Friday, September 7, 2018

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Bangladeshi domestic workers face physical and sexual abuse in Saudi Arabia

Hundreds of Bangladeshi women working as domestic helps in Saudi households have accused their employers of committing severe physical, mental and sexual abuses. DW spoke to some of the women about their plight.
"Once I returned to my country, I had to get admitted into a hospital for 20 days. I could not even walk," said 25-year-old Shefali Begum, a Bangladeshi domestic worker who spoke with DW about the terrible suffering at the hands of her employer in Saudi Arabia.
She is just one of the thousands of Bangladeshi domestic workers who have migrated to the Middle Eastern nation over the past several years in search of higher wages and a better life.  
"They used to beat me with wires and canes. My thighs are full of marks of torture," Shefali said. Her employers also provided her food only once a day, she complained. "Whenever I asked for food, they beat me."
Shefali hails from a small village in Manikganj district, located in central Bangladesh. Her travel to Saudi Arabia was arranged by a middleman back in her village. After arriving in the country, however, it was not long before her hopes of a better life were shattered. She said she managed to endure her employer's torture for just three months.
"The day before the recruiting agency sent me back to Bangladesh, my Saudi employer severely beat me. The daughter of the house's owner even broke my finger. I was sick," Shefali said.
"My employer's family threatened to cut out my tongue and kill me if I exposed their wrongdoings to anyone. They did not allow me to even talk to my family on phone," she said, adding that the family did not pay her full wages.
An insidious issue
Shefali is one of the at least 6,500 Bangladeshi domestic workers who have returned from Saudi Arabia since 2015, said BRAC, an NGO supporting women like Shefali. According to BRAC, between 1991 and 2015, only 32,317 female workers from Bangladesh relocated to Saudi Arabia for work.
But that figure has risen exponentially since the governments of the two nations signed a memorandum of understanding in 2015. About 218,131 Bangladeshi women have left for Saudi Arabia over the past three and a half years. 
Shariful Hasan, an expert on migration at BRAC, told DW that Bangladeshi domestic workers face an array of problems in Saudi Arabia. They face food and wage deprivation, physical torture and sexual exploitation, among other abuses, he said.
"We know cases where these girls came back pregnant after suffering serious sexual abuse at the hands of their male employers. Others have faced severe physical torture, including broken hands and other body parts. Some report of not receiving wages for months or even proper food," Hasan said.
Activists say many of these girls and women are kept isolated from the outside world by their Saudi employers. "Many of them have no means of communication with outsiders. The only way out is to flee and surrender to the police or seek help from fellow Bangladeshi workers," Hasan said.
The expert pointed out that their suffering doesn't even end there. "At times, these people are again placed in other homes via middlemen. There they again face torture and abuse, until they flee or are put in safe shelters in either Riyadh or Jeddah. Then with the help of the Bangladeshi embassy, they return home," he underlined.
Women don't receive support
Local media outlets in Bangladesh report that even after their terrible experiences, these women don't usually receive much support form the government.
Officials working for the Wage Earners' Welfare Board, a government body responsible for the welfare of expatriate workers, told local newspaper New Age that although the numbers of returnees are increasing, they have yet to put in place a program to ensure support for the returning women.
Still, government officials deny the accusation that they aren't addressing the problem.
Nomita Halder, secretary of Bangladesh's Ministry of Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment, told DW that they have had several meetings with their Saudi counterparts to tackle the issue.
"Because of Saudi Arabian regulations, our embassy or the recruiting agencies have no access to the houses where our women are working. Only the recruiting agency from their side has that access. So they have to take more responsibility. We have told them several times," Halder told DW.
She also blamed the language barrier as one of the reasons behind the woes of these women. Halder said, "We are now focusing more on language and other training before sending these women so that they can at least communicate properly." 
While some say the percentage of women workers abused in Saudi Arabia is not that high when compared to the total number of women migrants to the country, Hasan disagrees. "Even if one woman is beaten, sexually abused or tortured, it is shameful for us," he said.
Despite returning to safety in Bangladesh, Shefali is looking at an uncertain and difficult future.
"My son has a brain tumor and my husband's shop was burned to the ground, leaving us penniless. It prompted me to move to Saudi Arabia to find a way for my family's livelihood. But it ended up as a disaster for my family," Shefali regretted.

