Parenthood and the state – 31 May 2023

The story is all too familiar in Pakistan; for far too long, we have witnessed the various manifestations of the unfair choices working parents are subjected to in the face of relentless socio-economic pressures. Whereas child birth brings with it unquantifiable joy, skewed expectations and pressures can make it an overwhelming experience. For women particularly, the bargain can be brutal, as childbirth brings with it the painful realization that the very ethos of our workplaces makes their careers and ambitions discardable commodities. However, there are days we are reminded of the monumental role the state can play in navigating the arduous terrain of parenthood. On May 15, 2023 three historic bills that seek to effectively respond to the contemporary realities of parenthood were passed by parliament in a joint sitting.

The bills are monumental for ensuring fair and sustainable employment for both men and women. According to the bill regarding maternity and paternity leaves for parents, women are entitled to paid maternity leave of: 180 days (six months) on first birth; 120 days (four months) on second birth; and 90 days (three months) on the third birth.

Male employees will be entitled to paid paternity leave of: 30 days (one month) a total of three times during service.

As per the bill, the maternity/paternity leave policy will be applicable to both public and private establishments in the federal capital territory of Islamabad. Whereas implementation comes under the purview of the executive, the bills mention explicit penalties for non-compliance. Employers who do not comply face up to six months of imprisonment and/or a fine of Rs100,000.

Similarly, the bill concerning daycare centres requires all government and private establishments which have at least 70 employees, to provide daycare facilities, in light of more women entering the workforce. Non compliance can be punishable by a fine of Rs100,000 and/or up to six months in prison. Lastly, the bill pertaining to paramedics in schools requires all public and private schools, with an enrolment of over 30 students to have trained paramedical staff who can provide immediate medical assistance and administer first aid to the students.

Senator Quratulain Marri, the architect behind these landmark bills, holds a special affinity for legislation around various social issues. Like numerous Pakistanis, she has witnessed close friends and family face a myriad of hard choices and anxieties while starting or expanding their families. A time which should otherwise be momentous and joyous, she says, becomes riddled with financial worries and societal burdens.

The lack of adequate paid maternity leave leads numerous women to opt out of the workforce or take prolonged breaks, which eventually hampers their future career prospects, and has far reaching consequences for the economy. Even where maternity leave is provided, it is followed by the abject lack of daycare facilities, which leaves new mothers disgruntled and may affect productivity. For those who cannot rely on families or paid helpers for child care, the workday seems bleak. Consequently, the financial expectations from fathers are no less worrisome, who are unable to adequately participate in the child’s early months, leading to unbalanced familial relationships.

The benefits of employers acknowledging and responding to the needs of parents are enormous. There is overwhelming evidence to support the numerous positive outcomes of female workforce participation, both to the workplace, and to the economy and society at large. Pakistan’s current female labour force participation stands at around 22 per cent, which is one of the lowest in South Asia and globally. This is a lost opportunity in terms of productivity and economic growth.

The State Bank of Pakistan has recently estimated that reducing the gap in female labour force participation can generate 19.3 million jobs and can boost GDP by almost 23 per cent. Similar figures have been presented by the World Bank and the ILO. In a recent report, the World Bank has emphasized the need to remove barriers that limit women’s workforce participation and recognise the potential of this massive untapped reservoir. Per Najy Benhassine, World Bank country director for Pakistan, “Women in Pakistan have made progress in educational attainment, but this accumulated human capital is underused because of constraints they face to participate in the labour force.”

These bills go to the root of the problem; they remove the impossible and unfair constraints women are subjected to which become the primary reason for their exit from the workplace. The choice between a satisfying career and a fulfilling family life lies at the very heart of the patriarchal bargain. Very few women are able to convince their families that they can balance both responsibilities, and unfortunately the way workplaces are structured makes failure almost inevitable. Hence, the system sets women up for failure, depriving society of financially empowered women and the economy of additional growth and productivity.

It is also well documented how workplaces negatively view female employees who choose to get married or start families during their employment tenures. Numerous women choose to conceal the news of their weddings and pregnancies from their employers due to the fear of negative stereotyping. Meanwhile, workplaces are known to try and evade responsibility under such circumstances which skews the balance against working mothers. The state must act responsibly and enact legislation which enables workplaces to become fairer places of employment for both men and women.

Many of these constraints are interconnected and require targeted state interventions, such as these bills, to address them. The gendered cultural norms that seek to limit women’s workforce participation also place the entirety of financial burdens on fathers. New fathers are expected to resume work, unfazed, soon after the birth of their children, whereas new mothers are to forget the world outside their homes. Several studies suggest the importance of the early close relationship between a father and child which has long term implications. It is important to recognize the role of both parents in the childcare process as a necessary step towards healthier family structures. It is positive to see the state recognize this.

