Eyes, throat, breathing problems soar as smog reaches dangerous level

LAHORE: As Lahore remained at the top of the world’s most polluted cities, thick layer of smog turned the City’s Air Quality Index (AQI) very unhealthy here Monday.

Data collected from IQAir revealed that with an AQI of 279, Lahore remained on the top of the world most polluted cities the second consecutive day. Rest of the top nine most polluted cities in the world were Baghdad, Iraq (190), Beijing, China (188), Delhi, (186), Dhaka, (159), Mumbai (156), Jakarta, Indonesia (156), Wuhan, China (155), Kolkata, (154) and Krasnoyarsk, Russia (154). On the other hand, the City witnessed a hazy day and a number of citizens while talking with the scribe complained about irritation in throat, burning of eyes and difficulty in breathing. They demanded the caretaker chief minister announce holidays in schools as this kind of atmosphere was very dangerous for the schoolchildren.

The citizens also appealed to the chief minister to ban all kind of ongoing on scheduled construction activities in the City for the next two months as these sites were becoming major source of PM2.5.

Sources in EPA claimed that use of substandard fuel such as plastic and rubber especially in cottage industry around Bund Road was contributing a lot in increasing the smog. They said the EPA was not taking effective measures to tackle this issue and just eye washing measures were being taken. Sources further added that vehicular pollution was also one of the major contributor of the smog but no strict action was being taken against smoke-emitting vehicles. They claimed that the vehicles owned by public departments such as LWMC, Wasa, LDA, MCL, C&W lacked fitness certificates and were never checked by the traffic police and transport department.

Sources added that the machines used by the EPA to monitor the air quality were also not calibrated, which was due, so the data provided by them was not reliable.

When contacted, EPA DG Zaheer Abbas didn’t bother to attend the call while the department’s focal person was also not available to give official point of view over the dangerously rising levels of the smog.

Meanwhile, Met officials said continental air was prevailing over most parts of country. They predicted that mainly dry weather was expected in most parts of country while cold and partly cloudy in upper parts. Monday’s minimum temperature was recorded at Leh where mercury dropped to -03°C, while in Lahore, it was 16.8°C and maximum was 30.3°C.

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PECA and children

Part – II

By Rida Tahir

The court has also been tasked with responsibilities under the 2023 amendment. Under Section 44 and 2 (ix) of PECA 2016, designated courts for electronic crimes were notified in consultation with the chief justices of ICT and each province.

As per Section 30 (4) of the 2023 amendment, the court on taking cognizance of a case shall “…proceed with the trial on weekly basis and shall decide the case within three months, failing which the matter shall be brought, to the notice of the Chief Justice of the High Court concerned for appropriate directions, keeping in view the facts and circumstances of the case.”

Comparatively, under Sections 3 and 16 of the Anti-Rape Act 2021, Special Courts have been notified and mandated to decide the case “preferably within four months”. Therefore, separate courts exist under both laws and there is also a contradiction in the trial period times under both laws.

Additionally, Section 30B has been inserted by the 2023 amendment to add victim and witness protection to the existing law. Section 30B states that “a victim and witness protection system shall be established by the federal and provincial governments of Pakistan through rules with features…”. The victim and witness protection methods include special security arrangements for witnesses and victims, concealment of identity, distance recording of testimonies through video-conferencing and audio video links and by the use of modern devices, re-location of victims and witnesses, provision of reasonable financial assistance, compensation to legal heirs of protected victims and witnesses, safe-houses, dar-ul-amans etc and such other measures as maybe necessary and ancillary. Victim and witness protection mechanisms are also stipulated under Section 8 of the Anti-Rape Act 2021.

Recently, in Muhammad Shahzad Khaliq v the State (Criminal Appeal No.151/2020), the Islamabad High Court (IHC) issued survivor-centric guidelines in cases of child abuse material. These include guidance to protect victims/survivors, such as they should not be called to the court, if the evidence is based upon video, IT Data, mobile data, information system etc and confirmed by the Forensic Science Agency through their report. Child abuse material shall not be displayed in the court and the trial court shall pass an order for elimination of all such data, images or videos. It is necessary that these specific guidelines are also incorporated within the victim and witness protection system in the 2023 amendment (or its rules when framed) to protect the children.