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Video Report - School attacks & militancy in #Gilgit Baltistan

Pakistan tribal leader says militants bombing schools are ‘fed’ by the State


Tribal leader and ex-speaker of Gilgit Baltistan assembly Malik Mohammad Miskeen Tuesday, in an interview with journalist Shahzeb Jillani, said that there was a link between the torching of schools — over half of them all-girls — in Gilgit Baltistan last month and ‘jihadi’ training camps in that region. Miskeen said people were being trained in these camps, which were being allowed to function by the “State”. These men had carried out the attacks, he added.
He said that after the decision was made to shut down the training camps, the militants responded by burning down these 12 schools.
Miskeen said the militants were “people nourished by the State” but had now become a threat to this very establishment that had first encouraged them.
In his tweet, Jillani, the interviewer, mentioned that the specific part of the clip when Miskeen said these words were not considered ‘worthy’ of going on air by his TV channel.

@JungjooGernail, who doesn’t give his real name on Twitter, but makes satirical and perceptive comments, shared Jillani’s 1-minute interview clip, although the entire interview was of 10 minutes. In Punjabi English, @JungjooGernail took a dig at the Pakistan military’s strategic role in training and providing safe havens to militants who travel to Afghanistan and India to carry out attacks. Specifically, he reserved his pickled humour for Asif Ghafoor, the director general of Inter-Services Public Relations (media wing of the Pakistani army).

Ex-speaker Gilgit Balitistan Assembly, Malik Miskeen says school torching is product of jihad factories

Oye Ghafoor! Is he praising us or cursing us??

Ghafoor: huzoor I think he’s saying ye jo deshtgardi hai isky peechy wardi hai :/

#Pakistan #AtifMian - Another economist resigns from EAC in protest against Atif Mian's removal

Protesting the government’s decision to withdraw the nomination of Dr Atif Mian on the Economic Advisory Council (EAC), another celebrated economist resigned from the newly-formed body, saying “being a Muslim I can’t justify this”.
Dr Asim Ijaz Khwaja – who was one of the 18-member EAC Atif Mian was part of – announced his decision on the popular microblogging site Twitter shortly after the government asked Dr Atif Mian to step down from his position.
“Have resigned from EAC. Painful, deeply sad decision. Grateful for chance to aid analytical reasoning but not when such values compromised. Personally as a Muslim I can’t justify this. May Allah forgive/guide me&us all. Ever ready to help. Pakistan Paindabad,” Dr Khwaja wrote on his official Twitter handle.

Have resigned from EAC. Painful, deeply sad decision. Grateful for chance to aid analytical reasoning but not when such values compromised. Personally as a Muslim I can't justify this. May Allah forgive/guide me&us all.Ever ready to help.Pakistan Paindabad.

Dr Khwaja is the Sumitomo-Foundation for Advanced Studies on International Development Professor of International Finance and Development at the Harvard Kennedy School, co-director of Evidence for Policy Design (EPoD), and co-founder of the Centre for Economic Research in Pakistan (CERP).

