Sunday, June 23, 2019

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The ‘Euphoria’ Teenagers Are Wild. But Most Real Teenagers Are Tame.



By Margot Sanger-Katz and Aaron E. Carroll
Kids these days are the “cautious generation,” the evidence shows.
Teenage dramas have typically presented a soapy view of high school, with more sex, drugs and wild behavior than in real life. But HBO’s new series “Euphoria” portrays a youth bacchanal that’s a stretch even for Hollywood. The show suggests that our modern society, with its smartphone dating apps, internet pornography and designer drugs, has made teenage life more extreme and dangerous than ever before.
Actually, nearly the opposite is true.
You wouldn’t know it from “Euphoria,” but today’s teenagers drink less than their parents’ generation did. They smoke less, and they use fewer hard drugs. They get in fewer car accidents and fewer physical fights. They are less likely to drop out of high school, less likely to have sex, and less likely to become pregnant. They commit fewer crimes.
They even wear bike helmets.
Across a wide range of classically risky teenage behaviors, today’s teenagers are getting tamer and more responsible, making better decisions and eschewing the dangerous choices that, for many adults today, defined youth. “There is a whole bunch of good news out there,” said Bill Albert, the chief innovation officer at Power to Decide, a group that used to be called the Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, before teenage pregnancy rates fell by half. “I think it is fair to call this the cautious generation.”
Teenagers today do face some heightened risks, some of which “Euphoria” tackles. Suicide among teenagers is rising, and the incidence of certain mental health diagnoses also may be growing more common. Teenage nicotine vaping has taken off so fast that it has alarmed public health officials. And, as certain types of drugs are becoming more dangerous, overdose deaths are rising, even though fewer youths use drugs.
But over all, adolescence is safer than it’s ever been.
Most teenagers aren’t having sex
Most High School Juniors Are Virgins
The show’s depiction of sexual activity among teenagers may be where it strays furthest from the facts. In the first episode, the character Jules encourages her virginal friend Cat to have sex, saying, “This isn’t the ’80s.” Many, many characters are shown having sex and talking about it, as if it were something all teenagers do. But the rates of sex — and particularly risky sex — among teenagers are lower now than they were then. Most teenagers the age of the main characters report, on surveys, that they are virgins.
The percentage of high school juniors who have ever had sexual intercourse has declined to 42 percent from 62 percent since 1991, according to a national survey of teenagers conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And the number having sex with multiple partners has fallen: Fewer than 11 percent of high school juniors have had four or more partners, down from 22 percent in 1991. More teenagers who are having sex are using contraception. And the rates of teenage birth have fallen by more than half.
One thing that certainly is true is that teenagers today have more access to porn than ever before. They are also more likely to sext, and share nude photos online (“Unless you’re Amish, nudes are the currency of love,” says the main character, Rue, played by Zendaya, who has a tendency to exaggerate). It’s possible that teenagers will be less shocked than many television reviewers have been at a locker room scene in Episode 2 featuring many, many penises. But wider access to pornography doesn’t mean adolescents are more promiscuous. Young people who have grown up with this technology and access are having less sex than those who lacked it.
Drug use is declining
The series depicts extensive drug use among teenagers, including cocaine, opioids and synthetic hallucinogens. But the use of nearly every type of drug, including alcohol and tobacco, has been falling among teenagers for decades, according to a longstanding survey conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan.In Episode 1, Rue and Jules use a hallucinogen. Only 0.5 percent of 10th graders now report having used a hallucinogen in the last month. That’s about a third of the rate in the late 1990s. In 2018, only 19 percent of 10th graders reported having consumed an alcoholic beverage in the prior 30 days, down from more than 40 percent in the 1990s.
Cigarette use has fallen even more precipitously. In 2018, only 4 percent of 10th graders had smoked in the last 30 days, down from highs of 30 percent.
The one major exception to the trend is marijuana use. Teenagers seem to smoke pot at around the same rate that they did a generation ago, with just over one in four 10th graders reporting any use in the last year.
There has been an increase in the use of electronic cigarettes, which deliver the drug nicotine. Though vaping has fewer long-term health risks than smoked tobacco, federal officials have characterized the recent increases as a new epidemic. About 16 percent of 10th graders and 21 percent of 12th graders reported use in the last month in 2018.
The declines in drug use among teenagers have several health benefits. Young people, whose brains keep developing till their mid-20s, may be at higher risk of addiction when they begin consuming substances. And, as the opioid supply in many parts of the country has become more dangerous and less predictable, anyone taking such drugs is at an increased risk of a fatal overdose.
There are a number of theories that may explain the declines in drug use. Some experts point to a benevolent effect of peer pressure. As fewer teenagers use substances, doing so becomes more stigmatized and less cool. The parties with rampant drug and alcohol use depicted in “Euphoria” clearly differ from the social experiences of many American teenagers today.
But suicide is a growing worry
The first episode contains a few quick depictions of suicide (and plenty of self-destructive behavior). This is one area that has actually been worsening for adolescents.
From 2000 through 2007, the rates of teenage suicide were somewhat flat, according to C.D.C. data. From 2008 through 2014, the annual rate of suicide began increasing. Beginning in 2014, through 2017, the most recent year with complete data, the rate rose even more, to a 10 percent increase per year.
Among girls 15 to 19, changes have been even more significant. The overall rate in 2017 was about twice that in 2000. The suicide rate among adolescents is currently at its highest level in 20 years based on available C.D.C. data. It’s the second-leading cause of death in this age group. Yet teenage suicide remains far from common: Fewer than 2,500 teenagers died this way in 2017. It’s worth noting that almost half of these deaths are via firearms, and many could probably be prevented. There’s some evidence that mental health problems, like depression and anxiety, are becoming more common among teenagers. Recent data are not available, but a study published last year found that the lifetime prevalence of anxiety or depression in children between the ages of 6 and 17 increased to 8.4 percent in 2011–12 from 5.4 percent in 2003. (Rue is put on more medications at a very young age than almost any pediatrician would support.)
Researchers say there is no one simple explanation for the decline in reckless behavior among teenagers. Besides positive peer pressure, some possible causes they cite include the rise of more intensive parenting; internet distractions that keep teenagers at home rather than out and about; expanded health coverage and improvements in mental health care; and the elimination of brain-damaging lead from gasoline in the 1970s.
There is such a tendency to catastrophize teenage behavior that many parents and television writers have missed this revolution in the nature of adolescence.
“In the long term, the trends are quite clear,” said David Finkelhor, a sociology professor and director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire. “But even in the short term, we’re undergoing a period of dramatic improvements that have not been widely acknowledged or underlined, and it’s too bad.”

