A continuum of gender-based violence – 05 Dec 2022

The societal mindset of Pakistan, represented in its deeply patriarchal society, perpetuates gender-based violence

The societal mindset of Pakistan, represented in its deeply patriarchal society, perpetuates gender-based violence. As a nation yearly scoring amongst the worst societies for women, Pakistan has ranked 164/167 on the Georgetown Institute’s Women, Peace, and Security index. According to a Reuters Foundation Report, Pakistan is the 6th most dangerous country for women overall and the 5th worst in terms of domestic violence practices. Statistics available in domestic surveys are no less abhorrent, suggesting up to 70-90% of married women in Punjab face abuse of one form or another, whether physical, psychological, or economic, from their spouses.

From a legal standpoint, legislators have actively partaken in culminating societal practices of spousal and domestic violence these past years, enacting new statutes and amending previously inadequate ones, to ensure a safer married environment for women. The Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Act, 2020 at the federal level, and similar statutes enacted through the provincial assemblies aim towards curbing societal tolerance of domestic abuse. These laws have been introduced with the objective of establishing an effective system of protection, relief and rehabilitation of women…against domestic violence. While the nation overflows with statutes affording protection to women, there is yet to be the actual implementation of any of these provisions in their true letter and spirit.

The reserved usage of domestic violence laws in Pakistan cannot merely be associated with the incapacity and incompetence of the local law enforcement or the judicial system. As both seem preoccupied with offences of a “more serious” nature, and budgetary limitations often lead to the prioritisation of heinous crimes over domestic abuse matters, till such abuse takes a severe turn. Even with legislative criminalisation of physical, psychological and monetary abuses at home, spousal relations are still widely deemed as domestic matters, best solved within the domestic setting. The notion itself acts as a deterrent for battered and abused women to reach out for help from the police.

At the ground level, women of this country are stuck in a “continuum of violence”, a term depicting a never-ending cycle of abuse, separate from the solitary moment or location in which it occurs. When applied in the context of Pakistan, it elucidates our failure to curb violence against women, as violence is not just limited to actual physical or emotional tortures our women face. Abuse also results from parental, familial and societal reactions, which require women to stay in such violent settings. Gendered hierarchies and patriarchal structures, which have held women back from fighting for their rights, continue to entrap them in vicious cycles of violence they rarely manage to escape from. Most women continue to suffer trauma well after the actual traumatic act, due to a lack of parental support for a divorcee daughter. The notion of ‘live or die but only at the husband’s house’ is so engrained in girls that in many cases they do end up paying with their lives rather than returning to their parents. Financial expenditures on daughters are reserved for their weddings and dowries, rather than their education, which makes them financially dependent on their husbands and incapable of attaining sufficient independence to leave their spousal homes. The fear of their child’s future is so deeply ingrained in abused mothers that they will continue to suffer than allow their child to be judged by societal paradigms. These considerations, along with the fear of hardships as a divorcee, impede women from raising their voices against an abusive husband.

This year, more than 63,367 cases of domestic crimes were reported; those unreported are extensively greater. Till such time as this continuum of violence is not defeated and our society does not side with the abused woman, women of Pakistan will only suffer, no matter what legislative initiatives are taken to safeguard them.

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Vehicles of toxicity – 05 Dec 2022

The alarming levels of smog in Lahore are once again causing major concerns for the denizens of Lahore while the authorities appear to be failing in their duties. Though the city traffic police has announced various initiatives to tighten the control on polluting vehicles, according to reports there are still over 40 per cent vehicles that emit smoke and contribute to the smog. The registered number of vehicles in Lahore has increased to seven million, and if 40 per cent are emitting toxic fumes in the atmosphere the number of such vehicles must be at least three million. This is a staggering number of polluting vehicles for any city. The provincial capital of Punjab is not the only city that is facing this problem; the increasing surge in the number of motorcycles and ramshackle buses and vans across the country has become a serious threat to the environment.

Nowhere in Pakistan is there an effective mechanism to award fitness certificates to vehicles. In nearly all major cities in the world there is restriction on vehicles that lack proper fitness certificates, but not in this country. Even cars and other light vehicles such as auto rickshaws have become a major contributor to air pollution resulting in smog. In addition to the registered vehicles there is a large number of unregistered ones on the roads both in rural and urban areas. It is not only the smog that these vehicles contribute to, there is perennial traffic congestion too on most roads across the country. Lahore is one of those cities which witnesses massive gridlocks regularly on main arteries and side roads. And such busy areas are mostly the most affected by air pollution and smog.