The appointment of Dr Mian of Princeton University (Department of Economics and Woodrow Wilson School of Public Policy) to the 18-member EAC set up to advise the government on economic policy was opposed by some religious groups, including Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) because he belongs to the minority Ahmadiyya community.
The news of Dr Mian’s removal from the EAC came as a surprise as a day earlier Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry had defended his nomination, saying the government would “not bow to extremists”. The TLP reacted strongly to Chaudhry’s statement and called for his resignation.
However, on Friday morning the government apparently gave in to pressure and asked Dr Mian to step down from the council.
“The government has decided to withdraw Atif Mian’s nomination. We aspire to forge ahead with the cooperation of all stakeholders. This includes people from all socio-economic backgrounds and religious scholars. A single appointment cannot be allowed to hold this hostage,” the information minister wrote on his Twitter handle while announcing the government’s decision.
“[Prime Minister] Imran Khan draws inspiration from the first Islamic state of Madina. His cabinet members are lovers of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Belief in the finality of Prophethood constitutes an integral part of their confession. The government’s recent diplomatic victory over the Netherlands caricature contest is representative of this,” he said in another tweet.
Dr Mian’s appointment triggered a smear campaign on the social media, with many calling for his removal.
A call-to-attention notice had also been submitted in the Senate by opposition parties against Dr Mian’s nomination on the EAC. The notice was signed by lawmakers from the PML-N, Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal and Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party.
Dr Mian has served as a professor of economics, public policy and finance at Princeton University and as director of The Julis-Rabinowitz Centre for Public Policy and Finance at Woodrow Wilson School. He is the only Pakistani to be considered among International Monetary Fund’s ‘top 25 brightest young economists’.
Dr Mian also took to Twitter to announce that he has resigned from the EAC “for the sake of the stability of the government of Pakistan … as the government was facing a lot of adverse pressure regarding my appointment…”

1/ For the sake of the stability of the Government of Pakistan, I have resigned from the Economic Advisory Council, as the Government was facing a lot of adverse pressure regarding my appointment from the Mullahs (Muslim clerics) and their supporters.

OP-ED - #Pakistan’s shame exposed

Wajid Shamsul Hasan
Like the original Kasur sex video mega scandal of 2015 was allowed to be pushed under the carpet, Zainab’s case too seems to be moving in a similar direction—to exhaust the patience of the masses.
Kasur was all over international media in August 2015 when the case of massive commercialisation of illicit videos of child abuse hit the headlines. Al-Jazeera (English) interviewed me for that. Though I was not too well that day I got into it when its contact person said that the scandal was so massive that the government was trying to cover it up. It seemed to be a call to duty to defend one’s motherland when in a tight corner.
A number of accused had been arrested but since some very influential politicians in power were involved in it, the indications were that it would be shoved under the carpet. The important names mentioned at that time were of the provincial law minister, local members of provincial assembly and others well-linked with the underworld and the party in power. Initial reports had already said that the powerful gang of paedophiles had been in the business of child sexual abuse for more than ten years. As a matter of fact, countless cases of extreme child sexual abuse in Ganda Singh Wala area of Kasur were pending investigation at that time.
Preliminary investigations had revealed that around 400 videos were made of 280 child/minor victims of sex abuse by the gang of over 25 criminals. Several parents of victims were consistently blackmailed and coerced to pay hundreds of thousands of rupees as they were threatened that the gang would release the videos in public. Media reports said families in the locality were helpless as officials all along remained apathetic to the incident. Rather, it seemed clear that the police higher ups and other district authorities were in the know of it and were in cahoots with the gang.

