Man, woman killed in Bajaur for `honour` – 13 Dec 2022

BAJAUR: A man and a girl were killed for honour in the hilly area of Mamund tehsil here on Monday. Residents and police said the incident took place in the Lowi Kharki area on Sunday night where relatives shot dead the 19-year-old girl along with a 21-year-old youngster allegedly for honour.

The bodies of both of the victims were shifted to the tehsil headquarters hospital for legal formalities by a team of police personnel.

Later, the bodies of both the youth and the girl were dispatched to Chinagi area of Utmankhel tehsil and Lowi Kharki locality of Mamund tehsil respectively for burial.

The youth was later laid to rest in his native Nili Chinagi locality located some 30km from the area of incident on Monday evening.

The police were unable to confirm till the filling of this report whether a case was registered or not.

Meanwhile, police foiled a bid of timber smuggling here on Monday and arrested a man.

According to a statement issued by the district police officer`s office, 20 sleepers of timber were recovered from a mini-truck apparently loaded with sand near Khar police station.

Later, the statement said, the wood, the truck and the driver were handover to the local forest department for further legal action.

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Will the young vote? – 13 Dec 2022

To celebrate the anniversary of Pakistan’s first election conducted on the basis of one-person, one-vote on December 7 in 1970, the day is annually celebrated as National Voters Day to highlight the need for voting by all eligible citizens in elections.

Since the 1970 general election based on adult franchise, Pakistan has held 10 general elections in 48 years until 2018, skipping a few every decade due to derailment of democracy. However, our voting average in these elections, well under 50 per cent turnout, has been way below the global voting average of 76 per cent. Starting at 61 per cent turnout in the 1970 general election and in 1977, voter turnout started to fall to 42 per cent and 45 per cent in the 1988 and 1990 general elections and down to 38 per cent in the 1993 general election. Voter turnout dipped to an all-time low (so far) of 34 per cent in the 1997 general election. Since then, voter turnout has very slowly begun to move up to 39 per cent in 2002, 43 per cent in 2008, 53 per cent turnout in the 2013 general election and 50 per cent voter turnout in the latest 2018 general election.

If the current National Assembly completes its five-year term on or by August 12, 2023 the 11th and next general election would be held latest by October 2023 within the period of sixty (60) days following the day of the expiry of the term of the Assembly. With registered voters crossing 122 million in 2022, if the same voting proclivities are to be witnessed in the next general election, this would mean that half of eligible voters, or nearly 60 million population in Pakistan, would continue to choose not to vote. With such a large number of citizens abstaining from voting, this should be the biggest worry in a democratic system. But is it?

Why do half of our registered voters choose not to vote? Is it because they feel politically estranged despite a reasonable level of understanding of mainstream politics? Are non-voters disinterested in the message of one or the other political party? Or is it because a large number of the population believes that their individual vote does not make much of a difference in a sea of millions of other voters?

Each one of these reasons is shared through various opinion polls, exit polls and focus group discussions by non-voters. However, the larger issue worth examining is the role of the political process in running the affairs of the country. Is it that hard to understand estrangement with politics in a country where democracy, as a system of governance, has remained so unstable? Is it that difficult to grasp the lack of trust in elected democratic institutions when national decision-making takes place away from these institutions? Is it too complicated to recognize lack of public esteem for politicians when they have been the target of a sustained campaign maligning them for nearly all of the country’s history?

Another important data point to remember are young voters. According to data released by the ECP last year, young Pakistanis between the ages of 18 and 35 years constitute over 45 per cent of registered voters or the biggest group among registered voters. Even though there has been no official mechanism available through the ECP to calculate youth voter turnout in previous elections, exit polls by Gallup Pakistan in previous elections have computed youth voter turnout at 31 per cent which is way below the already dismal national voting average.

If an increasing number of young registered voters join non-voters in not voting in subsequent elections, what does it say about the health of our already beleaguered democracy?

The key reasons offered by young people for not voting are somewhat similar to the other age groups but are compounded by the fact that young people are unable to relate with politics and the political process. When asked about their disinterest, they say that political parties are not serious in engaging with the youth. Young people complain that they cannot identify with most, if not all, electoral candidates fielded by parties. More often, these candidates are older and uneducated. They have little to offer young voters in terms of engagement, if they try at all to address the youth.