Pakistan is a country that spends huge amounts on the import of fuels from other countries. With increasing traffic mess there is more smoke in the air and the country also ends up spending more on fuel imports. A large chunk of the cost of this fuel and the smog in the cities can be tackled if the state and the government were to focus on providing affordable public transport to all. Not public transport that is taken only as a last resort – but public transport that is accessible to all, regardless of gender or age or class. We need buses and trains, not cars and motorbikes. Until Pakistan gets its major cities’ transportation woes in order the air in those cities will just continue to keep getting smoggier. Granted that vehicular smoke is not the only factor leading to the toxic air we are breathing, but it certainly does add considerably to it. For the health of both our pockets and our persons, a public transport system is most essential.

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For an empowered woman – 05 Dec 2022

Fatima is one of the most popular names in Pakistan, named after the Prophet’s (pbuh) daughter. Fatima (a.s.) in history was a leader, an empowered woman who played vital roles in support of her father and afterwards to her family. She was a trusted woman. Therefore, she could do much and achieve extraordinarily; she was given an opportunity to learn, participate, and teach.

Girls in Pakistan deserve the opportunity to not only be empowered but also to help their family members and the local community. Two months ago, the media was awash with reports of a young girl in the flood-hit area in Sindh who was allegedly tortured and raped by men who kidnapped her on the pretext of giving her food rations. This is not an isolated case; women are at a higher risk of violence, especially when they get displaced in a humanitarian situation. Many of them report facing harassment.

These are but a few stories of Pakistani women and girls who frequently must contend with gender-based violence (GBV). However, the stories of resilience and courage are many too.

The recent history of Pakistan reveals that many women rose from being ordinary girls, experienced times of fear and hurt, but never gave up. These women continue to be an inspiration by showing courage and resilience. Such women and girls are assets to the nation. They, however, need as much support from all fronts: from within the families, communities, and society.

We all need to support the movement for women and girls to always enjoy their rights.

Recent research reveals that when women can take care of their health, all families become healthier. Lessons from history tell us that nations can achieve little unless their women and girls are free of violence, able to enjoy all their rights and contribute to building their nations. Women and girls should in no way be a missed opportunity for the economy and social welfare. All girls and women should be given an opportunity to learn, participate, and speak out. Girls should be encouraged to dream and be supported to step out to achieve their potential.

Empowered girls play vital roles in support of their fathers and, afterwards, their families. They are trusted women; therefore, they could do much and achieve extraordinarily. Every girl and woman should be able to confidently say: ‘I can be successful, I am not afraid to speak my mind, and I am free of all kinds of violence’.

They need everyone’s support to flourish and be allowed to live free from all forms of violence and discrimination, to be educated and to participate fully in the country’s development.

The 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence is a time to mobilize more people to show solidarity and support to end VAWG at a time when the world is facing pushback against women’s rights.

One major component of violence we must fight is child marriage which continues to deprive girls of access to education, good health services, and their ability to enjoy the power of choice. Recent research by the UNFPA revealed that the power of choice is remarkable. If women and girls are empowered to choose what to be, when to marry, and how much and when to have children, all other demographic and development indicators develop naturally and in a balanced manner which will save billions of dollars that governments have to invest in fixing demographic and development indicators.

Empowering girls and women is not a women’s affair; it is everybody’s business and the duty of all sectors because a nation with empowered women free of violence is a nation without missed opportunities which is in the interest of all stakeholders.

A prosperous nation is a nation where its women say confidently: ‘we are successful, not afraid, and can speak our minds’ — and this sits well with all men and women.

Today, and always, is the time to ensure that interventions for the prevention, mitigation, and response to GBV are implemented and receive priority attention.

The writer is the UNFPA representative in Pakistan.

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Climate policy – 05 Dec 2022

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has launched the Office of Environmental Justice and External Civil Rights. The newly created office will work towards ensuring environmental justice and civil rights in overburdened communities, recognizing the link between environmental and human rights, especially the rights of marginalized and indigenous communities.

People’s right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment was first recognized through the UN General Assembly (UNGA) resolution 76/300. The Escazu agreement is the first environmental treaty for Latin American and Caribbean nations.

Pakistan has already recognized the civil and political aspects of the environment by making it a provincial subject under the 18th Amendment, but has not practically done anything in this regard.

The destruction of the world’s fifth-largest mangrove forests and swamps on the Indus Delta coast threatens fishery resources and the livelihood of fishermen. In 2020, many areas in Sindh witnessed protests against the presidential ordinance that allowed the federal government to take over the Bhundar (Bundal) and Dingi coastal islands.