Islamic State Comes for South Asia - Announced the creation of wilayah (provinces) in #Pakistan


Last month, the Islamic State (IS) formally announced the creation of wilayah (provinces) in Pakistan and India. The announcement was made by the Islamic State’s media front, the Amaq News Agency.
The two provinces have been carved out of the erstwhile Islamic State of Khorasan Province (ISKP), which encompassed the Af-Pak border region. ISKP, which was founded in January 2015, months after IS had announced its so called caliphate in the Iraq and Levant, spearheaded all activity in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and was the source of IS-affiliated militant activity in India as well.
The two IS provinces in India and Pakistan were announced in the immediate aftermath of the group claiming responsibility for gun attacks on security forces in Shopian district of Indian-administered Kashmir. During the same week, IS claimed a similar gun attack in Mastung district of Pakistan’s Balochistan province.
A month before the Islamic State’s creation of the Wilayah Pakistan, the group bombed the Hazarjangi marketin Balochistan’s capital of Quetta, killing 20 people. April’s Quetta bombing targeted the Shia Hazara ethnic group, which, along with the local Christian community, has been regularly targeted by the Islamic State and its affiliates, in line with the ideological goal of purging religious minorities from areas it intends to occupy. Pakistan’s Hazara community has been the Islamic State’s most frequent targets, thanks to an almost two century-old history of violent persecution in the region owing to their Shia identity, and easily identifiable physical features owing to their Uzbek and Turkic ancestry.
The presence of already marginalized religious communities, coupled with Balochistan’s multipronged volatility – owing to a Baloch separatist movementjihadist turf wars, and a continuum of military operations – makes the province the ideal ground for IS. After having been driven out of the Middle East, it is in Balochistan that the Islamic State saw a pathway into South Asia.
While ISKP continued to target Afghanistan, after having formed its regional hub along the Af-Pak border, it has intermittently launched deadly attacks in Pakistan as reminders of its ambitions in the region. These attacks included the deadliest massacres in the country since the creation of ISKP. In February 2017, 72 people were killed when the Sehwan sufi shrine in Jamshoro District was bombed. Last year’s Mastung bombing, in the lead up to the general elections, was the second deadliest attack in Pakistan’s history.
The growth of IS in Balochistan and Sindh has been monitored and reiterated by independent security analysts and militancy experts. However, the official position of the Pakistan Army has been complete denial of any IS presence in the country.
“They’ve brought their chapters into the al-Qaeda format, which has affiliates instead of a caliphate. They feel they will be able to generate human resource and form a network,” Muhammad Amir Rana, the director of Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) and author of Dynamics of Taliban Insurgency in FATA, told The Diplomat.
“However, the security forces are working on thwarting the threat posed by IS. NACTA [the National Counter Terrorism Authority] has formed a database for everyone who has returned from Iraq and Syria. Similarly, the entire focus of the CTDs [Counter Terror Departments] is on similar cells affiliated with IS and al-Qaeda,” Rana added.
Sources within the military reiterate that the attacks claimed by IS in Pakistan are carried out by their “foot soldiers” in the country. These local groups work under the umbrella of the Islamic State, which does not have operational capacity in the country. The most prominent among these is the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), whose al-Alami faction has forged an alliance with the Islamic State.
“Most of the so called IS operatives in Balochistan are either affiliated with the LeJ or some faction of the Pakistani Taliban. All of them are local, and none from the Middle East. These groups, which have largely been decimated in Pakistan, are gravitating towards IS to keep themselves relevant,” a senior military official based in Balochistan told The Diplomat.
Last month, militants affiliated with the Islamic State and LeJ were arrested in Dera Ghazi Khan and Sialkot. IS cells affiliated with Kashmir-bound Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) have been busted in Punjab in the past. Similarly, IS affiliates have been arrested from Karachi’s Sakran and Manghopir area, underlining the group’s presence across the country.
Military officials maintain, off the record, that sympathizers for jihadist groups like the IS and LeJ are present within the Army. Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa has also conceded that some military officers are facilitating attacks in Balochistan while speaking to Hazara protesters last year.
While officials maintain that jihad sympathizers in the Pakistan Army are a fringe group that is being tackled, there has been global concern over the military shielding jihadist groups to advance their strategic goals in the region.
Beyond reiterations of this by international powers seeking to pressure Pakistan over its duplicitous security policies, this is also confessed by former Army chiefs and spymasters. Given this, it seems likely that the Islamic State announcing provinces in Pakistan and India – two nuclear armed states, which were on the brink of waras recently as February this year – will multiply the group’s potential threat even further.
In India, the Islamic State is eyeing a presence in Jammu and Kashmir, capitalizing on the existing separatist movement, which has morphed into jihad. Just like disintegrated jihadist groups in Balochistan, the state-backed violence in Kashmir offers the Islamic State a recruiting ground.
However, similar to Pakistan, the Indian security agencies are downplaying the IS threat.
“What we have in Kashmir is a few flags by some people who may be camp followers, sympathizers, admirers who romanticize medieval brutality. There is no network; no actual IS terrorist,” former chief of India’s intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), Vikram Sood told The Diplomat.
“There are no liberated zones in Kashmir where they could have operated. The intelligence and SF network in Kashmir is very strong and effective as one can see from the numbers eliminated, giving them low shelf life,” he added.
While the Islamic State’s operational capacity might not rival what it had during its heyday in the Middle East, its ideological lure is visible across South Asia as the group orchestrates attacks across the region. This year’s Easter bombings in Sri Lanka, similar to recent attacks in Pakistan, underline that the Islamic State has completed its shift as an entity from the Middle East to South Asia.
“The Sri Lanka church bombings could have ripple effects in southern India and this would be a matter of some concern for the security agencies. There have been cases of persons going across from South India but limited in number. This is probably because of indoctrination in UAE or KSA [Saudi Arabia],” said Sood.
However, while India and Sri Lanka have witnessed gory manifestations of IS presence in the region, albeit with contrasting devastation, it is Pakistan where the group is looking to capitalize on a jihadist vacuum.
Lieutenant General Talat Masood, a former secretary at Pakistan’s Ministry of Defense Production, warned the Pakistani leadership against the perils of underplaying the Islamic State’s presence in the country.
“They might be downplaying the group’s foothold in the country owing to the current economic situation, especially given the fact that there are threats of sanctions still looming over Pakistan,” he said, referring to terror watchdog Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) warnings to Islamabad, indicating a potential blacklisting.
“But they must remember that it [the Islamic  State] is unlike any other group that has functioned in Pakistan in the past. It is the only group that has controlled any territory, and its ideological overreach remains unparalleled,” Masood added.