It is equally important to note that bills pertaining to such sensitive issues undergo vigorous debate which often last for several months. Oftentimes, external audiences are unaware of the dedication and consistency the passage of bills, especially those as monumental as these, requires. Senator Marri credits the leadership of the PPP, especially Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, for always standing behind such initiatives and lending credence to them.

Legislation such as these three recent bills also reaffirms the PPP’s commitment to women’s economic empowerment, which was integral to the PPP Manifesto in 2018. Furthermore, it will also assist in the mainstreaming of women in public life. Previously, the Protection against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act 2010 was another milestone achieved under the PPP-led government. Senator Marri is also hopeful that the Sindh government will follow the precedent set and pass these bills in the provincial assembly too.

In order to respond to the mounting challenges faced by contemporary families, the state must change its outlook and respond according to these new realities. With higher educational attainment of women, we must find ways to translate this potential into increased economic opportunities and sustainable employment for women. Just as change in social realities is the law of life, responding to such changes is the life of law.

As women increasingly join the workforce and break the proverbial glass ceiling, the law too must yield to these changes and affirm that women need not choose between their career and their homes. While women’s dreams have often been shattered by patriarchy and other pressures, such legislation is a significant step towards preserving such dreams and keeping the flickering flame of hope alive.

The writer is a women’s rights activist and political worker for the Pakistan People’s Party, currently holding the office of deputy information secretary for PPP Central Punjab. She tweets @NayabGJan

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A state of many cases – 31 May 2023

‘Never a dull moment’ is a cliche, even more so for Pakistani politics. How could we have a dull moment when there is a steady stream of cases and audio/video leaks? The sad reality is that these moments are not amusing or entertaining, as many on social media tend to project.

Pakistan has a long history of registering cases against political opponents. From the controversial Public and Representative Office (Disqualification) Act (Proda) 1949, misusing laws against opposition leaders and parties became a common practice. The Liaquat Ali Khan government was the first one to embark on a journey of maligning and targeting all those who dared to differ with government decisions and policies. Later, in 1951, a baseless Rawalpindi conspiracy case targeted left-wing and progressive activists and intellectuals in the country.

Literary stalwarts such as Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Sajjad Zaheer, Hasan Abidi and many others faced years of imprisonment. In 1959, the martial-law regime of Gen Ayub Khan enacted the Elective Bodies Disqualification Order (EBDO) to disqualify a large number of politicians from carrying out electoral activities for eight years – until December 31, 1966. Most of these top-notch leaders could reenter the political arena in 1967. This was a blatant mockery of law by a dictator who claimed to introduce ‘basic democracy’ in the country and in the process demolished the entire political spectrum.

In 1971, the Awami League emerged as the largest political party with enough seats to form the government. Gen Yahya Khan refused to hand over power to the elected representatives and initiated a devastating military action. He registered cases against the entire leadership of the Awami league and arrested Mujibur Rehman, who was the most popular leader of the country at that time. Gen Yahya Khan imposed a ban based on those cases on the party that had just won elections. Those cases and the accompanying military action caused a lot of harm to the country.

In the mid-1970s, prime minister ZA Bhutto used cases against a major progressive and secular political party that Wali Khan was leading. Bhutto used the Hyderabad conspiracy case to target the opposition and imprisoned the entire leadership of the National Awami Party (NAP), dissolved that party and confiscated all its assets. The judicial tribunal (Hyderabad tribunal) prosecuted opposition politicians on the charges of treason and acting against the ideology of Pakistan. The case could never conclude, and the arrested leaders remained in prison for years without proof.

Consequently, when Bhutto himself became a target of such cases, there were hardly any political parties who could support him in his battle against state institutions. Gen Zia used his state machinery to persecute dozens of political leaders and hundreds of activists. Most of those cases were false and ill-intentioned, targeting anyone who had any democratic aspirations and was vocal about it. This was the period when Begum Nusrat Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto endured long detentions; they did not have access to proper medical treatment, and state machinery was up in arms against them, but they remained steadfast.

The martial-law regime implicated thousands of political workers in false cases, sentenced them to flogging and lashes, imprisonments, and even hangings. These cases left an indelible mark on the polity or the political system of the country.

In 1988, after an 11-year-long dark night, Benazir Bhutto assumed charge as the youngest and the first woman prime minister of any Muslim country. There were spin doctors who worked against her, churning out allegations of corruption, sedition, and even treason.

When she hosted Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, her opponents declared her a security threat. Nawaz Sharif was at the forefront of this nefarious campaign, with the likes of General Hameed Gul supporting him wholeheartedly. When president Ghulam Ishaq Khan removed prime minister Benazir Bhutto, he could not have done it without the support from the then army chief General Aslam Beg. As soon as she lost power, the new government initiated cases against her and other PPP leaders. Nawaz Sharif hounded Benazir Bhutto, and in turn she did nearly the same when she returned to power in 1993.

