the political will and leadership changed attitudes towards it and nourished a culture where the government started to use data as an asset by making it more available and usable.

While many legal and policy changes were adopted to achieve this cultural change, one of the first and most critical step was the development of a centralised government data portal (in May 2009, where dif ferent government agencies made large amounts of information available to the public.The portalprovided easy access to public, policymakers, researchers and data developers to thousands of computerreadable government data sets. The UK soon followed in January 2010, and since then many countries have adopted the philosophy.

A survey by Open Data Barometer suggests that the majority of the countries in the survey (55 per cent) now have an open data initiative in place. Pakistan, however, was in the bottom 10 along with Yemen, Swaziland and a few other developing countries. The barometer ranked the countries on many indicators such as data availability, openness, accessibility, usage and impact.

Pakistan`s most disappointing results were on implementation and impact where we scoredjustfour(outof100)andzero(outof 100) respectively. This implies that most of our data is either unavailable (or not machine readable) and there is absolutely no impact of the data on increasing governmentefficiency and effectiveness.

This inability to govern ef fectively is also evident from our ranking on the World Bank`s collection of development indicators where we are currently ranked at 37.5pc (percentile), and our score on government effectiveness is -0.4 this was around 0.68 in 1996. On the other hand, India, which inherited a similar governance structure, has improved its score from -0.11 in 1996 to 0.28 in 2021. More worrying is the fact that instead of improvement, the state of affairs is getting worse with time. Moreover, with the current bleak outlook for local and global economies, with high inflation andslowing growth, it is even more pertinent now to spend wisely. We need more openness, more transparency, more accountability and more data. And we need the will, leadership and capacities to use this data scientifically for better planning and policymaking.

To be fair, we do produce a lot of data on population, demographics, health, education and other key indicators. However, most of the data is available in hard or PDF formats at dif ferent locations (websites, government of fices, per sonal computer s) which are hard to turn into usable information. For efficient and effective usage, we need central data platforms or open data portals where government departments can share information easily and prevent silos from emerging.

Eventually, data should be collected and stored digitally, to reduce errors and increase the speed with which it can be made publicly available. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Bureau of Statistics has taken the first major step towards this dig-itisation, with the KP Data Portal where all the available administrative data for the last 20 years has been digitised and made available for both policymakers and general pubhc.

They have beensupported on this by The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office.

Other bureaus, including the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, only have their data available in PDF format of their websites which users cannot easily access and modify, thus severely restricting their usage.

McKinsey has estimated the value of open (accessible government data) data at $3 trillion a year globally, which has the potential to improve government spendings, bring more transparency and countability, reduce spendings, improve services and create new businesses, digital service and innovation. With a young, digitally connected and tech-literate population, we have the potential to improve our policymaking and planning processes through data and evidence. However, for this to happen, we need to produce more timely and relevant data; make the data more accessible by developing a PBS-led central data portal with machine-readable data; and build capacities in government on data usage for planning and policymaking.• The writer is an adviser to the Sustainable Energy & Economic Development Programme.

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