Is Pakistan An Unviable State? A Numerical Investigation – Analysis

By Sushant Sareen
For now, Pakistan is banking upon its time tested modus operandi of tiding over the immediate crisis by giving in to whatever is demanded of it, and then waiting and hoping that things take a turn for the better so that they no longer need to deliver on the commitments they have made.
Is Pakistan, as it is currently structured, an economically viable state? Is it a state that can sustain itself without huge amounts of foreign assistance? In other words, can Pakistan live off its own money or does it survive on other people’s money?
The economic crisis that the country is facing is not new. In fact, it is cyclical and every few years, Pakistan finds itself in a similar crisis. But every new cycle brings Pakistan closer to the point of an economic meltdown. The current economic crisis is in many ways far worse than earlier crises that the country has faced. Not only is this financial, it is systemic and structural. Band-aid solutions might delay the inevitable, but won’t address the fundamental problems that bog the economy. If anything, the bailouts being given will only pull Pakistan out of the immediate crisis, but then create the conditions for the next upcoming crises, which will be even more difficult to handle. This is in part because the sweeping reforms that need to accompany the bailouts will either be done half-heartedly, or else partially and extremely reluctantly, not with the purpose of reform but to ward off the immediate crisis. Against this backdrop, when the de facto finance minister, who has been imported and imposed upon the government allegedly by the IMF and the Pakistani ‘deep state’ says that unless the country addresses the imbalances in the economy, it is heading for a default and will be left with no escape route, it is a sign that things are actually even worse than what they appear to be.
If the latest Pakistani budget is anything to go by, the economy seems to be entering a long dark tunnel with no light coming in from the other side. The numbers in the budget are so far-fetched that no one is really taking them seriously. What is worse, even if Pakistan actually manages to achieve the numbers it has given in the budget 2019-20, it doesn’t really pull the country out of the economic morass in which it finds itself. The reason is simple: the financials of Pakistan are totally out of sync with the fundamentals of economic management. Their sums don’t match, and the way they are making their national accounts books match smack more of voodoo economics than anything else.
According to the 2019-20 budget, the federal government proposes to collect taxes of PKR 5.55 trillion. This is an increase of PKR 1.450 trillion (approximately 35%) over the revised tax collection of PKR 4.150 trillion in the outgoing fiscal year. The revised tax number is also inflated and is not expected to cross PKR 3.95 trillion when the financial year closes on 30 June. The ‘revised’ tax collection is PKR 285 billion less than the budgeted tax collection for FY 2018-19 and the expected number is PKR 485 billion less than budgeted number. The real kicker is that even the inflated revised tax collection number for FY 2018-19 is almost the same as the revised number for the FY 2017-18 (pg. 3). In other words, the total tax collection was virtually static in the outgoing year. And yet, there is the projection of a nearly 35% increase (40% if the expected or if you will, the actual number of PKR 3.95 trillion is considered) in tax collections in the budget for 2019-20!
In 2018-19, given the GDP growth of 3.3% (according to independent economists, even this GDP growth of 3.3% has been jacked up by almost 1% by showing an increase in electricity generation & distribution and gas distribution sector growing by an unbelievable 40%) and an inflation of around 7%, tax collections should have risen by around 10-11% at the very least. But this didn’t happen. In the next fiscal, with growth expected to contract further to 2.4% and inflation expected to be around 11-13%, the tax collections could increase by around 15% in the natural course. But to expect them to increase by 35% (or 40% if the actual number is taken into account) is utterly unrealistic. The only possible justification for fixing such an over-ambitious tax revenue target is a World Bank report which has calculated that Pakistan can raise substantial tax revenues by improving compliance, removing exemptions and broadening and expanding the tax base. Although the World Bank has agreed to fund the revenue mobilisation project, the last time such a project was funded by the World Bank, produced less than satisfactory results.
Given that Pakistan’s population is growing at 2.4% every year, if the GDP growth in the outgoing and the coming year is going to be more or less the same, it means that there is virtually no growth in incomes. Add to this rising inflation (independent economists calculate that because of rising taxes, weakening of the Pakistani rupee and a massive spike in utility prices, inflation will be at least a few percentage points higher than the 11-13% estimated by the Pakistan government), it means that poverty levels will rise as will unemployment. The above is the best case scenario in which the government is able to achieve the targets it has set for itself in the budget.
Even if Pakistan pulls off the impossible and meets the revenue target of PKR 5.55 trillion, it doesn’t take the country out of the woods. The reason is that its fiscal math is totally out of sync. The net revenue receipts that the federal government estimates is only PKR 3.46 trillion. But just debt servicing (PKR 2.89 trillion) and defence expenditure (PKR 1.15 trillion) are PKR 500 billion more than the grossly over-optimistic estimate of revenue that the government of Pakistan hopes to collect. In other words, everything else that the government does is on borrowed money. In fact, the net revenue is only 50% of the PKR 7.02 trillion total federal expenditure that the government will incur.
According to the government’s own calculations, the total fiscal deficit in 2019-20 will be 7.2% of GDP, almost the same as the fiscal deficit number given for the outgoing financial year. But the thing is that given the inflated revenue numbers for 2018-19, it is expected that the fiscal deficit will be closer to 8%. Next year, it could be 9% or even more depending on how much the revenue shortfall is. Already, economists are claiming that the PKR 423 billion of provincial surpluses that the federal government is expecting are unlikely and this alone means that the fiscal deficit will breach the 8% mark. And if there are cost escalations in defence spending or if interest rates rise further and the rupee weakens more (by some estimates the Rupee could fall to 180 to a Dollar by December, and may even breach the 200 mark) then debt servicing will shoot up further and make an even bigger hole in the budget. Even if the pessimists are proven wrong, and everything works according to plan, Pakistan’s total public debt will continue to gallop out of control. Since the ouster of the military dictator Gen Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s debt has almost doubled every five years, and given the trajectory of borrowings done by the Imran Khan government in the last 10 months, Pakistan’s debt could double again by the time the current dispensation completes its term.
Clearly, this is an unsustainable proposition and Pakistan is staring at a sovereign default. Economists have been warning of the country being caught in a debt-trap situation for some years, but it is now that the imminence of the crisis has hit home. After the usual bluff, bluster and bravado, which has become the hallmark of Pakistan in general and the Imran Khan led dispensation in particular, Pakistan has been forced to approach the IMF for a bailout. Before approaching the IMF, however, Imran Khan went hat in hand to ‘friendly countries,’ hoping that this would help Pakistan avoid the tough conditions that the IMF was expected to impose before agreeing to a bailout. But within a few months Pakistan had run through the over USD 9 billion that it borrowed from Saudi Arabia, UAE and China. The last resort left was the IMF.
Much of the budget seems to be aimed at only getting the IMF package, which in turn will open to doors to other multilateral funding and also the access to international financial markets. But the unrealistic numbers in the budget suggest that Pakistan will in all likelihood live up to its infamy as a ‘one tranche nation.’ In the last 60 years, Pakistan has gone to the IMF 21 times. The latest IMF programme that Pakistan is entering will be the 22nd time. Out of all these programmes, the only time Pakistan successfully completed an IMF programme was the 2013 one, and even that after the Fund allowed more than a dozen waivers on non-observance of performance criteria on the basis of which the programme had been approved. What this means is that Pakistan has never carried out the structural reforms that the IMF had recommended. As a result, on an average every 3-4 years Pakistan has had to go hat in hand to the IMF. Over the years, two things have happened. One, the US romance with Pakistan has ended and the soft terms, concessions, bailouts and waivers that came by so easily in the past are no longer available; two, the IMF has also smartened up to Pakistan’s shenanigans and has insisted on front-loading the conditionalities instead of spacing them out. Pakistan invariably used to take the IMF for a royal ride by taking the money and then reneging on the conditionalities. The IMF therefore has forced Pakistan to take ‘prior actions’ before it even approves the Extended Fund Facility arrangement.
For now, Pakistan is banking upon its time tested modus operandi of tiding over the immediate crisis by giving in to whatever is demanded of it, and then waiting and hoping that things take a turn for the better so that they no longer need to deliver on the commitments they have made. The way the Pakistanis see it, their ‘geography for alms’ strategy has never failed them in the past. In the region they are located, something or the other always happens that opens the floodgates of funds for them. Who knows? Perhaps, the Americans will once again rediscover Pakistan’s utility as a mercenary state? Maybe, the Chinese will become more expansive in pouring in funds? What’s to rule out the Saudis or UAE opening their coffers in exchange for some Pakistani troops deploying in the Middle East to fight the dirty wars being fought there? And, if all else fails, Pakistan can always leverage itself as “a country too dangerous to fail.” But if nothing works, and no one is ready to throw good money after bad in Pakistan, then it will be exceedingly difficult to prevent an economic meltdown.