In 2021, fishermen protested the federal government’s plans to grant fishing rights and issue licences to outside trawlers in Gwadar. This decision lacked legitimacy as it was not backed by the will of the coastal communities. What is at issue is whether the coastal communities have any say regarding their environmental and human rights under the 18th Amendment.

The rights of coastal states are addressed by the UN Seabed Committee and 2749(XXV) the UNGA resolution, and are dealt with under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, adopted in 1982. Its preamble states that the states parties have agreed that the achievement of all goals “will contribute to the realization of a just and equitable international economic order which takes into account the interests and needs of mankind, and the special interests and needs of developing countries, whether coastal or land-locked”.

Article 2 of Section 1 of Part II says that the sovereignty of a coastal state extends beyond its land territory and internal waters and, in the case of an archipelagic state, its archipelagic waters, to an adjacent belt of sea, described as the territorial sea. Article 55 of Part V, defines the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) as an area beyond and adjacent to the territorial sea.

Article 56 states that in the EEZ, the coastal state has “sovereign rights for the purpose of exploring and exploiting, conserving and managing the natural resources of the waters superjacent to the seabed and of the seabed and its subsoil, and with regard to other activities for the economic exploitation and exploration of the zone”.

Instruments like the 1987 Treaty on Fisheries and the 1979 Fisheries Agency Convention promote cooperation among states on fisheries policies.

The state, therefore, can exercise sovereignty over its territorial waters, and explore and exploit the EEZ, but not at the cost of its vulnerable population. French political philosopher Jean Bodin’s statement on sovereignty is often misinterpreted because he emphasizes that sovereigns are bound by the laws of the state.

The International Court of Justice, in the 1951 fisheries case, while determining the limit of territorial sovereignty at sea, decided that traditional rights over fishing grounds are founded on the vital needs of the population under customary international law.

Being a coastal state, Pakistan enjoys many rights under this convention. It has several domestic laws, including the Fisheries Act 1897, and other provincial enactments. In 2019, Karachi was included in the jurisdiction of the Sindh Coastal Development Authority, which is responsible for the development of the coastal areas of Thatta, Badin and Sujawal.

However, the environmental, civil, political and human rights of Pakistan’s coastal provinces must be extended collaterally with the state’s sovereignty under the 18th Amendment. All decisions by the federal or provincial government are likely to lack legitimacy unless they are backed by the vulnerable communities, surviving and thriving on the natural resources at the coastal provinces.

Such decisions should not violate their right to life and employment, and these communities should be protected against displacement, which is not covered under domestic laws or international refugee law unless they cross international borders. It is also crucial to empower the environmental protection agencies of Pakistan and its coastal provinces in this regard.

It is imperative to go beyond the rights of coastal states and discuss the rights of those living in the coastal areas of Pakistan. The great Faiz Ahmad Faiz detailed such concerns in his movie ‘Jago Hua Savera’ (1959), based on the Bengali novel ‘Padma Nadir Majhi’ by Manik Bandopadhyay that highlights the plight of East Pakistan’s poor fishermen.

The writer is a lawyer and a faculty member at the Department of International Relations, University of Karachi.

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Why persecution of women in Afghanistan? – 04 Dec 2022

Harsh punishments like lashes and amputation of fingers and hands will further isolate the Taliban regime

Following the barring of female students to enter Badakshan University on October 30 and the use of force against them by the Taliban moral police, the international community is constantly raising its voice against the persecution of Afghan women since Afghanistan’s takeover by Taliban in August last year.

On November 26, a panel of UN human rights experts in their report lamented: “Afghanistan’s de facto Taliban rulers had deepened flagrant violations of basic rights of Afghan women and girls … Already the most draconian globally, such violations may amount to gender persecution, a crime against humanity.” The Taliban retaliated by warning human rights organisations and western governments not to criticise the award of ‘Islamic punishments’ to those involved in heinous crimes. But the way the Taliban regime has violated the Doha Accord of February 2020 in which they pledged to adhere to human rights, particularly those related to women, reflects growing gender repression in the name of religion.

It is not for the first time that women are heavily persecuted in Afghanistan. During Taliban’s first regime (1996-2001), harsh restrictions were imposed on women who were deprived of seeking education and employment. Yet, Taliban failed to learn from their past blunders, particularly on persecution of women and minorities. Now, this is not 1996 but 2022, and a new generation of Afghans — who had enjoyed a sort of freedom during pro-American regimes of Presidents Hamid Karzai and Ashraf Ghani after December 2001 — has grown up and is not ready to tolerate the repressive and oppressive policies of Taliban any more.