The entire decade of the 1990s saw hundreds of cases against political opponents initiated by the sitting governments to target the opposition. Most of these cases did nothing but weaken the democratic foundations of the system that never saw any stability. When Gen Pervez Musharraf’s commanders staged a military coup in 1999, there was once again a long list of cases that the PML-N faced, apart from the cases that the PPP was facing that the Nawaz Sharif government had registered against them. But then on BB’s initiative, Nawaz Sharif agreed to sign the marvelous document called the Charter of Democracy in 2006.

After the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, when the PPP came to power once again, president Asif Ali Zardari avoided repeating the mistakes of the 1990s. He tried his best to accommodate the opposition and did not initiate any cases that could harm his relations with the PML-N.

The 2008-2018 decade established the judiciary as an active player in nearly all major decisions that the successive governments of the PPP and the PML-N were trying to make. From Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry to Justices Saqib Nisar, Asif Saeed Khosa, Gulzar Ahmed, and the present judiciary – all stretched themselves too much out of their designated domains. They delivered verdicts that were not entirely in accordance with the established judicial practices of keeping their hands clean. From removing former PM Yusuf Raza Gilani to targeting Nawaz Sharif on dubious charges, there is a litany of substandard decisions and observations.

Traditionally there have been three centres of power in the country: the GHQ, the judiciary, and parliament. In his almost four-year-long tenure, Imran Khan had the distinction of enjoying almost unconditional support. All the cases the Imran Khan government initiated against the opposition smacked of fascist tendencies in the PTI leadership that is now facing the music.

All said and done, the current government must not initiate any false cases against the opposition. There should be solid proof of involvement in any criminal activity before an accused is put behind bars. Of course, those who themselves have been highly intolerant against the opposition are now begging for mercy and calling for a ‘democratic dialogue’ that they never initiated while in power. Culprits and miscreants must face cases and get sentences, but in this process it should be ensured that there is no miscarriage of justice.

The writer holds a PhD from the University of Birmingham, UK. He tweets @NaazirMahmood and can be reached at:

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What does privacy mean? – 31 May 2023

Power and rights are neither absolute nor permanent but dynamic, situational, contested and socially constructed concepts. Power, in the sociological context does not merely mean raw physical force or economic might to influence the thoughts, actions and behaviour of others. In reality, it represents the will and capacity to give a particular context, on the basis of one’s own values or interests, which other people, organizations or nations willingly or unwillingly follow.

According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, the concept of privacy is rooted in Western philosophy. Aristotle introduced and distinguished between the notions of ‘polis’, meaning the public domain of political activity, and ‘oikos’, which refers to the domestic family sphere. However, in this Greek intellectual distinction the original purpose was not to restrict self-regulation or obviate state oversight which is different but equally important for appropriate social behaviour and prevent individual criminal activities in both individual and public gatherings and situations.

During the late 19th century, the evolution of the US privacy protection law was mainly influenced by the moral consideration to protect family values and customs within an increasingly diverse and multi-racial, multi-ethnic and multi-religious American society rather than to merely serve as a legal instrument to protect an individual’s right to deny the state’s intrusion into his/her personal affairs.

It is important to recognize and appreciate the fundamental reality that mutual relations between state and its citizens are primarily grounded in its social contract, based on how the rights and obligations are socially constructed within a particular cultural context, before being constitutionally agreed and subsequently enforced through law-making and protected through legal implementation.

In Quran, Surah-e-Hujurat (Chapter 12, verse 49) describes the Islamic concept of privacy but comprehensively and clearly demands a careful balance between social and individual rights and obligations, by urging Muslims to simultaneously avoid suspicion, spying and backbiting. This indicates that unlike Western philosophy and modern jurisprudence the Islamic notion of privacy is neither unilateral, unconditional nor isolated from the overall and overarching objective of creating a just, peaceful and respectable society, in which the individual’s rights are balanced with his/her equally vital social obligation of not indulging in backbiting or conspiracies against the state.

According to ‘Tarikh-e-Tabari’ (Volume 2, Pages 320-321), Hazrat Hatib bin Abi Balta’ah (ra), a Muslim companion of the Prophet (pbuh) and a war veteran of the battle of Badr, sent a secret letter to his tribe to warn them about the Muslims’ plan to attack them. The letter was covertly hidden and carried by a woman. The prophet (pbuh) sent Hazrat Ali bin Abu Talib (ra) and Hazrat Zubair bin Awam (ra) to intercept that woman and ensure the letter did not reach the enemy. Hazrat Ali swiftly followed the woman and after stopping her searched her camel and all her belongings but couldn’t find the letter.