Pakistan struggling to eradicate malnutrition in children

Despite abundance of food, child malnutrition is rife in Pakistan. Four in 10 children under 5 years of age are stunted in the country, according to a government survey.
The malnutrition and neonatal ward of the government-run civil hospital in Mithi city, in Pakistan's southern Sindh province, has hundreds of child patients. One of them is Mukesh, a frail, listless toddler showing no signs of motion. A sign on his crib says he is 3 years old, but he hardly looks that age.
His mother, 36-year-old Ragini Mehgwar, gave birth to six children, but only two managed to survive. Now, Mukesh is battling for his life. "We are poor laborers living on daily wages. We rely on our livestock for income and are unable to make ends meet. There is a frequent shortage of food in the house," Mehgwar told DW.
Mukesh's plight is shared by millions of other children in Pakistan. According to the country's National Nutrition Survey for the years 2018-19, one in every three children is underweight.
The study assessed the nutritional status of 115,500 households across Pakistan. The primary focus of data collection was on children under the age of 5, adolescent girls, and women of child-bearing age.
Reasons for malnutrition
According to the World Health Organization's (WHO) child growth standards, stunting is a harmful complication of malnutrition and can simply be defined as being shorter than the average height for one's age.
The United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) require that governments worldwide end hunger, achieve food security and improve nutrition by 2030, particularly for the poor and vulnerable sections of society, including infants.
Pakistan's national survey results, however, reveal that no considerable progress has been made on these fronts in the country. Four out of every 10 children aged under 5 are stunted, while nearly 5 million children in the same age group suffer from wasting, or low weight for their height. In total, 18% of the children aged under five suffer from wasting.
Wasting is also a strong predictor of mortality among children.
The survey also showed that nearly 13% of children between the ages of 2 and 5 years faced some form of functional disability. Furthermore, one in every eight adolescent girls and one in every five adolescent boys suffered from being underweight, while over half of adolescent girls were anemic.
Maternal health affects children's health too
Maternal health affects children's health too
Maternal health a factor
Ram Ratan, the medical superintendent at the Mithi hospital, has been witnessing the malnutrition crisis for the past several years. He said many children in the region fall victim to malnutrition and undernourishment because of the weakness of their mothers, many of whom have delivered several babies without enough gap between pregnancies. "Mothers' poor nutrition and diet patterns are the major causes of babies' death and malnutrition," he said.
This is compounded by Pakistan's patriarchal culture and gender-based discrimination, say observers. In most households, women often have less food to eat than their male relatives. And the cultural norm of women eating after the male members of the family finish their meals as well as young-aged marriages have also contributed to the problem.
Bearing large numbers of children from a young age not only takes a toll on women's health, but also impacts the well-being of the fetus and the ability to breastfeed a newborn.
"Children who are born small due to poor maternal nutrition start life with a huge disadvantage. Stunting, for example, is one of Pakistan's biggest nutrition-related challenges, and has its roots in pregnancy when mothers do not get adequate nutrition," Aida Girma, country representative for the UNICEF in Pakistan, told DW.
Improving feeding practices
Addressing the problem requires nutritional intervention, said Girma. It included the treatment of acute malnutrition, administering oral rehydration salts for diarrhea, supplementing maternal and child micro-nutrients, improving infant and young child feeding practices, including exclusive breastfeeding, introducing minimum dietary diversity and minimum acceptable diet. 
In Pakistan, only 38% of babies are fed breast milk exclusively during their first six months in line with UN recommendations.