Section 30B has been inserted by the amendment to mandate in-camera trials in offences against minors. ‘In camera’ is a Latin phrase that directly translates to ‘in chambers’. It is used to signify that proceedings of a legal case are conducted in private, before a judge, and are not open to the press or the public. Similarly, Section 12 of the Anti-Rape Act 2021 also mandates an in-camera trial.

Further, Article 164 of the Qanun-e-Shahadat, concerning the “production of evidence that has become available because of modern devices or information system” has been substituted by the 2023 amendment. It states: “Depending on the nature of case and circumstances, the court may, if deems appropriate, allow to be produced any evidence or witnesses recorded by the court through the modern devices or techniques including video call, Viber, Skype, imo, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, LINE caller and video conference, etc.” This is a good addition to ensure evidence collected through the modern devices or techniques may be produced in the court of law.

Lastly, Sections 292B and 292C (child pornography and its punishment) of PPC 1860 have been omitted. These were inserted into the PPC through the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2016. Unfortunately, when laws are repealed and new amendments are made, it becomes challenging to implement them as the CJS actors remain unaware of these changes.

Therefore, implementation and awareness of the 2023 amendment is essential. National and sub-national human rights institutions (NHRIs) such as the Sindh Human Rights Commission (SHRC) must play their role. Recently, the SHRC conducted trainings for 45 recently appointed civil judges and judicial magistrates and law police inspectors under Section 4(vi)(viii) and (ix) of the Sindh Protection of Human Rights Act 2011 on the latest laws regarding human rights including the PECA 2016 and the 2021 and 2023 Amendments. Efforts like these are valued and appreciated.

Under Section 6 of the Anti-Rape Act 2021, the legal aid and justice authority (LAJA) established under LAJA Act 2020 has been mandated to provide legal assistance to the victims/survivors. This linkage is missing from the 2023 amendment. Further, Linkages with Section 4 and 5 (Anti-Rape Crises Cells), Section 7 (Special Prosecutors), 11 (Independent Support Advisors), 20 (Fund) under the Anti-Rape Act 2021 are also missing from the 2023 Amendment.

Lastly, under Section 30 of the Anti-Rape Act 2021, the Ministry of Law and Justice (MOLJ) can amend the schedule through notification in the official Gazette. It is recommended that the offences defined and introduced to PECA 2016 through the 2023 amendment are also included in the Schedule. This will ensure a linkage between PECA and its 2023 Amendment and the Anti-Rape Act 2021.


The writer is a barrister. She tweets/posts @RidaT95 and can be reached at: ridaatahir@gmail.com

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A racist liberalism

THE post-1945 liberal world order based on human rights and democracy is unique in history given its wide coverage of key issues and global acceptance. Many philosophies had earlier given similar ideas but had left out key issues and groups, such as women and slaves, or lacked global acceptance.

The adoption of this order in the UN conventions with its near-global membership make it the first globally dominant liberal order even if not all states accept all UN tenets. Even autocratic states are judged against, and have to defer partially to, them. It is intellectually simple. Unlike copious metaphysical edicts, all its detailed clauses can be derived from two moral tenets: don`t harm anyone and help those in need. Given these two, a secular person like me doesn`t need even a third one, let alone numerous tenets, to guide my life.

Clearly, this order emerged, at least immediately, from the West though it absorbed the earlier ideas of other cultures.

This order had the potential to give a just world after 1945. But it has slowly lost its appeal. Illiberal ideologies such as fundamentalism and populism are now firing the imagination globally given its failure to fulfil its promise. While the acts of autocratic states have undercut it too, a bigger cause has been its hypocritical and racist use by its Western author states such as the US. On issue after issue, they have conjured up excuses for why these tenets can`t be applied when white Western states fight other races on immigration, trade, global governance or in actual wars.

High racist walls are being erected around Fortresses Europe and US to exclude coloured immigrants, both documented and undocumented, on the openly racist pretext of protecting racial dominance and cultures. The logic is often couched in terms of economic burden, though studies show that immigrants of all status boost economic growth.