Since Hazrat Ali was convinced about the authenticity of the information, he threatened the woman with dire consequences. Upon realizing that he would not budge or let her go unless she handed over the letter, the woman took it out of her hair and gave it to Hazrat Ali (ra) who promptly brought it to the Prophet (pbuh). The Prophet (pbuh) called and investigated his Muslim companion Hatib bin Abi Balta’ah (ra) and demanded an explanation before other companions. Hazrat Umer (ra) advised the Prophet (pbuh) to punish the concerned sahabi for his betrayal and breach of trust but the Prophet (pbuh) stopped short of punishing him only because he was a war veteran of the battle of Badr.

This very important historic incident proves that the concept of privacy is neither universal nor provides a legal justification to allow any individual or group, irrespective of their rank or prestige, to indulge in anti-state activities and harm state interests.

Islamic philosophy offers great respect and sanctity to all individuals, particularly in terms of protecting the dignity and honor of ladies and protecting all individuals against several forms of discrimination. However, the above Quranic verse and this particular personal decision, act and instruction of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) clearly proves that any individual, including a close, respected companion and war veteran of the Prophet (pbuh) as well as a woman were not allowed to use the notion of privacy to harm the collective public and state interest of the entire Muslim state and even their personal letter addressed to a relative, which is private property, was confiscated.

In the contemporary environment characterized by accelerated globalization, rapid advent of IT and cyber technologies and growing popularity of social media, reviewing the notion of privacy has become very significant – not to reject it but to adapt and tailor it more accurately to the changing global, regional and domestic environment. The social and actual purpose of the concept of privacy and its traditional legal framework needs to be dispassionately and logically revisited in order to ensure that the social contract between state and society is realistically and practically preserved in line with our values, culture as well as national security considerations.

The global war on terror, the swift evolution of the IT sector and growing domestic and global cyber security challenges have made information domain the most critical battlespace in the perpetual contest between values, interests, wealth and power between states as well as within states, way beyond conventional battlefields.

We are all living in an environment in which our family structure, values, ideology and culture are constantly facing moral and intellectual threats not merely economic losses or data theft. Hybrid warfare has virtually replaced conventional warfare as a superior, low-cost but more effective strategy to disrupt the social cohesion, political stability and moral values of other states. Therefore, the modern legal system must recognize that these rapid, real and deep transformations in our social interactions, relations, behaviour and norms pose critical and decisive challenges to our values, social structures as well as national interests, not merely the rights of an individual.

It is a national security imperative for our parliament, along with its relevant standing committees on law, justice, human rights, religious affairs as well as the Council of Islamic Ideology to start a timely, unemotional and informed debate to ensure that the concept of privacy and national security are mutually consistent and our privacy laws are compatible with our own values, ideology, culture and national interests and not driven by merely by individual and political interests as well as liberal norms, external expectations and pressures.

The writer is an international security analyst with over28 years of internationally negotiating, advising,analyzing, publishing and teaching several aspects ofnational security.

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Caregivers` burden – 31 May 2023

A STUDY on Maternal Stress and Health Quality of Life in Mothers with Special Needs Children, authored by Sara Jafree and Khadija Burhan of FCC University, Lahore, was published by Ataturk University recently. The study maintains that mothers of special needs children (SNC) face tremendous stress not only in accessing appropriate healthcare for their child, but also in negotiating economic, social and cultural support for themselves. The problem is exacerbated in conservative, including Muslim, societies where patriarchal attitudes, social stigma and superstition dominate the narrative and SNC and their families are shamed and excluded from the community.

The brunt of seeking medical treatment, education, therapies and vocational training, caring for the SNC physically and emotionally, and managing daily chores and family relations, falls on mothers. No wonder they feel exhausted, anxious and depressed, with low self-esteem and deteriorating health outcomes. The NIH in Maryland found that mothers of adolescents and adults with autism experienced `chronic stress comparable to combat soldiers`. Many of them admitted to having said at least once in their lives: `I will kill him/her and then kill myself.

These women also experience insecurity due to the higher risk of abuse and violence of SNC. In many cases, family and in-laws are not supportive or are hostile, while conservative norms restrict their mobility.

Compared to fathers, mothers of SNC have very few opportunities to mingle with the larger community and are deprived of leisure activities. The solitary burden they have to bear due to unsupportive government policies and community neglect is incredible.

With three per cent of children currently diagnosed with autism according to the Centre for Prevention of Diseases, US, and an increasing number of self-diagnosed adults, there is an urgent need to restructure social welfare services in Pakistan.