The issues of Pakistani youth, summed up through scientific surveys, include provision of quality education, gainful employment and meaningful engagement in decision-making. No political party has come forward with any cogent plan to address these beyond a set of wish-lists.

Before a cynical brushing aside of these concerns of the young people by the hard-hearted politicos as whiny excuses, it is important to remember the resilience of young people in the face of all odds. Despite massive problems in the education sector, young Pakistanis strive to get educated, often paying excessively exorbitant fees at poor quality private schools and colleges as the public sector struggles to meet their needs. Young women brave the unsafe and toxic environment daily to get out of their homes to study and work in the absence of a secure and reliable network of public transport in our country. Forget access to much-needed mental health facilities, young people navigate the poor health system to manage bare minimum requirements of physical health. Dreaming of a stable future, young people even acquiesce to the archaic civil services examination and selection process. Barring a lucky few, youth struggles in the face of rising unemployment.

So, where are the political avenues for meaningfully engaging these tenacious young people in the democratic and political processes in Pakistan? Barring Sindh, which has lifted the ban on students unions legally, though it is yet to be implemented, there is no movement forward in meaningful engagement of young people in the political process through students unions. No serious political effort is made in the country to bring in an effective local government which could engage young citizens at the grassroots level. There is little visible effort, if any, by parties to invite young people in their membership and decision-making folds.

Our political process is failing young people at every step. Whether it is due to political naivete or being oblivious to the power of the youth voice and vote, political parties must find urgent and effective ways to address this colossal omission.

The writer is an analyst working in the field of politics, democratic governance, legislative development and rule of law.

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Worthy victims – 13 Dec 2022

SOME observers have objected to the silence of progressive sectors over the alleged custodial sexual torture of PTI Senator Azam Swati, for the offence of defaming state officials/institutions. Certainly, there must be unequivocal condemnation of such state brutality and Swati should be unconditionally supported for exercising his right to free speech and to criticise any public official or state institution without fear of reprisal.

However, the case also offers other lessons and reveals the biases and selectivity in prevailing attitudes about who qualifies as a worthy victim.

The same coterie that doubted there was an assassination attempt on Malala, despite the TTP claiming responsibility, now insists, without evidence, that there was such an attempt on Imran Khan by the incumbent government. Many defended Khan when he blamed victims of sex crimes and reasoned that men are incited by unveiled women, but they don`t sympathise with state officials who claim to be `provol(ed` when they are defamed. The same patriots who saw protesters and dissidents from Balochistan and KP as traitors are now abusing the armed forces for political intervention without anxiety over national dishonour or demotivation.

This trend of double standards applies to the alleged torture of Swati and Shahbaz Gill too. It has elicited extraordinary sympathy from male supporters because of the alleged sexual nature of the punishment. If both politicians had been conventionally tortured, the outrage would be more measured.

Same-sex male sexual violation carries more prerogative for offence than routine rapes and harassments, humiliations, abuses and jokes that sexually objectify women, transwomen and non-binary people.

Pejorative attacks, sexual innuendos and memes mocking female politicians reduce their political identities to mute sexualised bodies. However, such is the gendered nature of sexual violence that while women bury their trauma in silence, for fear of male disapproval, Gill can mock the alleged offence against him by belittling the crime through humour and irony. Stigmatised silence isolates the few women who dare to speak out, and the common response is one of disbelief or occasional pity. But when Swati and Gill speak out as male survivors, there is mass trust by men and full support by an indignant media.

In the 1990s, custodial rape of women was a disturbing epidemic and rights activists campaigning against the trend were castigated as `anti-state` and `Western feminist agents`. In 1991, Human Rights Watch found that 70 per cent of women in police custody experienced physical or sexual abuse at the hands of their jailers and that 50pc to 70pc ofthem were detained without due process for suspicion of sex crimes as penalised under the Hudood Ordinances.

