Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Grim Reality of Afghan Children

Recently, the United Nations Human Rights Council in its 16th session has given a full day to discuss and find out the root cause of problems surrounded the children living or working on the streets.

The children are today under extreme stress of poverty and vulnerability. Everywhere we only find kids running on the streets selling hand stuffs or cleaning the cars to feed their families.

Today many children living in urban slums end up working on the streets. More recently, the NATO and U.S. led military operations in the some parts of the country have caused more casualties most of whom were children and increased in the number of orphan children in Afghanistan.

According to the human rights studies, each street child has rights to be protected from harassment, torture and humiliating treatment and access to healthcare and education like any other children. Naturally, they are more vulnerable than children protected by parents or extended families.

In fact, street children are more likely to be targeted in conflict and are less capable of defending their rights. Basically, they are continuingly ignored of their fundamental rights and protection especially in countries like Afghanistan.

Most probably, the police and other childcare protection organization generally come in contact with street children only in front of media or when they are raped, killed, tortured and forcefully married or they are involved in any criminal activities, either as victims or suspects. Rather than, there is no specific action taken before it appears on the ground. Surrounded in such situations, the children may be spoiled to delinquency, vagrancy or begging, drug abuse, sexual harassment or exploitation, torture, child trafficking and child labor. Mostly, the police intervention is not part of preventive strategy but a reaction to criminal behavior.

In most of the under developing countries like Afghanistan, the street children are very likely to be recruited into terrorism and live a short live than children who are nourished by their parents or extended families.

How street children are perceived by the police, public and government plays a crucial role in shaping the force’s response. An ordinary policemen or public including government only sees a street child as a problem and violator of the law rather than the victims of those unhealthy and cruel circumstances that made him a street child or the violator of law and atmosphere. The situation is further compounded by a lack of awareness and sensitization as well as the inadequacy of legal safeguards for children.

Perceiving the children’s sever vulnerabilities, there is an urgent need to develop a holistic approach to child protection. However, numerous factors are hampering the creation of an environment that ensures the best interests of the child. The main challenges in this regard are an inadequate legislative framework, discriminatory law, particularly those related to a girl’s age of majority and undecided matters such as the age of criminal responsibility.

Additionally, terrorism and other security issues are eating away at our already limited resources in the country, while there is often a lack of sensitization among people involved in the welfare and rehabilitation of children. Limited access to education further complicates and worsens the situation.

The national commission on the Rights of Children seems to have been abandoned. There has been always a considerable concern over the rights of children and about the consequences of the child streets whom are recruited to terrorist activities and other criminal involvements.

On the other hand, improvement has been noticed in some areas of the country by various NGOs working on child rights. They are well-cognizant of their constant accomplishment on childcare protection on various platforms. They prove and bring out the vulnerabilities of children in Afghanistan and make it visible to the whole world. The children of Afghanistan not doubt remained the most effect ones in the world.

Unfortunately, on the welfare of children the government has very rare participation. Every year international community spends millions of dollars in Afghanistan but still the children rights is vulnerable.

It is said, that “charity first begins from your own homes” so we must make a law to spend that big amounts of money on our own children who are suffering from hunger, diseases and who really need our support and sympathy. Such planning will surely improve the situation but the enormity of the challenges requires a more coordinated strategy and the accordance of due importance to the issue of street children.

Various departments, including social welfare, education, health, local government and the police have to play their role in protecting the rights of children living or working on the streets. As far as police response is concerned, it should be seen in isolation as the force needs to work in tandem with other organizations.

The right approaching would be linked with public response to the overall goal of child protection and reaffirm, institutionalize and replicate the good practices of one province in the other three. Capacity-building is likely to bring considerable improvement in the police department’s dealing with street children.

The proposed legislation on the National Commission on child Rights, the Child Rights Protection Authority and other bills needs to be expedited. At the same time, civil society must come forward and assist the police in implementing preventive strategies.

Above all, the government needs to set up a monitoring system to meet the requisite standards of child protection. Otherwise, meaningful and sustained improvement cannot be achieved. These efforts ought to be supplemented by vocational training and skill-building courses for out-of-school children.

Last but not least, the childish Working Group set up by the law and Justices Commissions of Afghanistan should be activated to develop rehabilitation programes for children at risk of offending in general and street children in particular.

Bahrain bans main opposition daily

The Bahraini government has banned the publication of a leading independent newspaper due to its coverage of the popular revolution in the Persian Gulf littoral state.

