Monday, March 25, 2019

In Pakistan, women are forced to take desperate measures to stop having babies – and it can cost them their lives

Family planning is rejected by religious leaders as well as nationalists who wanted a bigger population
Pregnant, desperate, and poor, Pakistani mother Zameena faced a stark choice: risk her life by having a secret abortion, or risk her life bearing her husband a sixth child.
In the end, she opted for the former, one of more than two million women a year to do so in a country where religious leaders are critical of family planning measures and there is a lack of sex education and access to contraception.Almost half of all pregnancies in Pakistan – around 4.2 million each year – are unplanned and around 54 per cent of those end in termination, according to a report by US research firm Guttmacher Institute.“Three years ago, when my daughter was born, the doctor told me that I should stop having babies because it would be bad for my health,” said Zameena, using an assumed name, from her home in the northwest city of Peshawar. “But whenever I say that to my husband, he tells me to trust God,” the 35-year-old added. “My husband is a religious man … he wants to have a line of sons.”
Decades ago, a family planning campaign with the slogan do bache hi ache or “two children is good” was rejected by religious leaders as well as nationalists who wanted a bigger population to rival the 1.2 billion people in neighbouring India.

Today with a population of around 207 million, Pakistan’s baby boom is stretching resources beyond capacity and experts warn of trouble ahead.
Zameena said she frequently suggested to her husband that they practice family planning, but he refused.
“My mother-in-law had nine kids,” said Zameena. “When I complain to my husband that I can’t have more babies, he answers: ‘If my mother didn’t die, you should also stay alive’.”
Abortion is allowed in Pakistan if the health of the mother is in danger. But many doctors invoke their Muslim faith and refuse to carry them out.

When I complain to my husband that I can’t have more babies, he answers: ‘If my mother didn’t die, you should also stay alive’Zameena

As a result, some women abort illegally and authorities largely turn a blind eye to the situation.
The preferred method is by ingesting Misoprostol, an over-the-counter drug used to treat ulcers, which causes the expulsion of the embryo. It can also cause serious complications for the mother.
NGO Aware Girls counsels those who call its hotline on how such drugs should be used safely and when to seek emergency or professional treatment at a clinic.
“Most of us know women who have died of an abortion,” said Aware Girls co-founder Gulalai Ismail.
Zameena was one of the lucky ones – she knew where to go for help once she decided to terminate her latest pregnancy.
At the other end of the Aware Girls hotline, counsellor Ayeesha reassured and advised her on what medicines to take and in which dosage.
They insist that women must never be alone when they attempt such procedures.
“My work saves women’s lives. When they call, they are willing to do anything to have an abortion,” explained the 26-year-old.
Ayeesha estimated that she fields around 350 calls a month. Most women who contact the NGO know very little about contraception. Access to condoms, the most well known option, is limited and even when they can be bought, it requires the man to agree.
According to official statistics, only around 35 per cent of Pakistani women use any form of non-abortive birth control despite them being inexpensive.
Birth control pills cost just 20 rupees (US 28 cents), for example, while an IUD is available for 400 rupees. But population control is a controversial issue in Pakistan, where large families are prized.
“Authorities have not been able to make this issue an emergency for Pakistan. It is all rhetoric and political gibberish,” says Dr Haroon Ibrahim of the family planning NGO Greenstar,
Zeba Sathar, a demographer in charge of another NGO, the Population Council, branded the nation’s negative attitude to contraception a “systemic failure”.

Most of us know women who have died of an abortionGulalai Ismail, Aware Girls co-founder

Prime Minister Imran Khan in December acknowledged the lack of political will on the issue and promised pro-contraception campaigns using the media, mobile phones, schools and mosques.
“The mullahs have a key role to play,” he insisted.
But the Council of Pakistani Islamic Ideology, a religious body which advises the government, says otherwise, insisting that family planning is against Islam.
“The birth control campaign at the government level should be immediately stopped and the birth control programme should be removed from the economic planning,” the council said.
The charity Marie Stopes, whose clinics provide post-abortion care, has profiled a typical client in Pakistan: aged in her thirties, married at 18, she is poor, uneducated and already has three children.
Such women approach the agency when backstreet abortions go wrong.
“Women are just dying … for the lack of knowledge,” said Xaher Gul, an executive at Marie Stopes.
In 2012, the year of their last study, the Guttmacher Institute estimated there were 2.25 million abortions in Pakistan with 623,000 women treated for post-abortion complications.
“We have failed women in this country,” warned Hassan Mohtashami, former head of the United Nations Development Programme in Pakistan. “Abortion is not a family planning method.”