Procedural hurdles and the impossibility of prosecuting abuses by the police extended impunity to custodial violence against women. This was possible due to discriminatory laws and the efficacious implementation of the zina laws in particular, which confirmed that men and the state were zealously committed to controlling women`s sexualities and to punishing any perceived transgression of the male-beneficial gendered and sexual orders.

Over this decade, vicious infighting weakened the political classes and undermined democratic protection of citizens` rights.

This vacuum encouraged state excesses and afforded licence to policemen and LEAs who saw women victims as easy prey and subjected them to sex crimes in police stations and jails.

All righteous men civilians and military, liberal and conservative -need to align their biases and acknowledge that sexual violationis a crime not of `shame` but of body, and that such violence threatens mental security and degrades basic dignity. The resolution for such crimes lies in redressing inequality in power relationseverywhere-in the hands of state officials or men in house-hold/communities regardless of gender, choice of wardrobe, political affiliation or class and faith. Without equality of power across all genders, provinces and classes economic, social, political violence will always be the language that fills the gaps.

Critics of the military`s politicisation or the practice of punitive torture of politicians must recognise that the abuse of state powers and discriminatory laws prevail when parties stop cooperating and enable a democracy deficit. Misogynistic biases in the military, judiciary and communities, and suspecting and blaming victims are tools that can be weaponised against all genders.

Those who blindly support Swati for partisan reasons must accept that any and all victims of alleged sex crimes past, current and future have to be equally trusted and supported on the same principles and grounds. Then, maybe, we can all be on the same page about sex crimes, torture, harassment and leveraging democracy rather than exacting political revenge. • The writer is the author of Faith and Feminism in Pakistan.

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Murderer of daughters sentenced to death – 13 Dec 2022

Three girls aged between 15 months and four years were killed in Daudkhel last year

A district and sessions court has handed down death penalty and imposed a fine of Rs1.5 million on a man over murdering his three daughters.

The additional district and sessions judge announced the verdict of the triple-murder case on Monday.

Convict Nader Khan had killed his four-year-old daughter Arfa Fatima, three-year-old Alisha and 15-month-old Ayesha on May 2 last year. The incident took place in the Daudkhel area of Mianwali district.

The convict was reportedly enraged over the successive birth of daughters after his marriage and often used to fight with his wife over the matter. His wife tried to convince him that she was helpless in this regard.

According to the investigators, the convict who was reportedly a drug addict and a factory worker, used to threaten his wife from time to time that he would kill the girls.

During Ramazan in 2021, the maternal grandfather of the victims called the convict to take them back from his home, saying they were bothering him while he was fasting.

Nader returned home in a state of anger and shot the girls with a pistol, killing them on the spot. The incident took place two days before Eid, after which the atmosphere in the town remained mournful for several days.

A local resident said after the court verdict that two other cases of a similar nature had also occurred in which girls had been mercilessly killed only because of their gender.

A man had killed his seven-day-old baby girl, while another man had poisoned his two daughters because of strife with his wife.

The plaintiff in the murder case was the maternal grandfather of the girls, Subedar (retd) Attaullah Khan, who, according to sources, had been persuaded by local police officers to seek justice. The case was pleaded in the court by Advocate Asif Khan.

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Woman, son arrested in murder case – 13 Dec 2022

LAHORE: Police arrested a woman and her son for killing their neighbour and dumping her body into canal to snatch her ear-rings in the Manga Mandi area Monday.

The suspects had killed the woman, packed the body in a sack and dumped it into the canal. Reportedly, the victim Perveen, 50, had left her house to buy few domestic use items. She however did not return home.

The family registered an abduction case against the unidentified suspects. Ironically, the suspected woman and her son identified as Zahida Perveen and Qalb-e-Abbas with the family members also kept on searching for the victim. They also escorted them to the police station on the pretext of supporting their neighbours in their hard times. Police after registration of the case took the suspects into custody who after being grilled confessed to their crime.

ARRESTED: Shahdara police arrested two members of a dacoit gang involved in targeting shopkeepers and the passerby labourers on Monday. The arrested suspects were identified as Muneeb Junaid and Usman. In other incidents, Baghbanpura Police arrested three suspects for carrying illegal weapons and firing in the air. The arrested suspects were identified as Aurangzeb, Sikandar and Hussain.