How the Afghan women who are almost half of their country’s population are reacting to the usurpation of their freedom and what is their future if the Taliban regime continues to treat them as second-class citizens? Protest demonstrations by Afghan girls and women against deprivation of their right to education, employment and travel-alone continue. Media trying to cover such events is harshly dealt with — a fact also narrated in the UN human rights report. Gradually, resentment against the Taliban policies not just against women but also non-conformist men is spreading all over Afghanistan. The UN human rights report states: “Confining women to their homes is tantamount to imprisonment and is likely leading to increased levels of domestic violence and mental health challenges.” Furthermore, restraining Afghan women to their homes is destroying their personalities and leading to psychological disorder because after 20 years of relative freedom between 2002 and 2021, they face an abnormal situation under the Taliban regime.

The UN report expresses anguish: “We are deeply concerned that by punishing male relatives for the purported offences of women, the Taliban were forcing Afghan women and girls to stay indoors; and by encouraging men and boys to control the behavior, attire and movement of women and girls in their circles, the Taliban were instrumentalizing one gender against another.” As a result, growing frustration, anger and antagonism in a major segment of Afghan society — composed of women and also men — tend to augment large-scale opposition against the repressive Taliban rule.

Consequently, harsh punishments like lashes and amputation of fingers and hands will further isolate the Taliban regime. When the Taliban regime lacks legitimacy at the international level, it has much to do with their failure to fulfil their obligations made as part of the Doha Accord. Taliban’s medieval-era oppressive mode of governance will only add to the growing violence in the country, particularly when there are reports that jihadi and terrorist organisations are getting more and more space in Afghanistan. The manner in which al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri was found and targeted in Afghanistan few months ago is a case in point.

Tormenting the lives of Afghan women under the cover of religion needs to be analysed from two angles.

One, there is no impact of international rejection and criticism on the Taliban whose persecution of women, particularly girl students, continues. The sense of deprivation among the female population is deepening, but there is no change in the Taliban’s medieval type mindset. Same approach was pursued by their predecessors during 1996-2001 and their indifference had led to the US-led attack and occupation of their country. When female students of Badakshan University were whipped by morality police in late October “for not taking hijab properly”, the message given by the Taliban regime to the world was clear: they don’t care about legitimacy, sanctions or any kind of punishment over abuse of women.

Two, a large number of non-conformists left Afghanistan when their country was taken over by Taliban on August 15, 2021. Now, it is the Afghan diaspora which is catalysing protest marches and demonstrations against the repressive treatment of women. Pressure exerted from outside is expected to help compel the Taliban regime to amend their primitive and orthodox policies against women in Afghanistan. When 11 human rights observers called on Taliban to abide by international commitments and allow the rights of girls and women to education, employment and participation in public and cultural life, including lifting ban on visiting parks, it means non-compliance by the Taliban regime would cause more harm to Afghanistan and augment isolation of the conflict-ridden country.

Through the UN report released by the panel of human rights experts in New York, the message given to the Taliban regime is loud and clear: Afghan women must be liberated from the clutches of discrimination and gender persecution. Whether the Taliban regime will take steps suggested in the UN report to “investigate and prosecute those responsible in Afghanistan for gender persecution in appropriate international and extra-territorial jurisdiction” remains to be seen. But the Taliban rulers don’t take any notice of international condemnation of human rights violations in their country as their inward and parochial approach about the world rejects any scope of reform. For how long will the Taliban’s care-a-damn attitude vis-à-vis international sanctions, isolation and condemnation continue depends on their capability to suppress popular dissent.

The plight of Afghan women will certainly have its ramifications on Pakistan. The ultra-religious mindset trying to usurp the freedom of Pakistani women got an impetus with the takeover of Taliban in Afghanistan. Therefore, Islamabad must not give legitimacy to the Taliban regime in Kabul.

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A burning planet – 04 Dec 2022

At previous COPs, negotiations inside the hall were focused primarily on what’s come to be known as ‘climate mitigation’ – that is, trying to keep future greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere – along with adaptation to climate disruptions, past, present, and future.

For the first time in official negotiations, COP27 would also feature the demands of low-income, vulnerable countries eager to be compensated for the devastating impacts they, like flooded Pakistan, have already suffered or will suffer thanks to climate change. After all, the global overheating of the present moment was caused by greenhouse gases emitted during the past two centuries, chiefly by the large industrial societies of the global North. In the shorthand of those negotiations, such polluter-pays compensation is known as ‘loss and damage’.

