Lecturer may face blasphemy charges for ‘incest’ quiz

Three-member probe panel interviews students, teachers.


An inquiry report of the Ministry of Science and Technology has recommended that the COMSATS University Islamabad (CUI) lecturer who had quizzed students over “incest” and “polyandry” in an exam may be tried under the blasphemy clauses pertaining to deliberately outraging religious feelings or insulting religious beliefs.

The committee has recommended that a case may be lodged against the lecturer in question, and he should be investigated to see if his motives were to damage family values as well as religious, cultural and traditional norms.

If his motives prove that he deliberately gave an unethical quiz to students “then it is recommended that he may be tried under Article 295 (injuring or defiling place of worship, with intent to insult the religion of any class) of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) for further proceedings.”

When asked, one of the committee members said that section 295-A (deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs) of the Pakistan Penal Code was the relevant clause in the lecturer’s case. The “sub-clause is considered included” in the main section and that’s why it wasn’t separately mentioned in the report, he added.

In an exam of English comprehension and composition for the Bachelor of Electronics Engineering (BEE), Bashar’s quiz shocked the students and raised many eyebrows as it touched on a topic considered taboo in the modern world. The title of the quiz was ‘The Julie and Mark Scenario’ and the subsequent paragraph explains the situation.

The scenario was that siblings Mark and Julie were alone in a cabin at a French beach of France where they decided to make love. It stated that Julie was taking birth control pills and Mark used a condom. They made love and decided to keep it a secret. The quiz asked the students to share views if it was acceptable to make love and invite thoughts from the students with reasoning through relevant examples and personal opinions.

The science ministry had conducted the inquiry as COMSAT falls under its administrative control.

It formed a three-member committee comprising Ashar Mahmood, Amir Muhammad Khan Niazi and Zawar Hussain, who gave the recommendations after interviewing teachers, and students and going through the documents.

The committee found out that the exam took place on January 3 and the question was asked via a class WhatsApp group.

The lecturer’s employment was terminated when the matter was brought to the varsity’s notice.

Before asking about incest, the inquiry committee found that the lecturer had “asked his students in a quiz to write a paragraph on the topic of prohibition of polyandry in all religions”. Polyandry is a practice in which a woman can marry more than one man at one time, the report read, which too is proscribed in Islam.

“It is evident that the teacher was intending to sensitise students to these taboos,” the report stated, adding that his motive was ‘perhaps to stir the minds of the students towards acceptance of socially forbidden practices’.

Some students told the committee that the teacher’s behaviour and teaching were fine while others said that he was ‘needlessly forthcoming’, particularly with students. It was also found out that the lecturer didn’t upload the questions about incest and polyandry on the university’s portal.

Surprisingly, the report revealed, that the lecturer did not appear before the committee even as the “inquiry Committee tried to contact him on multiple occasions but his phone was not responding”.

It, however, added that before his termination, “he accepted his mistake and tendered an unconditional apology and requested forgiveness.”

The report further revealed that “he felt ashamed of himself without presenting any reasoning”. The committee has also recommended that the teacher should permanently be banned through HEC from lecturing at any institute in the country.

The committee further recommended that the relevant authorities may take appropriate actions to ban enticing literature that allured and hurt the feelings of the people of Pakistan. Also, it said, both print and electronic media may be advised by the federal government to refrain from discussing taboos and sensitive topics that go against family sanctities such as ‘incest’, ‘polyandry’ and ‘LGBTQ’ etc.

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Girl allowed to go with husband

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday allowed a girl to go with her husband after she gave a statement of marrying the man of her own choice and of her own free will. The court was hearing the case filed by the girl’s parents for her recovery. The Lodhran police produced her before the court following its directives. Assistant Advocate General Punjab Imran Shaukat Rao informed the court that the girl, who was pregnant, had contracted the marriage at her own will. Subsequently, the case was adjourned till June 19. APP

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LHWs protest `harassment` by NHP coordinator

RAHIM YAR KHAN: Dozens of lady health workers (LHWs) and lady health supervisors (LHSs) held a protest outside the District Press Club against the alleged harassment by the district coordinator of the National Health Programme (NHP) on Tuesday.

LHWs association`s president Farhat Jabeen told the journalists that the behaviour of District Coordinator Dr Rao Shahzad Aslam was very inappropriate as he would harass them and misbehave with them during the meetings.

She said that LHSs had sent a written complaint to Chief Executive Officer (CEO) District Health Authority Dr Khan Wazir but to no avail, forcing them to take to the streets.

Jabeen said they would not perform their duties until provision of proper security and action against Dr Aslam. The LHSs stressed thatthey would continue their protest until the acceptance of their demands.