The government with its limited resources needs the help of civil society organisations to spread awareness and acceptance of invisible disabilities like autism and ADHD. It is also imperative to develop responsive communities to play a supportive role.

The ASD Welfare Trust is working to spread awareness about autism and related conditions in small towns and villages in Pakistan. The goal is to empower women mothers, teachers, lady health workers with information as well as comfort. Autism awareness seminars are held in local hotels and marriage halls where lectures and discussions are followed by lunch, giving peo-ple a chance to intermingle.

Social engagement helps reduce class barriers, isolation and stigma, and creates opportunities for catharsis, psychoeducation and problem-solving. For parents, such activities are transformative as they find a new environment of empathy.

The approach focuses on groups and communities with little or no access to information, and that are vulnerable not only to the stigma attached to disability, but also to harmful practices such as recourse to faith healers and neglect of children and young adults, particularly girls with autism who are perceived as mad and socially and e conomically unproductive.

Social engagement improves communication, empathy and support for SNC and their families. Collective training programmes for mothers are needed to make them aware of the need for consistent engagement with their children, especially those with neurodivergent conditions. This is a neglected area as many mothers tend to leave everything to teach-ers and avoid personal responsibility.

In recent years, the concept of social role valorisation is being used by many social service delivery groups to train community leaders to support disabled and neurodivergent persons. According to SRV theory, everyone has the capacity to play a positive role in his/her personal life as well asthat of society. The community needs to recognise these multiple roles and identities and add value to these through social role valorisation. The strategy is to mobilise and sensitise communities to evolve from devaluation of persons who are different from the rest, to `valuation` and appreciation of their roles in different community settings.

It is the responsibility of the government to reinforce these initiatives through training of social welfare and health officials about the laws, rules and services related to SNC rights. Financial subsidies, free healthcare, hospitalisation, and maternal counselling must be given to SNC and their families. The government must engage with community notables, religious leaders, NGOs and CBOs and the media to create awareness and mobilise collective community support for their inclusion in educational, economic and sociocultural activities.• The wnter, a former federal secretary, is CEO, ASD Welfare Trust.

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Constitutional courts – 31 May 2023

THIS government`s legislative interventions will be remembered for making even good things seem bad because of how cynical and self-serving the intentions behind each appear to have been. According to news reports, lawyer Irfan Qadir, recently reappointed as special assistant to the prime minister on legal reforms and accountability, has reignited a discussion on the possibility of establishing a constitutional court to work alongside the Supreme Court. The creation of a separate court to deal with the constitutionality of various parliamentary actions and legislations was a proposal jointly agreed to by the PPP and the PML-N under the Charter of Democracy signed in 2006. It was never really pursued with the required seriousness thereafter, but the PDM now feels the need to revisit it. The question is, why? Mr Qadir has said that the proposed constitutional court would be composed of retired, `non-controversial chief justices`, along with judges drawn from the superior judiciary as well as parliamentarians with legal expertise. He has presented such a court as a solution to the many challenges dogging the Supreme Court, which, he believes, are preventing it from issuing `unbiased` verdicts. While the idea may not be without its merits, the establishment of a constitutional court cannot be done without national consensus or enacted through a parliament that is not truly representative of the people. This government, which has denied the public their right to participate in the democratic process by refusing to hold due elections to the KP and Punjab assemblies, has lost whatever little moral authority it had to make such decisions on their behalf. It is also rather unseemly that this proposal has been tabled not because it is a required next step in the evolution of the Pakistani judicial system, but because the government considers it a power play in its confrontation with the Supreme Court. The question will, therefore, be asked: is this good for the country, or just good for the PDM? The idea of constitutional courts is not unheard of more than five dozen countries have them in place. It is also not a bad one, considering the massive and continuously increasing backlog of cases pending before Supreme Court justices, who must currently deal with both pressing constitutional matters as well as regular criminal and civil appeals. Splitting the workload between two courts could greatly help ease this pressure. A separate constitutional court would also utilise the experience and expertise of retired judges, whose accumulated wisdom is dispensed with rather early under the Pakistani system compared to, for example, the US supreme court, which appoints its justices for life. Clearly, this proposal could have been considerably better received had it not seemed like yet another thinly disguised attempt to encroach upon the Supreme Court`s domain.

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Fundamental rights and 50 years of Constitution – 30 May 2023

No state authority has managed to implement the core of the Constitution in its true spirit

This past March, we celebrated 50 years of the 1973 Constitution. Various events were held in the National Assembly to celebrate the success of preserving the Constitution for 50 years. It’s indeed a matter of pride that we have a written constitution. However, the implementation part remains a greater challenge that should be discussed. The 1973 Constitution contains a comprehensive chapter on fundamental rights, which are basic rights guaranteed by a country’s constitution.