At previous climate summits, the ‘haves’ resisted the very idea of the have-nots demanding loss-and-damage compensation for two chief reasons: first, they preferred not to admit, even implicitly, that they had created the crisis now broiling and drowning communities across the Global South, and, second, they had no interest in shelling out the humongous sums that would then be required.

This year, however, the shocking death and destruction inflicted by the inundation of Pakistan and more recently of Nigeria stoked an already surging movement to put loss and damage on COP’s agenda for the first time. And thanks to unrelenting pressure from that climate-justice groundswell, COP27 did end with the United States, the European Union, and the rest of the rich world approving an agreement to “establish a fund for responding to loss and damage”. Echoing the thoughts of many, climate justice leader Jean Su tweeted that the deal was “a testament to the incredible mobilization of vulnerable countries and civil society. Much work still to be done, but a dam has broken.”

The euphoria that followed over the creation of a loss-and-damage fund was well justified. But, as Su noted, the struggle is far from over. In a correction to its story reporting on that agreement, the Washington Post made clear that, although the batter had now been mixed, the cake was anything but in the oven. The paper informed readers, “An earlier version of this article incorrectly said wealthy nations agreed to pay billions of dollars into a loss and damage fund. While they agreed to create a fund, its size and financing mechanism have yet to be worked out.” Those two remaining how-much and how-to-do-it questions are anything but trivial. In the loss-and-damage debate, in fact, they’re the main issues countries have been arguing over for many years without resolution of any sort.

If the world does commit sufficient (or even insufficient) funds to pay out on loss and damage (and that’s a truly big if ), vulnerable countries may finally have the means to begin recovering from the latest climate disasters. Tragically enough, however, there’s little question that, as ever greater amounts of carbon and methane continue to head for our atmosphere, whatever the affected populations may need now, it’s likely just a hint of the sort of compensation they’ll need in a future guaranteed to be full of ever-increasing numbers of disasters like the Pakistan floods.

And the reason for that isn’t complicated: COP27 negotiators failed to match their loss-and-damage breakthrough with any significant progress on reining in greenhouse gas emissions. Efforts to come to an agreement on phasing out the chief sources of those emissions – oil, gas, and coal – flopped, as they have at all previous COPs. The only thing the negotiators could manage was to repeat last year’s slippery pledge to pursue a “phase-down [not ‘-out’] of unabated [not ‘all’] coal [nor ‘coal, gas, and oil’] power”.

On the one hand, civil-society movements prevailed in the debate over loss and damage. On the other, energy imperialism remained all too alive and well in Egypt, as corporate interests and the governments that serve them extended their 27-year winning streak of blocking efforts to drive emissions down at the urgently required rate. Yeb Sano, who led Greenpeace’s COP27 delegation, told Phys.org, “It is scarcely credible that they have forgotten all about fossil fuels. Everywhere you look in Sharm el Sheikh you can see and hear the influence of the fossil fuel industry. They have shown up in record numbers to try and decouple climate action from a fossil fuel phaseout.”

The World Bank estimates that the floods in Pakistan caused more than $30 billion in damage, while rehabilitation and reconstruction will cost another $16 billion. And that, says the bank, doesn’t even include funds that will be needed “to support Pakistan’s adaptation to climate change and overall resilience of the country to future climate shocks.” The floods seriously harmed an estimated 33 million people, displaced 8 million from their homes, and left more than 1,700 dead.

According to the World Bank’s report, “Loss of household incomes, assets, rising food prices, and disease outbreaks are impacting the most vulnerable groups. Women have suffered notable losses of their livelihoods, particularly those associated with agriculture and livestock.” The disaster starkly illustrated the indisputable moral and humanitarian grounds for compelling the governments of rich countries to pay for the devastation their decades of fossil-fuel burning have caused.

For Pakistan in particular, America’s lavishly funded war-making and national-security industries are joined at the hip with the global climate emergency. While those forces are directly responsible for depriving Paracha and countless others of their freedom or lives, the greenhouse-gas emissions they generate have also contributed to the kind of devastation that he came home to when finally released. Furthermore, these industries have wasted trillions of dollars that could have been spent on preventing, adapting to, and compensating for ecological breakdown.

So far this fall, Washington has pledged $97 million (with an ‘m’) in flood-relief aid to Pakistan. Sounds like a lot of money, but it amounts to just one five-hundredth of the World Bank’s loss-and-damage estimate. In bleak contrast, from 2002 to 2010 alone, at the height of that Global War on Terror, the US government provided Pakistan with $13 billion (with a ‘b’) in military aid.