FIRE: Valuables worth thousands of rupees reduced to ashes in two different incidents here Monday. The first case was reported in a sweets shop situated near Gawalmandi. In another incident, fire erupted in sugarcane fields at Jia Bagga, Raiwind Road. Fire-fighters reached the spot on information and extinguished the fire. No loss of life or injury was reported in the incident.

ACCIDENTS: The Punjab Emergency Service Department (PESD) responded to 1,248 road traffic accidents in all 37 districts of Punjab during the last 24 hours. In these accidents, 22 people died, whereas 1,299 were injured. Out of this, 707 people were seriously injured who were shifted to different hospitals. Whereas, 592 minor injured victims were treated at the incident site by Rescue medical teams.

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An emboldened TTP – 12 Dec 2022

It was a no-brainer from the beginning that any talks with the TTP would not result in any long-lasting peace. The National Counter-Terrorism Authority (Nacta) seems to agree, and has said that the TTP managed to gain considerable ground during the peace talks between the outlawed militant group and the government. The fact that the TTP has been able to increase its foothold while using peace talks as a ruse has become evident from their attacks and visible presence in the bordering districts with Afghanistan. Pakistan has recently been seeing an upsurge in the magnitude of the activities that the militants have been carrying out. The rising terror incidents in the country have once again made the bordering districts vulnerable to attacks and it may not be long before they are able to strike at will anywhere in the country.

After using the peace talks as camouflage, the TTP called off the ceasefire agreement with the government in November. The militants have been sabotaging peace in this region for long – each time using some new excuse. This time – once again – they are blaming the Pakistani state for attacking them. The TTP would like everyone to believe that it is just staging ‘retaliatory attacks’ but the reality is that the group has been violating ceasefires for over a decade. The talks that Pakistan officials held with the militant outfit were mysterious and opaque and even then the negotiations broke down in August due to a deadlock on the revocation of the merger of the erstwhile tribal areas with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Luckily, in the face of increasing TTP presence, local residents of these areas took it upon themselves to raise a voice against militancy. Their voice – clear and unambiguous –was heard loud and clear. The Nacta report also maintains that US withdrawal from Afghanistan last year gave the TTP impetus to strike again. The rise in the terrorism index should be alarming for the government of Pakistan. There is no room for any complacency. If militant attacks are to be stopped, it cannot be through purely defensive measures at the scene of the attack. Checkposts, bomb detectors and the like may slow determined suicide bombers but cannot stop them. The work needs to be done before the attacks take place, with good intelligence giving us the opportunity to thwart the attacks. And while we have been successful in foiling attacks, the regularity with which militant groups strike, seemingly at will, shows there is a lot more to be done. Winning on the battlefield alone will not be sufficient either. To prevent new militant threats from rising up, it is their ideology which must be discredited.

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Child trafficking – 12 Dec 2022

WHAT does it say about our child protection laws and other relevant legislation when a 14-year-old girl is abducted and sold thrice before being able to escape her captors and return home? Her ordeal indicates as the court correctly pointed out that kidnapping gangs are operating with total impunity.

Further horrifying details emerged in the victim`s statement to the Sindh High Court on Friday. She said she had seen around 15 teenage girls at the house of one of those accused of her kidnapping.

The court, while hearing the bail plea of another suspect booked for allegedly abducting the underage girl to force her into marriage, has directed the interior ministry to form a JIT to thoroughly investigate the issue of child trafficking. It is about time the criminal justice system came to grips with the terrible things happening to our minors and took proactive steps to prevent these crimes and support the victims. Therefore, it is encouraging that despite the girl in the case at hand not having made an allegation of forced marriage or rape, the court has held that further investigation is warranted.

It has been seen in far too many cases of alleged child abduction and forced marriage of minors that courts do not probe deep enough to ascertain the truth, leaving the victims vulnerable to further abuse and sexual exploitation. In the earlier stages of the Dua Zehra case, for instance, despite her parents providing verifiable evidence of their daughter being underage, a magistrate in Lahore accepted her statement that she was an adult and allowed her to go with her `husband`. An HRCP report published this year describes Pakistan as a `source, transit and destination country for trafficking`. This appears to be no exaggeration. Consider that in February 2022, Punjab police stated that 151 girls and young women, all abducted from Sargodha, had been recovered from various parts of the province since Jan 5 alone. It is not enough to legislate: implementation is key.