Bahrain's Information Affairs Commission suspended Al-Wasat daily, which has been critical of the government's brutal crackdown on demonstrators in the country, BNA state news agency reported without giving further details.

The commission also ordered a case to be opened for further investigation by the Public Prosecution.

Masur al-Jamri, a former opposition activist during the uprising in the 1990s, is the editor-in-chief of the Bahraini newspaper.

Last week, Bahrain's state television accused Al-Wasat of publishing "fabricated and false news" about the "security developments in Bahrain."

The Bahraini police, backed by Saudi and UAE troops, have intensified the clampdown on anti-government protesters who demand a constitutional monarchy.

Rights groups and opposition parties say hundreds of people have been detained or have gone missing since the protests began in mid-February, with at least 25 people killed and 1,000 others wounded so far.

Protesters gather in Syria as president names new PM

Syria's president appointed a new prime minister Sunday, state television reported, as angry protesters gathered for the funeral processions of four demonstrators killed on Friday.
President Bashar al-Assad appointed Adel Safar, a former agriculture minister, as prime minister Sunday.
The government resigned last week in the face of protests.
On Sunday angry protesters in the Damascus suburb of Douma chanted anti-government slogans as they gathered for processions expected to start after noon prayers, according to a human rights activist who asked not to be named for security reasons. The processions are for the four people killed in Friday clashes.
At least 10 people, nine of them in Douma, were killed on Friday, according to human rights activists.
Another person was killed in Al Sanameen near Daraa.
The anti-regime demonstrations pulsating across Syria resulted in a security hunt for armed snipers and a wave of arrests Saturday.
Syria security forces were searching for members of an "armed group" that killed "a number of citizens and security forces" in Douma on Friday, the Syrian Arab News Agency reported on Saturday.
SANA reported that a girl was killed when the armed group opened fire on civilians in the city of Homs.
The agency cited an official source as saying that snipers from the group fired at citizens and security forces from rooftops.
"Security forces are pursuing the members of the armed group that terrorized the citizens through firing randomly," SANA reported, citing the source without identifying the official or the alleged armed group.
Activists and witnesses dispute the government account, telling CNN that government snipers fired shots at unarmed protesters and government forces beat demonstrators.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said security forces in the volatile southern city of Daraa and in Homs arrested about 20 people on Saturday after demonstrations the day before.
Along with the protests in Douma, Daraa, Homs, and Al Sanameen, people also took to the streets in Latakia, Baniyas and Kamishli on Friday, activists told CNN.
Before Friday's fighting, dozens of people were killed in the last two weeks across Syria, with many deaths reported in the southern city of Daraa, where popular demonstrations started, and the coastal city of Latakia, activists say.

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto continues to rule hearts and minds

Harry S. Truman, the 33rd President of the United States once said: “Men make history and not the other way around. In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still. Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better.” That was true of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. When he took oath as the fourth President of Pakistan on December 20, 1971, he took over the reins of a country that was surrounded by great problems. After the disastrous 1971 war with India, Pakistan was facing its greatest crisis since Independence.
East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) had become a separate country. Pakistan had lost an entire province of 70 million, 56 per cent of the total population, and over 54,501 sq.miles of territory.
There were over 90,000 prisoners of war in India and Bangladesh. West Pakistan was left with four provinces Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan and NWFP (now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa).
It was a time when people seemed to have lost their confidence in their abilities to do great things. Disillusionment and pessimism and uncertainty prevailed everywhere. But as a president, Bhutto’s spirit of optimism, patriotism and personal pride in his country proved to be infectious.
He was just what Pakistan needed. A courageous, bold and skillful leader. He inspired the nation to look forward with hope and renewed commitment.
As President, he addressed the nation via radio and television, saying: “My dear countrymen, my dear friends, my dear students, labourers, peasants. those who fought for Pakistan. We are facing the worst crisis in our country’s life, a deadly crisis. We have to pick up the pieces, very small pieces, but we will make a new Pakistan, a prosperous and progressive Pakistan.”
His intentions to raise people’s confidence and give them a ray of hope were in several shapes. He spoke about democracy, a new Constitution, and a modified parliamentary system. He united the country after its breakup and brought back 90,000 war prisoners after a peaceful settlement with India.
All that was achieved without giving up an inch of Pakistan’s space or its stance over the Kashmir issue.
Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto took numerous steps to ameliorate poverty and revitalise country’s economy, industry and agriculture. Through the creative slogan of ‘food, clothing and shelter’, he raised the consciousness of the people for democracy.
He awakened and made them realise that they were the legitimate fountainhead of political power.
He gave the country its third Constitution in 1973 and established civilian authority over the armed forces. After the promulgation of the Constitution, Bhutto was elected by the House as the Prime Minister of Pakistan and sworn-in on August 14, 1973.
As Prime Minister, he introduced social reforms to build an egalitarian society and adopted a non-aligned foreign policy. The credit for country’s nuclear programme and the building of social, economic and military infrastructure of the country also goes to him.
Bhutto united the Muslim world towards the revival of the Islamic heritage as a message of love, peace and brotherhood.
He was the pioneer of China Friendship during the cold war and further strengthened Pakistan’s alliance with the west.
This great leader of Pakistan was martyred at the age of 51 on April 4, 1979 by those who could not bear to see Pakistan and its people at the heights of glory.
But even after over three decades of his martyrdom, he lives in the hearts and minds of people. History cannot forget the prophetic words - to that effect in The Guardians (London) obituary on Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, “the man is dead but he shall rule from his grave for ever and ever.”