To dodge blame and minimize their costs, the rich countries have been proposing a range of alternatives to simply paying loss-and-damage money to low-income ones as they should. Instead, they’d far prefer to have disaster-plagued governments finance their own climate-change recovery and adaptation by borrowing from banks in the North. In effect, rather than obtain relief-and-recovery funds directly from the North, countries like Pakistan would be obligated to make interest payments to banks in the North.

Excerpted: ‘The Poorest Still Paying the Biggest Price on a Burning Planet’.

Courtesy: Commondreams.org

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Relentless violence – 04 Dec 2022

ANOTHER day, another shocking incident of gender-based violence (GBV) in the country.

In November, in a heart-wrenching incident, a seven-year-old girl was raped and murdered in Quaidabad, Karachi. There were extensive injuries to her body. According to the police, the girl had gone missing the day before and her body was found thrown on an under-construction building site.

In October, a nine-year-old girl from a family of flood refugees from Shikarpur district was abducted and gang..raped in Karachi. In a statement to the police, the doctor who examined the child said that the condition of the victim was so terrible that she had to be examined in the operation theatre.

In September, a rich, well-educated young woman named Sarah Inam, a dual CanadianPakistani national, was brutally murdered allegedly by her husband Shahnawaz Amir at his farmhouse in Islamabad. This case of GBV has slipped off the radar as the media no longer covers the legal proceedings. It seems as if the matter has been hushed up.

GBV is endemic, relentless and classless. It has a serious impact on the physical, mental and emotional health of girls and women.

Their lives are always at risk. A number of reports of international organisations suggest that violence against women and girls has reached devastating levels across the globe.

According to a UN report, one in three females aged 15 or older, or approximately 736 million women and girls worldwide, have suffered physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence, non-partner sexual violence or both at least once in their life. The most recent global estimate revealed that a woman or girl is killed by someone in her own family every 11 minutes on average.

Let`s focus on Pakistan. Statistics on violence against women here show a sharp increase during the last three years.

Representatives of the Ministry of Human Rights informed the National Assembly in October that 63,367 cases of violence against women were registered in the country during the last three years. According to National Police Bureau data, 11,160 were rape/gangrape cases. Out of this total, 4,637 rape/gangrape cases were registered in 2019; 4,133 in 2020 and 2,390 in 2021.

Aside from this, 1,578 women were murdered in 2019, while 1,569 were slain in 2020 and 840 in 2021. The year 2019 saw 2,018 cases women being beaten. In 2020, there were 2,019 cases reported and 1,134 women received punches, kicks and slaps in 2021.

There were 13,916 cases of kidnapping registered in 2019; in 2020, there were 12,809 cases filed; another 7,651 cases were registered in 2021. During the last three years, 77 cases of incest and 103 cases of acid-throwingwere filed with the police. The perennial question is: how many such cases have not been registered? Other offences filed with the police in the last three years include vani (which often involves marriage of underage girls), custodial violence, physical harassment, sexual harassment and 7,137 cases of abduction of females. This worrying trend shows how unsafe most women and girls are in Pakistan.

And these are police statistics: the actual number could be much higher as most such cases are not reported or registered with law enforcement. It can be safely assumed that incidents of GBV are underreported in Pakistan, and have an extremely low conviction rate.

Although various laws on GBV have been passed, it is not enough to prevent such incidents. Enacting legislation may be the first step, but unless it is translated into policy and its implementation ensured, there is not much impact. Many bottlenecks have to be removed before we see any significant reduction in cases.Some of the main reasons that create hindrance in reporting cases are: ineffective implementation of laws, inefficient police investiga-tion and discouraging police attitude towards women survivors, victim-blaming, social stigma, no social support mechanisms, gender-insensitive court environment, and slow and lengthy court proceedings.

From Nov 25 to Dec 10, the UN is marking 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence under the theme,`UNIT E ! Activism to end violence against women and girls`.

Pakistan is also part of this global campaign.

The Pakistani government should encourage multi-sectoral coordinated efforts with UN agencies, women rights organisations and the media. The Ministry of Human Rights, National and Provincial Commissions on the Status of Women and other rights bodies must develop mechanisms for close coordination and engagement to promote and protect women`s rights.

The need of the hour is to develop shortterm and long-term multipronged strategies and policies to address this issue holistically.

Instead of limiting themselves to a few awareness-raising seminars and publications, the commissions, NGOs and federal and provincial governments should focus resources and services on women survivors of gender-based violence.• The writer is a lawyer

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Smog season – 04 Dec 2022

FOR the past week, major cities of Pakistan have been among the top most polluted cities in the world. Lahore ranked as the metropolis with the most polluted air on Friday afternoon, while Karachi stayed at second position throughout the morning.