FIVE DROWN: Five minors drowned in the canals and water reservoirs in three incidents during the last couple of days.

Three brothers Abu Bakar (7), Usman (5) and Muhammad Ali (3), residents of Fatehpur Kamal, were playing outside their house on Monday morning, when they fell into the canal. Rescue 1122 recovered their bodies near Head Bangla Sheikhan.

On Tuesday, Azan (5), a resident of Amingarh, was taking a bath in a canal near Head Amingarh when he drowned.

On Monday, a 10-year-old child fell into Ahmed Wah Canal near Jamaldin Wall. His body could not be recovered.

The family of the child protested against the irrigation staff for not closing the canal.

CANAL BREACH: A 40-foot breach occurred in the BahadurWah Minor Canal near Fatehpur Punjabian along the national highway. The breach was reportedly caused by the weak banks and excessive release of water. The breach was initially 15-foot wide and it was later extended to 40 feet due to the flow of water. The locals informed the irrigation staff about the incident at night but no official responded.

Meanwhile, the neighbouring villagers started plugging the breach themselves with coordination of some labourers in the nearby mango orchards.

The of ficials arrived in the morning when the canal water had entered fields of Bast Shahi Chohan, Basti Maulvian and Adamwali, affecting the cotton, sugarcane andfoddercrops.

According to locals, the irrigation staff headed by Sub-Divisional Superintendent Zain Arshaad arrived at the spot at 8am and the breach was plugged at 12:30pm with the use of the machinery.

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Two abducted minor girls recovered

BAHAWALNAGAR: District police claimed on Tuesday to have recovered two sisters who had been allegedly abducted on their way home from school a day ago in Chishtian.

The first information report (FIR) registered on the complaint of the victims` mother, Yasmeen Bibi, a resident of Chak 3, said 13-yearold Robia Abbas, a student of class VI and sixyear-old Aisha, a kinder-garten student, were studying at the Government Girls School Chak 3 Fordwah.

On Monday, the sisters were returning home from school at about 12pm when six people intercepted them and forcibly made them sit on their motorcycles and 1(idnapped them.

Talking to Dawn, DPO`s spokesperson Adnan Ali claimed that police had safely recovered the girls and raids were being conducted to arrest the kidnappers.

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KEMU employee caught making objectionable videos

LAHORE: Unrest gripped the girl students of the King Edward MedicalUniversity (KEMU)when a university employee was caught making a video of an MBBS Part-I student in the washroom.

The victim caught the suspect and snatched his mobile phone from him for evidence where she found some objectionable clips.

The incident occurred at the Maqbool Block of the KEMU where about 700 female students are studying.

The university management allegedly hushed up the matter when it was brought to its notice.

On finding the of ficials concernedunmoved, the victim informed her parents in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

An official said the girl`s parents reached the university on Monday and `blasted` the administration for not making adequate arrangements to ensure privacy, safety and protection of girls. He said the parents also warned to lodge a complaint against the KEMU`s higher authorities, holding them responsible for the highly objectionable crime after it transpired that the suspected man was an employee of the university.

They were shocl(ed when they noticed that the administration was trying to `save` the suspect by hushing up the matter, the source said.

He said the incident had sparked a strong resentment andunrest among the female students as they feared that the suspect was a habitual criminal and he must have made objectionable videos of other girl students.

`The most worrying part of the development was the fear of the medical students that a nexus was behind the crime,` the official source claimed.

There are five combined washrooms for the female students.

Each washroom has enough space at the top from where anyone can approach the adjoining washroom, the official said, adding anybody could also use the space to record videos on his mobile phone.

The same had happened when the male suspect entered an adjoining washroom and made some clips of the girl, the source said.

The source said the MBBS stu-dents had earlier complained multiple times to the KEMU administration about the suspected movement of the male staff and `strangers` in the washrooms designated for the female students but in vain.

Talking to Dawn, KEMU Vice Chancellor Prof Mahmood Ayaz said the university had taken notice of the incident and it was in contact with the girl`s family.

He said the suspect who committed the crime had been handed over to police.

`We are investigating the matter to take the culprit to the court of law for punishment to prevent such immoral incidents in future for the safety and security of the medical students,` Dr Ayaz adds.


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Dolphin personnel booked for assaulting transperson

LAHORE: The Tibbi City police have registered a case against four members of the Dolphin Force for reportedly verbally abusing, physically assaulting, and causing injuries to a transgender person on Tuesday.

The constables involved in the incident have been identified as Shoaib, Sabir, Zeshan, and Ali. According to Masooma Ali, she was targeted while raising awareness among members of her community in the area.