"There are also nutrition-sensitive interventions that must be equally emphasized such as ending open defecation, addressing food security, providing care giving resources at maternal, household and community level," Girma said.
According to the Global Nutrition Report 2018, there are 10.7 million stunted children in Pakistan. Owing to widespread poverty, many families cannot afford a nutritious diet with the recommended intake of protein, fat, minerals and vitamins.
Prime Minister Imran Khan's government has expressed concern about the stunted growth of children in the country, which has the third highest rate of stunting among young children in the world.
Pakistan's state minister for health, Zafar Mirza, also said that the federal government prioritized the country's nutrition agenda and would work closely with the provinces for informed and effective interventions in the sector. "As difficult a task as it may seem, we will ensure that we save our children from malnutrition," he said shortly after his ministry revealed the survey's results.

پشاور کے میڈیا ملازمین ہی زیر عتاب کیوں - صرف پشاور نشانے پر کیوں؟

’جب خیبر پختونخوامیں آئے روز دھماکے ہوتے تھے اور امن وامان کی صورتحال مخدوش تھی تو یہی پشاور کے صحافی ان چینلوں کے لیے اپنی جان ہتھیلی پر رکھ کر دن رات کوریج کیا کرتے تھے لیکن اب جب حالات بہتر ہوگئے ہیں تو ہمیں چینلوں سے نکالا جا رہا ہے‘۔
یہ کہنا تھا24 نیوز چینل کے پشاور میں بند ہونے والے دفتر کے بیورو چیف عالمگیر خان کا، جنہوں نے انڈپینڈنٹ اردو کو مزید بتایا کہ چینل مالکان نے خراب معاشی صورتحال کی وجہ بتا کر تقریبا 12 ملازمین کو فارغ کر دیا ہے۔
پشاور میں 24 نیوز چینل کی بندش سے پہلے کیپیٹل ٹی وی کا پشاور دفتر بھی اس مسئلے سے دوچار رہا۔ اس کے زیادہ ترملازمین کو فارغ کرتے ہوئے باقی عملے کو ایک کرائے کے کمرے سے کام کرنے کی ہدایت کی گئی ہے۔
کچھ مہینے پہلے پشاور ہی میں روزنامہ ایکسپریس نے درجنوں ملازمین کو فارغ کردیا تھا جبکہ انگریزی روزنامے ایکسپریس ٹریبیون نے پشاور سمیت ملک کے دیگر شہروں میں اپنے بیورو دفاتر بند کردیے ہیں۔ اسی طرح چند مہینے پہلے جیو اور جنگ گروپ نے پشاور میں صحافیوں سمیت 40 سے زائد ملازمین کو نوکریوں سے نکال دیا تھا۔
عالمگیر نے بتایا کہ پشاور ایک چھوٹا شہر ہے جہاں پرمقامی چینلز کے علاوہ کسی بھی میڈیا ادارے کا صدر دفتر واقع نہیں اور یہی وجہ ہے کہ یہاں میڈیا میں ملازمت کے مواقع نہ ہونے کے برابر ہیں۔
صرف پشاور نشانے پر کیوں؟
میڈیا اداروں نے پاکستان کے دیگر شہروں میں بھی ملازمین کو نکالا ہے تاہم ان شہروں میں ان کے بیورو دفاتر اب بھی موجود ہیں۔
پشاور اور قبائلی اضلاع بین الاقوامی میڈیا سمیت قومی میڈیا کے لیے نہایت اہمیت کے حامل ہیں اور زیادہ تر اہم خبریں انہی علاقوں سے سامنے آتی ہیں، اس سب کے باوجود پشاور ہی زیر عتاب دکھائی دیتا ہے۔
خیبر یونین آف جرنلسٹ کے صدر فداخٹک نے اس کی بنیادی وجہ پشاور سے میڈیا اداروں کو بزنس نہ ملنا بتائی ۔ وہ کہتے ہیں: ’اخبارات کو کچھ نہ کچھ اشتہارات مل جاتے ہیں لیکن ٹی وی چینلز کو سرکاری یا نجی اشتہارات نہ ملنے کے برابر ہیں اور یہی وجہ ہے کہ ’میڈیا کے معاشی بحران‘ میں زیادہ تر بیورو دفاتر کو نشانہ بنایا جاتا ہے۔’ہم نے حکومت کو بتایا ہے کہ جن اداروں نے صحافیوں کو نکالا ہے ان کے اشتہارات بند کیے جائیں یا ان کو تنبیہ کی جائے کہ ملازمین کو دوبارہ بحال کریں۔ اس حوالے سے حکومت کا مثبت پیغام ملا ہے‘۔
پاکستان میں میڈیا اداروں کا زیادہ تر انحصار حکومتی اشتہاروں پر ہے۔
ڈان میڈیا گروپ کے اروڑہ میگزین کے مطابق 2016-17 میں اشتہارات کا حجم621 ملین ڈالرزسے کم ہوکر 2017-18میں578 ملین ڈالرز تک گر گیا ہے۔
پاکستان فیڈرل یونین آف جرنلسٹس کے مطابق اسی کو بنیاد بنا کر اب تک پورے پاکستان میں آٹھ سو سے زائد صحافیوں اور4000 تک دیگر ملازمین کو میڈیا اداروں سے فارغ کیا گیا۔
’خیبر پختونخوا سے ریٹنگ نہ ہونے کے برابر‘
پشاور میں ایک بڑے میڈیا گروپ کے ماریٹنگ دفتر میں کام کرنے والے ملازم نے انڈپینڈنٹ اردو کو نام نہ ظاہر کرنے کی شرط پر بتایا سارے میڈیا اداروں نے پشاور کو کراچی،لاہور اور اسلام آباد کے بعد تیسری کٹیگری میں ڈالا ہے کیونکہ یہاں سے اشتہارات اور ویورشپ نہ ہونے کے برابر ہے۔
’ آپ اس بات سے اندازہ لگائیں کہ صرف لاہور شہر میں 60 سے زائد کیبل آپریٹرز ہیں اور ہر ایک کے پاس 30 ہزار سے زائد صارف ہیں جبکہ پشاور میں صرف دس آپریٹرز کے پاس کے ساتھ چار سے پانچ ہزار کسٹمر جسٹررڈ ہیں۔
انھوں نے ٹی وی ریٹنگ کے بارے میں بتایا کہ خیبرپختونخوا کے شہروں پشاور، کوہاٹ اور مردان میں ٹی وی ریٹنگ ناپنے والے آلے یا میٹرز لگائے گئے ہیں، جس سے حاصل ہونے والی ریٹنگ کا چینلز کے مجموعی ریٹنگ پوائنٹس پر کوئی اثر نہیں پڑتا اور یہی وجہ ہے یہ علاقے چینلز کے لیے بزنس کے حوالے سے اتنا اہم نہیں سمجھے جاتے۔
اس سارے صورتحال پر انڈپینڈنٹ اردو نے خیبر پختونخوا کے صوبائی وزیر اطلاعات شوکت یوسفزئی سے موقف لینے کی کوشش کی لیکن جب ان سے صحافیوں کی برطرفی کے حوالے سے سوال کیا گیا تو انھوں نے فون بند کردیا۔