In Pakistan, fundamental rights are enshrined in Chapter 1 of the Constitution of 1973. They are intended to protect the citizens from any arbitrary or unjust action by the state or its organs. Some of the benefits of fundamental rights in Pakistan are as follow:

They ensure equality before the law and equal protection of the law for all citizens regardless of their religion, caste, creed, sex or place of birth. They safeguard the dignity and liberty of the individual by prohibiting torture, slavery, forced labour and arbitrary arrest or detention. They promote democracy and accountability by allowing citizens to express their opinions, form associations, assemble peacefully and participate in elections. They foster tolerance and pluralism by protecting the rights of religious minorities and ensuring freedom of conscience and worship. They encourage social justice and development by providing for the right to education, health, property and a clean environment.

However, despite these constitutional guarantees, fundamental rights in Pakistan face many challenges due to various factors such as political instability, weak rule of law, corruption, terrorism, religious extremism and discrimination. Many human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists and activists who expose abuses face harassment, intimidation, threats, arrests and even killings. The government also uses draconian laws such as sedition and counterterrorism to stifle dissent and regulate civil society groups. Women, religious minorities and transgender people continue to face violence, discrimination and persecution with impunity.

Promotion of the social and economic well-being is one of the articles under the chapter on Principles of the Policy of the fundamental rights enshrined in the 1973 Constitution. This chapter indicated the sole responsibility of each organ and authority of the State to act in accordance with the Principles of Policy. Socio-economic well-being refers to the quality of life of individuals and societies. It is determined by social, economic and environmental conditions. Economic well-being is defined as having present and future financial security, including the ability of individuals, families and communities to consistently meet their basic needs and have control over their finances. Economic well-being provides people with equal opportunities for advancement, a sense of social inclusion, and stability — all of which contribute to human resilience — and sustains and supports harmony with the natural world.

The status of social and economic well-being of the people of Pakistan has remained depressed for the last 50 years. According to the Pakistan Living Standard Measurement Survey 19-20, the literacy rate hovers around 60%, 32% of children aged (5-16) are out of school and the primary net enrollment rate is around 64%. Only 68% of the population have access to safe sanitation and 74% have access to improved drinking water sources within premises, whereas only 54% have access to basic hygiene facilities. Around 82% of the households own dwelling units, 48% have access to gas for cooking and 91% have access to electricity. Health expenditures for the last 5 years have remained around 1% of the GDP. Life expectancy is around 65 years and infant mortality around 56 deaths per 1,000 births.

The above statistics present a bleak scenario of our socio-economic well-being. No State authority or State organ has managed to implement any part of the Principle of Policy, the core of the Constitution, in its true spirit. The State should focus more on the implementation part to carry out the constitutional obligations in its true spirit. Only then we could earn the right to celebrate.

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Banning the cane – 30 May 2023

The Islamabad Capital Territory has put down the rules for its Act on prohibiting corporal punishment for children at schools, including all educational institutions and has, in a major ceremony, announced that from now on children would be educated in a conducive and harmonious environment. The ceremony was a high-powered one, with former ministers and celebrities such as Shehzad Roy among those speaking at it. Around the world 62 states have so far universalized the prohibition of corporal punishment including at home. Corporal punishment outside of the home is prohibited by 135 states. Pakistan is one of the dwindling number of countries which have not totally banned corporal punishment at schools. The country also allows derogatory punishments at these institutions and, as a result, there have been cases in which children have been badly injured or in the very worst cases, even killed. It is imperative that we ban corporal punishment and lay out a new pedagogy for teaching that recognizes the rights of the child as laid down in international conventions that Pakistan has signed.

It should also be noted that we need similar rules across the country. Corporal punishment has been banned in Sindh since 2017. In Punjab, in December 2022 then chief minister Pervaiz Elahi had agreed that an act should be passed after being spoken to by Malala Yousafzai and promised that this would happen within the month. It did not happen. And of course we know the fate of the Elahi government in the weeks and months that followed. There is also a basic principle to the entire problem. In the first place, teacher training is essential so that they can learn to teach and where necessary, discipline children in a manner that does not cause them any harm or hurt them, in any way. Corporal punishment obviously needs to be banned. Unfortunately, however, in our schools and in many households, it is the only way parents and teachers know how to discipline or rebuke children for unfavourable behaviour. It has been more than 30 years since Pakistan ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). There has to be a change in the way in which we think and the way in which we act. First of all, the Child Protection Act that we have in our statute books needs to be implemented with more urgency and the Child Protection Bureaus, which exist in at least some of our provinces trained to carry out their work in a cohesive manner. We cannot have children being beaten up simply because they do not turn to their school books. This is all the more true given the way that children are taught at schools. There are other methods used all over the world which work much better and ensure the child is protected at all costs. This is something we need to bring into play in our country and we must hope that the implementation of the rules for the Islamabad Capital Territory leads to more action across the rest of the country to keep children safe in their educational institutions and finally put an end to corporal punishment.