Of particular note, Masooma is currently employed by the Lahore police as a victim support officer and is stationed at the Khidmat Markaz of Liberty Gulberg.

Masooma alleged that the Dolphin Force personnel began verbally abusing her and others without understanding the purpose of their gathering. When she protested against their inappropriate behavior, they physically attacked her, with one of them using the butt of a gun to assault her face, causing injuries.

Subsequently, the perpetrators fled the scene. The police have now included the four cops as suspects in the case and have initiated an investigation.

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Parents and early education of children

Parents are their child’s first teachers, advocates and motivators.

The umbilical link between parents and students is far more impactful on education than any other factor deemed important in the education system. If parents are educated, no one in the whole world except them can teach or guide their children in the best way. The role of teachers cannot be denied, yet when parents adopt the avatar of teachers, they prove to be inspiring teachers.

When parents send their children to educational institutions thinking them a nuisance at home, the emotional bond between parents and children starts depleting. It is not a matter of whether parents are educated or not, rather it is the love and concern needed to ensure emotional and educational growth of their children. In America homeschooling is prescribed legally for children of early age. But here in our country parents get anxious for their children’s education out of home as early as from three years of age.

Moreover with the advent of private schools, this trend of education out of home at so tender an age has gained buy-in from parents. The early child care and education at these schools housed in small buildings are mere mirage. Sudden and frequent change of teachers in local private schools makes students vulnerable to emotional disequilibrium, demotivating them in the learning process.

Some parents are dangerously emotionally distant from their children when they hand over them to schools and teachers, giving them the carte blanche to ensure their children’s education. This is quite an unhealthy practice. At parents-teachers meetings, it is often observed that parents do not show any affiliation and responsibility for the poor performance of their children.

Parents of public sector schools threaten the school administration and teachers not to call them up for any matter related to their children’s education. They hold schools and teachers solely responsible for the education and character building of their children. Such laissez-faire parents even don’t listen to their children if the latter complain of any behavioural threats from the peers or unaccommodating treatment of teachers. Such children develop psychological and emotional aberrations marring their learning and moral nurturing.

One of the most popular strategies for protecting against our fear of being hurt and rejected is avoidance. This coping strategy is created as a result of our initial dissatisfaction with the individuals who are supposed to take care of us. When parents shame their children in front of teachers, it becomes counterproductive pushing students to quiet quitting in the learning process. Students’ lapses in studies must be discussed in private between teachers and parents not in the presence of students. But that requires a devoted concern in parents and teachers.

Parents of lower social strata do not show any interest in the education of their children partly because of the consumption of their time and energy in earning their daily wages, and partly because of the low and delayed absorption of the educated youth into jobs, needed to resuscitate their anaemic financial health.

It’s the utter failure of parenting when parents report on their children’s misbehaviour or carelessness at home to teachers in order to discipline them. This is a very intriguing scenario. After all why are students expected to obey their teachers and not the parents? Parents’ lapse and laxity in fulfilling their parental duties, and emotional detachment make their words hollow whereas the devotion and dedication in a genuine teacher lend metanoic impact to his words. As such teachers are nonexistant now, the impact of words of these ersatz professionals is transient as students obey them willy-nilly under the constant fear of being chastised.

Parents are their child’s first teachers, advocates and motivators. Their contribution is inevitable for his holistic development.

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National action plan for plastic

The role of the general public and contributing industries is equally vital.

It is disheartening to acknowledge that Pakistan, like many developing countries, is facing an environmental catastrophe due to the lack of policy implementation and action on waste management. The country generates a substantial amount of waste, and the inadequate infrastructure for waste management exacerbates the problem.

Among the primary culprits are single-use polythene bags, which are manufactured and used on a massive scale but irresponsibly dumped in the open environment. Disturbingly, estimates suggest that over 50% of the total waste generated in Pakistan consists of plastics, with approximately 55 billion polythene bags being used each year — an alarming number that continues to rise. The call to impose a strict ban on single-use plastic is not just a suggestion; it is a necessity. Unattended polythene bags not only endanger marine and coastal environments but also contribute to urban flooding during monsoon seasons as they clog storm-water drains. The urgency to act on this cannot be emphasised. Here, government intervention is imperative. The federal, provincial and local authorities must join forces and adopt a comprehensive national action plan to address the irreversible damage caused by plastic waste. The plan should include strict regulations, policies and awareness campaigns targeting both common citizens and stakeholders. Implementation and enforcement of rules regarding waste management should be made top-most priority and strict action should be taken against violators. Additionally, promoting waste recycling, encouraging the reuse of plastic products and opting for biodegradable alternatives are all avenues that should be explored.