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Climate change, health and growing population – 12 Dec 2022

Researchers have found that over half of all human infectious diseases can be worsened by climate change

Will we have enough food for a growing global population? How will we take care of more people in case there is another pandemic? What will heat do to millions with hypertension? Will countries wage water wars because of increasing droughts?

These risks all have three things in common: health, climate change and a growing population which, according to the United Nations, passed 8 billion people on November 15, 2022 — twice as much from just 48 years ago.

Researchers have found that over half of all human infectious diseases can be worsened by climate change.

Flooding, for example, can affect water quality and the habitats where dangerous bacteria and vectors like mosquitoes can breed and transmit infectious diseases to people.

Dengue, a painful mosquito-borne viral disease that sickens about 100 million people every year becomes more common in warm, wet environments. Its R0, or basic reproduction number — a gauge of how quickly it spreads — increased by about 12% from the 1950s to the average in 2012-2021, according to the 2022 Lancet Countdown report. Malaria’s season expanded by 31% in highland areas of Latin America and nearly 14% in Africa’s highlands as temperatures rose over the same period.

The floods in Pakistan have destroyed 10% of Pakistan’s health facilities. In the three-month period between mid-June and September this year, at least 539,500 cases of malaria were reported, compared to fewer than 400,000 cases for the whole of 2021.

Droughts, too, can degrade drinking water quality. As a result, more rodent populations enter into human communities in search of food, increasing the potential to spread hantavirus. The Horn of Africa and California are facing an unprecedented drought. Rising temperatures also affect fresh water supplies through evaporation and by shrinking mountain glaciers and snowpack that historically have kept water flowing through the summer months.

Water scarcity and drought have the potential to displace almost 700 million people by 2030, according to UN estimates. Combined with population growth and growing energy needs, they can also fuel geopolitical conflicts as countries face food shortages and compete for water.

Heat also affects food security for a growing population. The Lancet review found that high temperatures in 2021 shortened the growing season by about 9.3 days on average for corn, or maize, and six days for wheat compared with the 1981-2020 average. Warming oceans, meanwhile, can kill shellfish and shift fisheries that coastal communities rely on. Heatwaves in 2020 alone resulted in 98 million more people facing food insecurity compared with the 1981-2010 average.

Pakistan is missing its wheat production target for the last three years due to the climate change effects.

Floods can surge all year round, in every region of the world. But discerning the relationship between any given flood and climate change is no small feat — made difficult by limited historical records, particularly for the most extreme floods, which occur infrequently. Pakistan experienced catastrophic floods between June and August of this year, triggered by climate change-induced torrential rains.

The flooding drenched one-third of Pakistan’s territory, affected 33 million people and killed more than 1,700. It cost the country an estimated $40 billion in damages and economic losses.

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Man arrested on harassment charges – 12 Dec 2022

ISLAMABAD: Islamabad police have arrested a taxi driver for allegedly harassing a woman during a joint operation with Rawalpindi police. Police said that Islamabad Safe City cameras had captured the alleged harassment incident. The taxi driver had fled to Rawalpindi after harassing the woman on a road in Islamabad. The accused taxi driver was arrested and transferred to Shalimar police station and a case of harassment has been registered against him. Police said that strict legal action will be taken against the accused involved in the crime. OUR CORRESPONDENT

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Man held for sharing ‘photos’ of girl – 12 Dec 2022

RAWALPINDI: The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA)’s cybercrime circle Islamabad has arrested an accused involved in sharing objectionable photos of a girl on social media and recovered the mobile phone. According to the authorities, Hamza Imtiaz allegedly took objectionable pictures of the girl and shared them through WhatsApp and harassed the girl by threatening her. The accused was arrested by the FIA cybercrime circle Islamabad in a raid near Faizabad. The mobile phone has been sent for a forensic test, the FIA officials said. A case has been registered against the accused under PECA Act and further investigation is under way. OUR CORRESPONDENT

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