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Climate anxiety – 30 May 2023

A wave of eco-anxiety, an invisible yet potent tsunami of concern, is rippling through the minds of our younger generation. According to a 2021 study presented in The Lancet, an unsettling 62 per cent of young individuals confessed to being haunted by climate-change-induced anxiety, with a substantial 59 per cent being very or extremely worried, while an overwhelming 84 per cent acknowledged a moderate level of worry at the very least.

Geographical borders do not confine this unease; it’s a global epidemic that infiltrates the rhythm of everyday life, with more than 45 per cent stating that climate change apprehensions cast a shadow on their daily functioning.

The study also highlighted a poignant fact. The source of this deluge of negative emotions stems largely from the inertia of government and corporate juggernauts. These feelings of betrayal outstrip reassurance, with an emphatic 83 per cent expressing disappointment at the perceived failure of the powers-that-be to act as stewards of our planet. A sense of betrayal, the study found, was intimately tied to climate anxiety and distress, magnified by the perceived inaction of governments.

It’s important to note that “climate anxiety,” as a term, resonates with a specific audience, and some label it a manifestation of privilege or a symptom of white fragility. However, the underlying feelings associated with this phrase – distress, worry, fear – are not new or limited to a specific demographic. Tethered to environmental concerns, these emotions have coursed through communities globally for generations. Indeed, for marginalized populations already contending with the brunt of environmental degradation, this anxiety is not a prospective threat but an immediate and tangible reality.

These feelings are not without basis. Scientific alarm bells are ringing, warning us that we’re barreling towards a precipice – a catastrophic 1.5ºC rise in global temperatures, potentially as early as 2027 – unless we slam the brakes with both feet.

Enter the Climate Clock, a global project to get the world to act in time.

We ourselves have been accused of creating climate anxiety by delivering the hard truths that most of us, understandably, would want to push into the background. But our dialogues with countless activists and young people make one thing clear:

The trigger of anxiety is not climate truth; it’s the unsettling silence of inaction echoing against that truth. It’s the chorus of climate denial, the procrastination of crucial actions, and the peddling of half-measure solutions that amplify mental distress, especially among the young generation.

The remedy for climate anxiety aligns perfectly with the answer to our climate crisis: immediate, unyielding, collective action on climate change.

Young people, pioneers of hope and resilience, are already stepping up to the plate. And following their lead are the older generations who are recalibrating their priorities, dedicating their twilight years to bringing about change, as highlighted by initiatives like the Third Act.

The missing jigsaw piece in this picture is unequivocal action from government leaders and industry behemoths. We must systematically dismantle the fossil fuel industry to guarantee our current generation, and all those who follow, the chance of a fulfilling, safe life.

However, the journey towards a climate-secure future is strewn with obstacles. Fierce resistance from industry, seemingly more committed to their shareholders than the survival of our species, particularly the fossil fuel conglomerates and their banking benefactors, steepens our path forward.

To navigate this challenge, we must take care of our mental well-being here and now. To this end, the Climate Clock has launched a ‘hotline’ – – for Climate Mental Health, a cache of resources dedicated to providing immediate assistance to those grappling with climate anxiety. This provision extends a lifeline to those navigating the stormy seas of our changing world, sparking not only the fight for our planet’s preservation but also the resilience of our people.

Excerpted: ‘Climate Anxiety Has the Same Solution as Our Climate Emergency: Action.’.

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Forums under law – 30 May 2023

THE Industrial Relations Ordinance (IRO), 1969, is meant `to amend and consolidate the law relating to the formation of trade unions, the regulation of relations between employers and workmen and the avoidance and settlements of any differences or disputes arising between them`.

Earlier, the Industrial Relations Act, 1946, had a similar objective but specifically mentioned the establishing of a mechanism for regulating remuneration and conditions of employment. These are now settled through the bargaining process between the employer and Collective Bargaining Agent union under IRO 1969. Besides, there was the Industrial Relations Disputes Act, 1947, which provided for the settlement of any differences or disputes between the employer and CBA union.

The1960sisseenasthe decade ofindustrial progress but with a few exceptions, labour union activity remained dormant till around 1969. Retired Air Marshal Nur Khan, a cabinet minister under President Yahya Khan, had `labour` as one of his portfolios. He paid special attention to recognising the rights of labour unions and their federations. He was instrumental in promulgating IRO 1969, which contained wisely drafted provisions for congenial industrial relations.