However, placing the burden solely on the government is not suitable. The role of the general public and contributing industries is equally vital. It is time for collective efforts to reduce plastic usage, plant more trees, promote green cities and clean up our oceans, rivers and coasts.

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Pollution trial

The theme for this year’s World Environment Day was ‘Beat Plastic Pollution’. Needless to say, Pakistan has plenty of plastic pollution, along with every other kind of pollution imaginable. From the air we breathe, to the water we drink and the food we eat, the average Pakistani likely intakes far more toxins and pollutants than any healthy human being should. According to a report by the UNDP, more than 3.3 million tons of plastic is wasted every year in the country, with much of it ending up in landfills or strewn across land and water bodies. As this mismanaged plastic begins to degrade, it ends up poisoning our soil, food and water. According to reports, scientists have now detected microplastics in the human blood stream for the first time and are worried that they may cause damage to human cells. Meanwhile, air pollution is already estimated to kill up to 7 million people per year as per the WHO, with around 128,000 Pakistanis reportedly losing their lives due to air pollution and the health complications it creates every year. It is also important to understand the linkages between the different kinds of pollution we face. For example, a significant amount of the plastic we waste is burnt, which then contributes to air pollution. As a result, any programme that aims to tackle the latter will have to deal with the former as well.

It is clear that while pollution is certainly a threat that is making our country and planet less and less habitable on a cumulative basis, it is also a more immediate threat to human lives than most people realize. And while governments, including our own, and international bodies are pledging to do more about this issue, the powerful economic interests of major polluting industries and countries leave us to wonder whether it might all end up being too little too late. For instance, the first draft of an international treaty to combat plastic pollution is due to be completed by the end of November after recent talks between 175 nations at Unesco’s Paris headquarters. However, the aim is to finalize the treaty by 2024 and there has already been pushback from major plastic-producing countries. As is often the case with environmental treaties, the end product might not go far enough in confronting pollution and leave us all thinking that what little has been achieved ought to have been done years ago anyways. Then there is the issue of financing. While combating pollution is necessary for our well-being, the economics of the exercise often makes it seem like a luxury only rich nations can afford, at least in the short term. Poorer countries will undoubtedly have to be financially compensated for there to be any meaningful progress on this front.

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Climate shock

When tiny Samia was brought to the UNICEF-supported medical centre in the northeastern port city of Bossaso in Somalia, her skin was pulled tight over her emaciated rib cage. The infant was so weak from fever and diarrhoea that her eyes remained half closed and she could hardly move her legs and arms. Desperate for help, her mother had spent two days on the road, traveling 350km (220 miles) to get her child proper medical attention. “Her cries were uncontrollable,” says the mother, Saido Mohamed, 31. “I didn’t know what to do or where to go for help.” After Samia was examined at the clinic, it was determined that she had severe acute malnutrition, a life-threatening condition. Doctors attached a drip to her left arm to replace lost fluids and monitored her closely for two weeks.

Samia eventually recovered, but hundreds of thousands of children across Somalia are suffering just like her. The Horn of Africa has recently experienced its worst drought in decades. With five failed rainy seasons in a row severely impacting agricultural production, the United Nations estimates that at least 43.3 million people across the region require life-sustaining assistance, including 8.25 million in Somalia. Thankfully, the current rainy season (April – June 2023) is faring better than expected and a famine appears to have been narrowly avoided by sustained humanitarian assistance and declining food prices. But the crisis is far from over. As many as 1.8 million Somali children under the age of five could still face acute malnutrition through 2023, with an estimated 477,700 needing treatment for severe wasting.

Somalia’s story is not just one of prolonged droughts, either. Climate change has locked the country in a spiral of droughts and floods, with recent rains flooding the lowlands and displacing more than 200,000 people. Although initially slow to respond to the threat of famine, the international community eventually came to Somalia’s aid. Aid organisations stepped up their efforts and famine was averted. However, while the threat of famine and severe malnutrition still looms on the horizon, with so much suffering in global headlines, the world’s attention has already moved away from Somalia and the region.

The war in Ukraine and three years of COVID-19 have understandably left people numb to bad news and painful statistics. But now is not the time for the international community to switch off. The fact remains that Somalia and other countries in this region are just one failed rainy season away from another human catastrophe. The impact of recurring climatic shocks, widespread food insecurity, and reduced livelihood potential is being compounded by persistent conflict and community displacements. If we are to save more children like Samia, we must come together and continue supporting the lifesaving response in the Horn of Africa.

Excerpted: ‘In Somalia, the rains have come but the crisis is far from over’. Courtesy: Aljazeera.com

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