Peshawar is also said to have made an appearance in second place for some time. On Saturday morning, Lahore was again the most polluted city in the world with 334 AQI, which is reportedly 34.8 times higher than the annual air quality value set by the WHO.

All this seems pretty ironic considering the country`s leadership is actively making the case for loss and damage funding from the developed world on account of climate change. The argument that Pakistan is not a major carbon emitter tends to lose weight rather quickly given the degree of apathy demonstrated in dealing with the life-altering impact of heavy environmental pollution in the form of smog. The phenomenon first emerged in parts of northern Punjab more than 20 years ago, and has since continued to regularly paralyse the lives of the residents in the areas it affects. Earlier this year, the Punjab government came up with the first and oneof-a-kind smog master plan. But even if implemented, the measures outlined in it do little more than mitigate the more superficial causes. For example, the smog plan suggests using zigzag technology in brick kilns, reducing crop burning, issuing tickets to owners of smoke-emitting vehicles and setting up a commission to prevent more illegal housing societies from emerging. It is silent on how to deal with the industrial sector and the real estate mafia which are responsible for the major share of the air and environmental pollution in all the major cities of the country. Despite the largescale destruction caused by the floods, the world would find it hard to believe that Pakistan is deserving of climate justice and the related reparations if the country`s leadership does not do anything to tackle environmental pollution at home.

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Climate justice finally arrives – 03 Dec 2022

The impacts of global warming have become more frequent and ferocious

The decision at COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, to establish a fund to help developing countries address loss and damage from the adverse impacts of climate change was a momentous signal of hope for humanity and the planet.

The impacts of global warming have become more frequent and ferocious. Those who have contributed the least to rising temperatures are suffering the most. For 30 years, the most vulnerable countries have pressed for a fund through which those who have contributed the most to global carbon emissions can help the vulnerable countries recover from climate disasters and other consequences of climate change — rising sea levels, droughts, hurricanes and floods.

As the current chair of the Group of 77 and China — a coalition of developing countries — I proposed the discussion on a loss and damage financing facility in June in the preparations for COP27. We faced familiar resistance to placing the issue on the conference agenda.

The epic floods in Pakistan this year, however, brutally confirmed the growing magnitude of climate disasters: with thousands of people killed or injured; millions displaced; 13,000 kilometers of roads, two million homes, 500 bridges and five million acres of crops destroyed; and one-third of the country under water. My home province of Sindh has been the most devastated. It was only after seeing first-hand the scale of loss and damage, realising there was no international financial mechanism to address disasters of this scale, has driven home the concept of loss and damage.

This monumental disaster, along with simultaneous floods in Nigeria, drought in the Horn of Africa and hurricanes in the Pacific and the Caribbean reinforced the determination of developing countries to secure climate justice. Pakistan led developing countries in the subsequent negotiations at COP27 to press for creating the fund. We commend the G77’s solidarity in pursuing the establishment of such funding arrangements and the fund itself. We appreciate the acceptance of the proposal by developed countries, including those in the European Union as well as the United States.

Developing countries look forward to urgently working in the Transitional Committee of 24 member states to finalise the institutional arrangements, structure, governance and terms of reference of the fund. They must also define the elements of the new plans to identify and expand the sources of financing and ways to ensure coordination and complementarity with current arrangements. Among the most important tasks for the committee is to identify the scale of funding that is needed to meet today’s consequences of climate change.

A first test of climate justice will be the response to Pakistan’s plan for rehabilitation and reconstruction from the flood disaster and building resilience against future catastrophes. This plan will be submitted at a pledging conference to be convened jointly by Pakistan and UN Secretary General António Guterres in January 2023. The World Bank has estimated that Pakistan suffered damage amounting to more than $30 billion and will require at least $16.5 billion for urgent external support.

Since the loss and damage fund has yet to be activated, Pakistan expects that financing for its rehabilitation and reconstruction plan will come from industrial countries and international financial institutions, including the International Monetary Fund and multilateral development banks. Such support could include debt write-offs, swaps and restructuring; new special-drawing right (SDR) allocations or rechanneling of unused SDRs of the developed countries; direct support for reconstruction projects as well as private investment for projects that can be structured (for example, with blended finance, to be commercially viable). We also expect expressions of solidarity from Pakistan’s friends in the Islamic world and the global South.

Although climate effects have become inevitable due to the 1.1 degree Celsius global warming trend that has occurred over the last 150 years, it remains vital for the world to limit the impacts of climate change as soon as possible.