At the same time, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was also active in his election campaigning, promising to ameliorate the lot of peasants and labour. After coming to power, his PPP government introduced, through IRO 1969, the three new forums of shop stewards, management committee and the joint management board (JMB).

Shop stewards are `a link between the workers and the employer, [and] assist in the improvement of arrangements for the physical working conditions and production work` in the area they represent. They also help workers settle their problems.

In the management committee, at least one workers` representative is to be nominated by the CBA union to participate to the extent of 50 per cent in the management of the factory. Besides others, the management cannot take any decision without the advice in writing of the workers` representative in the following matters: `framing of service rules and policy about promotion and discipline of workers`; `regulation of daily working hours and breaks`; and `matters relating to the order and conduct of workers within the factory`, etc.

The JMB is the top forum represented by the directors and senior managers from the management. Workers` representation is 30pc and the board has look after `improvement in productivity`, `laying down the principles of remuneration` and `the provi-sion of minimum facilities` to contract workers, etc.

The first PPP government had taken the idea of these forums from the Scandinavian countries, where workers` participation in management is an important element of industrial democracy. It is a system where employees have a say in the management`s decisions. The Scandinavian countries have been maintaining a near 100pc literacy rate for long. This rate among Pakistan`s industrial workers, labouring under the employers` strict control, has been less than 50pc. Most employers would not allow trade union activities in their establishments.

When the CBA unions got these rights and liberties in 1972 through labour laws, they thought themselves the new owners of the factories and led the workers they represented through turmoil and violence.

Functions of the management committee and JMB overlapped with the CBA union`s domain of collective bargaining with the employer. Hence union leaders were not inclined to part with their powers and nom-inate their representatives to these two forums, which remained inoperational since the beginning.

Being a lawabiding organisation, an American company in Daharki, where I had worked in the late 1970s,formed the management committee and JMB. On persuasion, the CBA union nominated its workers` representative to the two forums. When we wanted the representative to agree to and sign the notification relating to revised Ramzan work timings, which were followed every year, he went into hiding. Ultimately, he was traced and we managed to get his signature just a day before Ramazan.

The two forums, which have not functioned in any organisation for more than 50 years, despite the sincere efforts of some, should have been taken out from the law by the government a long time back.

Meanwhile, the most useful forum of Works Council has been made complicated and unwieldy with the inclusion of the redundant functions of the management committee and JMB in the existing Industrial Relations Act of all the provinces. The respective provinces should take them out from the law in order to restore the effectiveness of the Works Council. • The wnter is a consultant in human resources at the Aga Khan University Hospital, Karachi.

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Judicial quarrels – 30 May 2023

THE rift within the Supreme Court shows no signs of healing. With the incumbent and incoming chief justices still seemingly jousting over issues big and small, plaintiffs and petitioners can only pray that they do not get trampled like the proverbial grass during an elephant fight. The schism in the top court has distracted the institution`s focus away from its core responsibilities, leaving a vacuum in the trichotomy of power. This bodes ill for a country suffering protracted social and political unrest. The superior judiciary is supposed to be the voice of wisdom and restraint in testing times: instead, it is displaying an inability to get over what is seen as personal differences to agree on a basic modus vivendi.

The matter of elections to the KP and Punjab assemblies has been the judiciary`s biggest challenge this year. It is disturbing how little progress it has seen despite the chief justice himself presiding over the relevant cases. The continuing inability of the court to enforce a straightforward rule enshrined in the Constitution has depleted the institution`s prestige and power. Deadlines have come and gone, yet a decisive resolution remains elusive. It was clear from the beginning that there never was a legally defensible reason to delay elections beyond the 90-day deadline. A quick, clear ruling on the matter could have spared the country the unrest seen in recent weeks.

Instead, the judiciary showed weakness by failing to contain or, subsequently, address its divisions, which the government and its enablers have treated as a carte blanche to subvert the law. It has remained unable to regain its footing after that initial blow.

Those caught on the wrong side of today`s powers have been complaining about a gradual breakdown of the legal order. While Pakistani rulers, the PTI included, have displayed a general contempt towards rules and laws, it cannot be denied that the judiciary`s present inability to stand firm and united has greatly emboldened lawbreakers and made them seem invincible. As a result, the judiciary has been questioned at every level in recent days by an executive acting as if it is untouchable. Release orders, bails, habeas corpus rulings, and so on have been treated with disdain, signalling the rapid breakdown of the idea of the separation of powers as envisioned in our Constitution and the quiet ushering in of a more authoritarian system of governance.

Those at the very top of the judiciary must realise that their space and power are being encroached upon while they quarrel.

A full court meeting must be called post haste to chart a path forward. The judges must talk over their differences and close ranks. The institution is quickly being compromised; they may not have long to act.

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