It is now nearly three years when the sex scandal rocked the Punjab Administration and blackened the face of the federal government under Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Since there was much public hullabaloo, the Chief Minister had appointed a joint investigation team and had promised draconian punishment.  It was more of hot air full of sound and fury signifying nothing. Apprehensions were there that since those involved in the racket were extremely influential and money made too was in billions in foreign exchange — every effort that seemed to be made apparently to get to the bottom of it was nothing but a subtle move to cover it up, provide coercive time and opportunity to buy or silence the families of the victims.
According to figures available in Punjab alone, over the past four years, 12,000 such cases of child rape were reported, only 100 of the perpetrators were convicted
A time came when a well-organised campaign found itself in between the headlines lines that the scandal was not that big nor were so many children involved in it. It was alleged to be a well-oiled exercise in converting a mountain into a mole hill. All those voices that described the incident as a wakeup call to avert something bigger- fell like seeds on the stony ground. Provincial Law Ministry’s became so obviously tainted in it by its partisan role that the then Punjab Home Minister, late Shuja Khanzada, contradicted various statements by police officials in Kasur and confirmed that the incidents had in fact taken place albeit not in the numbers being portrayed in the media.
A better person that he was as compared to his colleague in the Law Ministry, he came on record to confess that the case — whether small or big — was indeed terrible and most outrageously shameful, promising that no stone will be left unturned in its investigation. Unfortunately, those involved in it managed to buy a cover to shroud their misdeeds by having it converted into a rivalry over land dispute between two groups. Obviously, police and law ministry got into the act to defend themselves and to downplay the sickening child abuse pornography mega exposure.
Instead of becoming part of big cover up exercise then, if Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif who masquerades himself in different hats as Khadim-e-Ala had acted in the right earnest the hair raising incident of child sexual abuse and most dreadful murder of 7-year old Zainab could have been avoided as well as such cases — 108 of them since then — would not have piled up to collect dust to be forgotten.
Like the original Kasur sex video mega scandal of 2015 was allowed to be pushed under the carpet, Zainab’s case too seems to be moving in a similar direction — to exhaust the patience of the masses. Same procedure has been adopted, joint investigation team appointed and not the least Khadim-e-Ala himself is at the back and call for speedy investigation — that so far is neither here nor there. However, it is good to know that CJP and Chief Justice of Lahore High Court also consider Zainab’s sexually abused murder fit enough for suo motto action, it is hoped that the Punjab government’s sinister efforts and Law Ministry’s machinations not to trace the culprits or to cover it up — are not allowed to succeed.
The very fact that Punjab police is already working on the premise that Zainab’s murder was committed by a “serial” killer with some connections with the Kasur mega sex scandal of 2015 shows that the cover up is on. Ever since Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa has been invoked by the parents of the girl to join investigations and to help civil law enforcing agencies in finding the culprits — it would not be that easy to carry on the cover up operation, it seems. However, time is the essence.
Kasur sex scandals of 2015 followed by Zainab’s murder are merely samples of a malaise that is fast over taking Pakistani society as an epidemic. No doubt in Punjab things have gone out of control; in other provinces too the menace is growing alarmingly. Notwithstanding indigenous culture in KP where boys are boys, sexual abuse for revenge and pleasure has become order of the day in many parts of the country especially in the north where cases of child abuse are swept under the carpet as a normal exercise to save families from shame.
In most of the cases such crimes remain un-noticed and ignored leaving the victim carry a life time scar. According to figure available in Punjab alone, over the past four years, 12,000 such cases of child rape were reported, only 100 of the perpetrators convicted.
In the wider sense this is a total failure of the society, its moral and religious values especially when seminaries most prominently figure as haven for sexual abuse. Yes, there are laws, more laws are being passed but not many too follow them or execute them as a result you get what you have today — life being rendered short, brutish and nasty.

Pakistan removes ''AHMADI MUSLIM'' economist from key role following Islamist backlash

Pakistan’s new government canceled the appointment of a renowned Princeton economist to its Economic Advisory Council, an official said on Friday, after a strong backlash against the choice of a member of the Ahmadi religious minority.
The failure of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government to resist pressure to drop economist Atif Mian reflects the increasing clout of hardline Islamists, whose parties won around 10 percent of the vote at the last election in July.
Faced with a looming balance of payments crisis that may force the country to seek a fresh bailout from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), or other lenders, the government had picked Mian to join an 18-member council to advise prime minister Khan.
Aged 43, and a scholar in the field of finance and macroeconomics, Mian is regarded as one of the world’s top young economists.
The prime minister’s adviser on media, Iftikhar Durrani, confirmed that Mian’s appointment had been revoked, while the government’s main spokesman alluded to the pressure the government had come under from religious quarters.
“The government wants to move forward with the religious leaders and all segments of society, and if one nomination gives a different impression, then it’s not appropriate,” Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said on Twitter.
Chaudhry had previously defended Mian’s appointment saying: “Pakistan belongs as much to minorities as it does to the majority.”