What Pakistani generals want from PM Imran Khan – career advancement




Pakistan’s generals look at their country as a wholly owned subsidiary of General Headquarters and consider themselves its board of directors.

Over the last several days, Pakistan’s already thin veneer of civilian democratic rule has been shredded to pieces. Leaders of both the major opposition parties in parliament are now in prison, as are leaders of the populist Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM). The national media is firmly controlled by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) and the media wing of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
Even the economy is being managed by a team handpicked by the generals. In something that is unlikely to ever happen in another democracy, the army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, has become a member of a high-powered committee formed to handle Pakistan’s economic crises.
The ISI now has a new boss, Lieutenant General Faiz Hameed, who earned recognition as the agency’s chief political manipulator while he was its second-in-command. Former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had identified Hameed, then a Major General, as the man responsible for political engineering ahead of the July 2018 elections.
In a normal country, such allegations against a supposedly professional soldier would have been a reason for immediate suspension and investigation. But this being Pakistan, Hameed got promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General instead.
At ISI, Major General Azhar Naveed Hayat will be one of Hameed’s deputies. Hayat was filmed while distributing money to anti-government Islamist protesters under the previous civilian administration.
The career trajectories of Hameed and Hayat disprove the army’s propaganda about the institution having changed its ways and General Qamar Bajwa being different from his politically meddlesome predecessors.
Like several army chiefs before him, Bajwa feels a three-year term as the army commander is insufficient for him to save Pakistan. Like Field Marshal Ayub Khan, General Zia ul Haq, General Pervez Musharraf and General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, he too wants an extension in his tenure as the army chief.
The first three imposed Martial Law, took over the reins of power, and extended their tenure as army chief. But Kayani created political circumstances, with the help of the secret services and malleable Supreme Court judges, which led to the civilian government giving him an extension in service. Bajwa appears to be moving in a similar direction.
Pakistan’s generals look at their country as a wholly owned subsidiary of General Headquarters and consider themselves its board of directors. The role of a prime minister in this scheme of things is not to provide political leadership but rather act as a manager implementing the wishes of the board of directors.
Bajwa and Hameed helped Imran Khan become General Manager of Pakistan Inc. and want him to do not just what they say, but also ensure their career advancement. Their other interests are to ensure that economic managers can secure more financing from the nation’s creditors (for example, the IMF) and continue increasing the military’s budget, which provides the generals perquisites and privileges.
At a time when Pakistan’s economy is generally not doing well, and the citizens are feeling the pinch, the country’s military spending continues to rise. In 2014, the defence budget stood at PKR 700.2 billion; five years later, it has gone up to PKR 1,100 billion. Further, to deceive the public, Pakistan’s defence budget is truncated in budget documents under several heads.
The defence budget does not include military pensions or allocations for nuclear and missile programmes and major equipment purchases. If military pensions and capital expenditure on military equipment were added to the defence budget, the amount for 2014 would be PKR 1,113.6 billion while for 2019 it would be a whopping PKR 1,882 billion.
Civilian politicians – like the currently jailed leaders Nawaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari – have to maintain their voters’ support by allocating more resources for public infrastructure, healthcare and education. They are not always men of total integrity and it is true that stories of corruption and kickbacks in civilian projects abound.
But Pakistani voters act in their self-interest when they vote for flawed, even corrupt, politicians. They expect at least some share of a poor country’s resources under the supposedly corrupt politicians whereas they get nothing from the generals’ penchant for expensive toys.
Politics was defined by political scientist Harold Lasswell as the process that defines “who gets what, when, and how”. Historic circumstances have made Pakistan’s army a key political player. The army existed before Pakistan was created, having been raised by the British as foot soldiers for their effort in the World War II. It took over the process of defining Pakistan’s ideology and direction to maintain itself.
Now that the army’s unending needs collide with the needs of a society struggling economically, the army wants other players to either follow its commands or accept incarceration and removal from the scene.
It is true that Pakistan’s civilian politicians would garner greater sympathy if their reputations were not tainted with allegations of graft and corruption. But the arrest of two young Pashtun members of parliament from the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan casts doubt on the army’s willingness to tolerate dissent from honest politicians.
Ali Wazir and Mohsin Dawar refused the generals’ command to give up their demands for accountability of the security personnel responsible for enforced disappearances and atrocities. Both have a reputation for incorruptibility, both are now in prison, and the Pakistani media is virtually forbidden from even mentioning them except in terms approved by the military.
Moral of the story: The army’s tolerance for a politician does not increase if the politician is financially not corrupt. If the generals can’t imprison you on grounds of corruption, they still have charges like ‘waging war against the army’ and ‘treason’.
General Bajwa’s game plan is not very different from the strategy of almost every army chief since Ayub Khan first imposed Martial Law in 1958. The men in uniform want to eliminate any politician who can be a serious challenge to the military’s domination over decision-making.
The generals select insignificant or inexperienced politicians to serve under their stewardship but are compelled to get rid of anyone who becomes better known or starts accumulating political experience. Ironically, military intervention is said to be the product of Pakistan’s political instability whereas, in reality, it is the source.Pakistan’s failure to evolve as a democracy under the rule of law with strong institutions and its governance by a military-led oligarchy have created an air of permanent political crisis. Members of the oligarchy jockey for power through intrigue, rumour and whispering campaigns. A new round of that intrigue has now started.
Lieutenant generals with any hope of being the next army chief are mobilising their friends and supporters to make the case for their ascension after Bajwa’s impending retirement in November. Bajwa and his team have started making the case for an extension in his tenure to maintain the stability that they claim to have achieved by installing a civilian government that reads from the army’s playbook.
But after four direct military coups and persistent behind-the-scenes interventions, Pakistan’s military establishment is far from delivering the stability and progress it promises through its machinations. It is unlikely to succeed this time either.
Military officers are used to dealing with regimented minds. The troops under their command ask no questions while obeying orders. But civilian life and running a government involve managing diversity. Even after the current round of repression, Pakistan will remain a nation of multiple ethnicities, beliefs and opinions.
A country of nearly 200 million people will just not march in threes at the command of a drill sergeant, as the generals were taught at Pakistan Military Academy. But the stubborn persistence of the generals’ myopic vision will result in Pakistan’s key economic and social indicators falling further behind those of its peers.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