If Bhutto was alive, the dreams fulfilled

By Ghazal Khubaib
Strangling of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (ZAB) on April 4, 1979, also strangled the hopes and aspirations of millions of Pakistanis and if Pakistan was poor and unstable when Bhutto grabbed power, it is yet poorer and more unstable after 32 years of his execution.Fact is that ZAB held the reins of the country under tough circumstances,but successive regimes could not consolidated the gains earned in his tenure.Bhutto put together a uniquely popular movement (Pakistan Peoples Party),one which thirty two years after his martyrdom remains Pakistan’s most vital political force.The personal and moral character of late Prime Minister, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was exceptional. He was distinguished by unwearied perseverance, the steady purpose and the magnanimous soul which are essential to glorious achievements.Bhutto was provident in council and vigorous in execution and possessed personal intrepidity in the highest degree.
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto emerged as phenomenon on the political horizon.His speeches in United Nations had challenged India to fight for a thousand years; his reaction to Tashkent Agreement and the spirited public speeches had won admiration and with his exit from Ayub’s cabinet he emerged as saviour for millions of Pakistanis.
He bestowed upon people the courage to raise questions and hold oligarchy responsible if it go astray.
Bhutto perhaps most closely resembles Jamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, the man who dominated Middle East politics in the decades of fifties.
The country is beset with multitude of problems these days. The country saw unprecedented wave of terrorism and extremism due to the follies of the past, had Bhutto been alive today he would have nurtured an environment of tolerance, moderation and co-existence.
Bhutto enjoyed rare qualities of moral courage and fearless determination. The visionary Button laid foundation of the country’s atomic programme which officially culminated in 1998 when Pakistan opted to go nuclear in a tit-for-tat response against Indian nuclear detonation.
In the aftermath of Dhaka debacle, nation’s moral was at its lowest ebb. Bhutto’s sagacity gathered leaders of entire Muslim Ummah at Lahore under umbrella of Islamic Summit. Merely one year after such massive debacle, it had been a captivating sight witnessing the leaders of Islamic world gathering in Lahore expressing solidarity with Pakistani nation thus conveying a message of solidarity with Pakistan.
Bhutto’s achievements are by no means ordinary. The foundation stone of vital and gigantic project of Pakistan Steel Mills was laid on 30 December 1973 by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
When country felt that a facility to maintain and rebuild the tanks was needed, the Heavy Rebuild Foundry Project was conceived, with Chinese assistance and technology.
In the late, 1970s the Heavy Rebuild Factory (HRF) was established in Taxila to undertake rebuild and modernization.
After he had been overthrown by a military coup in July 1977, his friends advised him to contact foreign friends and secure a timely release in order to escape the wrath of military establishment but Bhutto preferred to remain in the country and remove stigma on his personality in an infamous case whose verdict against him had already been decided.
Condemned to death, he could have asked for grace from General Zia, but he refused to bow before a military dictator and even restrained his family members to utilize the appeal procedure.
In fact Ali Bhutto wished his blood to be, in his own words, “manure to the young men and women of this subcontinent”. His guts to embrace the reality of death was by no means resignation to life, but his firm conviction in the future.
In his exemplary death, Bhutto succeeded, to nurture values whose implementation he thought indispensable for the prosperity of Pakistan but which were over looked in the multiplicity of other circumstances.