It is therefore concerning that the adaptation plans of so many developing countries are still not funded. The decision at COP26, in Glasgow, to “at least double” climate finance for adaptation must be immediately fulfilled. At COP27, Pakistan proposed urgent implementation of this decision. We expect that at COP28 in the United Arab Emirates next year, we will be able to establish a mechanism to measure and monitor financial flows for climate adaptation.

Most important, the commitment made since 2009 to mobilise $100 billion annually in climate finance has not been met. Developed countries need to urgently fulfil this commitment and agree to a New Collective Quantified Goal (NCQG) target for larger climate finance from the floor of $100 billion by COP28.

Of course, the ultimate common goal is to halt global warming and avoid the tipping points that climate scientists have been predicting will propel a global catastrophe. However, the onus to ensure that global temperature rise is limited to 1.5 degrees is mainly left to industrial countries, which have consumed two-thirds of the so-called “carbon budget” over the past 150 years. The remaining one-third of the budget is what developing countries will need to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Unfortunately, it was evident at COP27 that industrial countries have not implemented the mitigation commitments they agreed on in Glasgow and were reluctant to agree again to a larger, faster path to reduce emissions and keep the 1.5 degrees target alive.

As Pakistan ends its tenure as chair of the Group of 77 and China this year, we will make a final push to advance the SDGs and climate goals at a ministerial conference of developing countries in New York City in mid-December. We hope the meeting will set the agenda that the global South will promote at the SDG summit and COP28 next year. (A version of this article originally appeared in ‘China Daily’).

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Glorification versus embracement – 03 Dec 2022

International Day of Disabilities is an isolated projection that can’t fuel the sensitisation required for inclusivity

Third day of December! A universally sanctioned day exclusively reserved for me to whine about my deficiencies or to boast my accomplishments!

The stage is all set to behold a mesmerising performance; the charged-up audience eagerly awaits the curtains to be lifted. I, too, anxiously looking forward to showcase my talent and skills. Already engulfed by the round of applause and deafening cheers, my jubilance continues to mount.

Lights, camera, action!

Thus, the wait is over, the golden moment arrives! Amidst the standing ovation, I take to the stage. Keeping all my anxieties and nervousness apart, I begin to exhibit my heroic feats, with all my zeal and wholeheartedness. The unique feeling of a spellbound audience, relishing every move of mine proved immensely rewarding.

At last, the curtains were announced to be drawn. I could sense my success in creating an electrifying atmosphere, judging through the appreciative conversations and delightful whispers of ecstatic spectators.

Gradually, as the glorifying chants and merriness subsided, shadows of silence seized the emptiness around me. This was the moment when I began to evaluate the magnitude and impact my spectacle has managed to create. Instantaneously, a disconcerting thought sprung into my mind. An inner voice grilled my conscience: have I attained my ultimate goal? For how long would these spectators be able to retain my marvel in their memories? Whether my triumph is sufficient for molding their standardised dispositions? Is pleasing masses by glorifying my capabilities enough to draw social empathy? Whether my demands of reverence and emancipation would be met by gathering a massive crowd to publicise my novelty on a specified venue for a fixed duration?

The above illustration depicts a conventional practice of annual observance of International Day of Disabilities, sanctioned by the United Nations in order to exhibit the obscure role of this particularly marginalised fragment and to create awareness regarding their respective rights and special needs on micro level globally.

Recognizant of solemnness of this very occasion, I am at variance with this conventional approach to the extent of total reliance upon a designated day. In my opinion, such kind of isolated projection can in no way fuel the requisite sensitisation which is essential constituent of an inclusive society. My conception of being embraced by the society as its elemental part cannot be attained through glorifying exceptional traits of any vulnerable section, but by adopting viable frameworks capable of converging heterogeneous component into a single unit.

Let’s ask ourselves: could the agenda of embracement be fulfilled by merely highlighting lives of differently enabled persons and running awareness campaigns on an assigned day, or could it be procured through practical application of the concept of togetherness?

As a person possessed of impairment, my outright preference is to be embraced in the form of casual relationships within the society, be they acquaints or strangers, instead of people interacting with me for the sake of conveying their appreciation of my endurance or fortitude. I require inclusive academic environment than being confined in special educational institutions; I don’t need charity but employment opportunities; I don’t wish to be secluded on pretext of quota system and be denied of my right of merit.

In essence, I am not desirous of assuming the stature of a celebrity who enjoys a huge fan-following; instead, my content lies in becoming a companion who is able to assist and seek favours on cordial terms.

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