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Sold into marriage, Pakistani women endure rape in China



At first, in her desperate calls home to her mother in Pakistan, Natasha Masih couldn’t bring herself to say what they were doing to her.
All the 19-year-old would say was that her new husband — a Chinese man her family sold her off to in marriage — was torturing her.
Eventually she broke down and told her mother the full story, pleading with her to bring her home. The husband had hidden her away in a hotel in a remote corner of China and for the past weeks had been forcing her to have sex with other men.
“I bought you in Pakistan,” she said her husband told her. “You belong to me. You are my property.”
Her mother turned to the only people she knew who could help: her small evangelical church in a run-down slum of the Pakistani city of Faisalabad. There, a group of parishioners began putting together an elaborate plan to rescue the girl from the hotel more than 1,100 miles (1,800 km) away.
Natasha was one of hundreds of Pakistani girls who have been married off to Chinese men in return for cash payments to their families, most of them Christians, a community that is among the poorest of the poor in the country. The Associated Press reported previously how Christian pastors and Pakistani and Chinese brokers work together in a lucrative trade, aggressively pursuing Pakistani girls who are tricked into fraudulent marriages and find themselves trapped in China with sometimes abusive husbands.
Since then, police investigations have uncovered that many of the women are forced into prostitution in China. A picture of the extent of the trafficking networks has emerged from a series of arrests and raids in recent weeks by Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency, as well as testimony from victims, many of whom were previously too frightened to come forward.
On Friday, Chinese authorities said they had rescued more than 1,100 abducted foreign women in police raids coordinated with five Southeast Asian countries.
The Ministry of Public Security said more than 1,300 suspects had been arrested for allegedly luring and kidnapping women after promising jobs or marriages. The joint operation ran from last July to December.
The AP spoke to seven girls who had been forced into prostitution — four of them still in China.
Families are told their daughters will be wed to well-off businessmen and given good lives in China, and the marriage trade is depicted as a benefit for all sides — impoverished parents receive money, while Chinese men find brides in a country where men outnumber women. But investigators are increasingly convinced that the majority of the girls are sold into prostitution, two law enforcement officials familiar with the investigations told the AP.“The girls who are interviewed say they were tortured” — using a euphemism for rape and forced prostitution, said one of the officials. “They are afraid for their families and for the disgust they fear they will feel. … Make no mistake, this is trafficking.”
However, even as investigators are uncovering the scope of the trade, the Pakistani government has sought to keep it quiet. Senior government officials have ordered investigators to remain silent about the trafficking because they don’t want to jeopardize Pakistan’s increasingly close economic relationship with China, the two officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Beijing is investing billions of dollars in Pakistan as part of its Belt and Road initiative, a global endeavor aimed at reconstituting the Silk Road and linking China to all corners of Asia. Under a $75 billion project known as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, Beijing has promised a sprawling package of infrastructure development, from road construction and power plants to agriculture. The largest component is a 2,000-mile (3,200-km) road linking China to Pakistan’s deep-water port of Gwadar on the Arabian Sea.
In Pakistan, it has been billed as a massive development program that will bring new prosperity to the nation, where the average citizen lives on just $125 a month. Since 2015, thousands of Chinese people have arrived in Pakistan to work on a multitude of projects.
China’s ambassador to Pakistan has gone on local television denying girls are trafficked to China and sold into prostitution. The issue of human trafficking was not discussed during a visit to Pakistan this month by Vice President Wang Qishan, who held talks with Prime Minister Imran Khan and Pakistan’s president. In comments carried in the Pakistani press, Wang denied trafficking is taking place — and referred to an online video that traffickers often use to lure in families, showing Pakistani brides in China dancing and happy.
“China is denying it is happening, but we are showing the proof,” said Saleem Iqbal, an activist in Pakistan’s small Christian minority who has helped bring girls back from China and collects evidence of trafficking networks that he provides to police.
The AP spoke by messaging app with Arooj, a Pakistani girl still trapped in China. She said her husband beat her and would come home drunk with friends and force her to have sex with them. Like many of the girls, she wasn’t sure where she was in China; often they are taken from Beijing on flights elsewhere in the country, then driven for hours to small towns without being told the destination.
Ijaz Alam Augustine, the human rights and minorities minister in Pakistan’s Punjab province, estimated that more than 500 women have been trafficked to China, while Iqbal put the figure at 750 to 1,000.