The plan to have rules-based global trade via the WTO remains unfulfilled. Western states have exacted concessions from weak southern states on issues beneficial to them such as foreign investment and intellectual rights but refuse to lower barriers in areas critical for southern ones like agriculture.

Western states have stubbornly refused to democratise the IMF, World Bank and the UN. The US has shamelessly aided megalomaniac autocrats in many southern states despite the abuses its allies were inflicting locally. Even within Western states, coloured people are often treated as secondclass citizens.

But this racist liberalism has unleashed its powers most destructively in wars pitting Western powers against hapless south-ern peoples, as in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine. Elaborate UN, and their own, laws on protecting civilians are tossed into the trash bin as the US and its Western allies pursue their military interests. The aim of eradicating terrorism has been used as free licence to inflict grievous harm on southern civilians without remorse.

Nowhere is this done more viciously now than by Israel in Gaza. We are told ad nauseam that Israel has the right to defend itself even though it`s an occupier. A rational view on this right would cover Israel beefing up its air, land and sea border security, eliminating attackers from its land and strengthening its intelligence against future attacks. These steps alone can pre-empt a similar Hamas attack, which too was wrong in targeting Israeli civilians. But only a highly racist view would include under this right indiscriminate bombing of a dense civilian area to destroy Hamas when it also kills thousandsof Gaza women, kids and elderly.

The Israeli attacks are more about revenge and repairing bruised egos.

Gazans are being treated like sheep locked in a small pen, not allowed to leave while being butchered brutally by a mass murderer. Yetracist Western liberal conscience remains unmoved by the sight of such ghastly suffering. Coloured lives matter less than white ones is the clear message from the West.

These actions of domestically democratic Western states globally mirror those of unaccountable autocrats. Liberalism, though, is not inherently racist, only so in the hands of Western elites who adopted liberalism as it aided capitalism to spread nationally. While capitalism exploits weaker classes in markets only, racism exploits weaker ethnicities in all facets of life. But the entire West is not complicit in this hypocrisy as the marches of hundreds of thousands in Western cities against Israel show. Resistance to Western racist liberalism exists among many whites too.

The path forward is for southern progressives to link with Western ones to challenge racist liberalism and pursue a global liberalism. • The wnter is a political economist with a PhD degree from the University of Califomia, Berkeley murtazaniaz@yahoo.com X (formerly Twitter): @NiazMurtaza2

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Woman’s killers arrested

Investigations police Garden Town have arrested two suspects for shooting a woman dead over a minor financial dispute. The arrested suspects have been identified as Waqas and Faiz. They had shot dead victim Arooj over a financial dispute.

Meanwhile, Organised Crime Unit Model Town has arrested three suspected burglars who were identified as Faisal Nazir, Nauman Intazar and Kamran. Police recovered cash, mobile phones and gold ornaments.

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Blurred lines

OVER time, the establishment has made so much ingress in the civilian domain that it is becoming more and more difficult to draw a line between the two. Recently, the National Database and Registration Authority and the National Accountability Bureau, which deal mainly with civilians` affairs, were handed over to a serving and a retired army man, respectively, to control. Now, the caretaker government also wants officers from the Pakistan Army Medical Corps to head two state-run hospitals in Islamabad. The Ministry of National Health Services says the decision is in the `best interest of the patients and health sector`. The two hospitals are reported to be suffering from a truancy problem: doctors, paramedics, and other staff often don`t turn up at work. `Only an army officer will be able to enforce discipline,` one senior health ministry official told this publication. But these are public hospitals, not military ones: why should military officers tell civilian doctors how to do their jobs? There is a host of well-run institutions in Pakistan that are capably managed by civilians, and there is no reason why PIMS and Polyclinic or, for that matter, NAB and Nadra cannot be too. The armed forces` discipline and organisation are admirable, but the country is going to be better served if other institutions and their people are also given enough space to emulate these qualities on their own. Instead of being handed over to military control, these institutions should be helped to grow. Some bad precedents set a long time ago put us on the trajectory of political evolution that has culminated in the `hybrid` model of governance we see in vogue today. There is a broad consensus that the steady erosion of Pakistan`s civilian institutions is what has rendered the country unable to progress socially or economically. The solution lies not in giving the military the steering wheel, but in building public institutions` capacity to deal with the challenges they face.

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