In early May, Pakistani police swept through posh neighborhoods in the Punjab provincial capital of Lahore and in the national capital, Islamabad. They arrested Chinese nationals and their Pakistani partners involved in two marriage-broker networks that sought out Pakistani girls for Chinese grooms. All now face trafficking charges.
Investigators have since made further arrests in smaller Punjab towns and in the western city of Peshawar, rolling up more networks. Overall, at least two dozen Chinese and dozens of Pakistanis have been arrested.
The two law enforcement officials said the Lahore-based network had been operating for at least a year. The network was protected by corrupt policemen, and the son of a former senior police official served as the linchpin between the Chinese and Pakistani operatives, the officials said.The network also benefited from lax oversight by authorities, they said. For example, at least five of the Chinese traffickers were able to enter Pakistan on business visas based on companies that didn’t exist.The AP saw one of the charge sheets from the wave of arrests, in which eight Chinese and five Pakistanis were charged with human trafficking. They also accused the traffickers of profiting on body parts stolen from girls trafficked to China, without offering evidence. Other police reports tell of a Pakistani pastor who signed dozens of empty marriage certificates, which were later filled out by traffickers once they had acquired a prospective bride.Investigators have conducted dozens of interviews in recent weeks with trafficked girls and women, who are increasingly speaking out.One woman, Sumaira, who was sold to a Chinese groom by her brothers, told the AP she had remained silent for months after escaping her husband, even refusing to talk to investigators. But now she is coming forward.“If I had told everything that happened to me then, maybe I would have saved so many other Pakistani girls,” she said. “But I was too afraid, too afraid of my brothers. Now I want the people that did this to me to not do it to other girls.”The 30-year-old Sumaira had been running a small beauty salon in a poor, mostly Christian neighborhood of the Punjab town of Gujranwala. “I was a very different person than what you see now,” she said. “Then I had hope. I believed in my future. Now I don’t know.”
Her brothers forced her to marry in July last year after being offered money by brokers. Her husband took her first to a house in Islamabad, where she said she was kept for a week, raped every night by Chinese men.
Before leaving for China, she convinced her husband to let her go home to say farewell to her sisters.
“When I got home, I yelled at my brothers, ‘Why did you sell me? How much money did you get for me?'” she said. The brothers beat her, but she managed to escape to the home of an uncle.
Natasha Masih lives in Wasirpura, a mainly Christian district of Faisalabad where many work as domestic workers. She didn’t want to marry, but “what could I do, my family is poor.” A friend of her father suggested he marry her to a Chinese man. She said her father struggled with the decision but needed the money. He had four other daughters and could no longer work after hurting his back. Natasha said refusing was never an option.
In November, her husband took her to China’s remote northwestern region. She was driven to a forested area and a small house with no kitchen or bathroom that she was told would be her home. She discovered that three male and two female friends of her husband shared the house. Soon, her husband began to force her to have sex with the men.
After that, her husband took her to the Yin Du luxury hotel in the nearby city of Urumqi. There, he confined her to a room and sold her into prostitution.
“Always two or three men were the same, and then he would bring other men, ordering me to have sex with them,” she said. “I was living in hell-like conditions, silently weeping, silently praying for help.” She made furtive calls to her parents on her mobile phone.
Back in Faisalabad, a member of her parent’s church, Farooq Masih, formed a group of men from the congregation to try to help. Masih, who is not related to Natasha, told the AP they struggled with how to free Natasha until one among them told of his younger brother who was a student in China. The brother agreed to contact Natasha’s husband, pose as a client and pay him to sleep with her to get access to her. The student texted Natasha and told her he was coming to rescue her, asking for details of when her husband comes and goes from the hotel. Finally, the day came. He called her and told her to slip outside the hotel to where he was waiting in a taxi.“I saw him and quickly I took my clothes and got into his taxi,” she said. “I didn’t ask his name. I didn’t ask anything, I just said, ‘Brother, thank you.'” Soon she was on a plane to Pakistan.Farooq Masih and the other men from the church have since dedicated hours to unearthing trafficking networks. They recently conducted their own sting operation in Faisalabad, orchestrating a fake marriage to a prospective Chinese groom that led the Federal Investigation Agency to the Chinese and Pakistani brokers and the pastor who solemnized the unions for a fee.
Meanwhile, Natasha — who turned 20 last week — helps other young women open up about their experiences and encourages them to talk to investigators. She has heard reports that her husband was back in Pakistan looking for another girl to marry.
“I am lucky,” Natasha said. “Many girls who were taken there by their husbands are still living a terrible life. … Now I know what is freedom and what is slavery. In China, I was treated as a slave by my husband.”