#Pakistan's Hindu Girls - Forceful Conversions

The recently surfaced video of two underage Hindu girls married to two Muslim men is not the first incident of its kind. We have come across many such stories before where the men, girls elope with, claim that the girls had accepted Islam willingly and subsequently married Muslim men. The tale of Reena and Raveena, the latest addition to the list of Hindu girls’ conversion to Islam, makes a story that is playing on repeat in Umerkot – a district that is home to large communities of Hindus – as media reports suggest that around 25 forced marriages to take place every month in the region mentioned afore.
What does this mean to the religious minorities living in Pakistan in general and the Hindus in particular? The present scheme of things suggests that religious minorities are not safe in Pakistan, to put it bluntly. The issue of forceful conversions and underage marriages mean that the state is continuously failing its minorities.
The present case violates the law of the land on two accounts. Firstly, the sad state of affairs tells that while some people in the society flout article 20 of the Constitution of Pakistan that guarantees freedom of religion to every citizen, the government often the times stands as a silent spectator. Secondly, the act was also in violation of “The Sindh Child Marriages Restraint Act” – as the two girls are 14 and 16 years old according to the first information report (FIR) registered in the police station – calls everyone under 18 a child.
The Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan has already ordered the provincial governments of Sindh and Punjab to take appropriate measures in this regard. However, this is not the correct approach to deal with the problem. Dealing with the case in isolation will not stop recurrence of such mishaps in future. The issue of forceful conversions and marriages is one of the many problems that religious minorities in Pakistan face.
The PM is already aware of the constant abuses of the rights of minorities. Being the Chief Executive of the country, he needs to devise a strategy that can ensure the protection of lives, properties and other fundamental rights of religious minorities. Doing so is also important if he is still keen on converting Pakistan into a truly Islamic welfare state. But if he and his party fail in providing a safe living space for religious minorities to live their lives peacefully in Pakistan, then his dream of the Islamic welfare state can turn into an ugly reality where everyone will be at war against everyone.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari: Questionable accountability process

It seems that there are two kind of laws reserved for politicians when it comes to their accountability. On one hand, we have Prime Minister Imran Khan and his family members either given clean chit or lighter penalties while on the other hand, former president Asif Ali Zardari and Chairman PPP Bilawal Bhutto Zardari are consistently facing court hearings and appearances in front of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).
The prime minister and his sister Aleema Khan may not have held a public office before but so has Bilawal. He’s being cornered by not only NAB but the media as well when the fact remains that there’s a due process to be followed. The media cannot decide who’s guilty or innocent on its own and must report within the norms of journalistic ethics.
As for NAB, its reputation isn’t as clean as being presented in some quarters. Stories of harassment, victimisation and politically motivated cases are widely known in relevant circles. Brigadier (retd) Asad Munir’s case is a key example of how NAB’s investigating officers impose their inhumane policies upon the accused.
Similarly, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family members have also faced severe victimisation at the accountability body’s hands. The legal process was not only questionable but clearly indicated that it was all about political vendetta. Indeed, the Panama Papers had incriminating evidences, but the due process was not followed by the books and there was an urgent hurry in convicting the Sharifs.
As for Bilawal, he’s most likely being victimised because he belongs to one of the most influential political dynasties of the country. His father remained in jail for 11 years accumulatively who also had to face injustices. Neither the accountability process was followed with sincerity nor anything was proven to confine him to prison in the past.
Certain sections of the media should refrain from media trials of politicians which influences the accountability process. Moreover, NAB needs to reform itself, hire competent and highly qualified officials on all levels, and pursue cases through a credible legal process free of any external influences.
If someone is guilty then the law would duly take its course but in current conditions, this is not even remotely possible. All politicians should be equally treated when it comes to their accountability rather than promoting favouritism or having deep-seated hatred. 

#Pakistan - Death of dialogue - Professor's murder in #Bahawalpur shows we have forgotten how to respect difference of opinion

By Huma Yusuf
LAST week, Khalid Hameed, head of the English department at Bahawalpur’s Govern­ment Sadiq Egerton College, was stabbed to death by his student who accused him of promoting un-Islamic activities (a mixed welcome gathering). After the shocking incident, opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif said that the fatal consequences of the difference of opinion should lead to a moment of national reflection.
But you cannot reflect if you don’t know how to reason. Reasoning is a form of internal debate. It is a discursive practice that requires acknowledging and accommodating dissenting views. And this practice, of recognising, respecting and perhaps reconciling differing opinions, is something that Pakistanis have forgotten how to do.
They are no longer taught to think critically, they are no longer allowed to speak freely, and their political representatives no long engage in debate, so how can we expect better? We now live in a time so alienated from the concept and value of meaningful dialogue, that even a flicker of disagreement or dissent creates such profound unease that it provokes accusations of treason or blasphemy, all too often used to justify death.
Tragically, Hameed’s murder is not unprecedented. It has echoes of governor Salmaan Taseer’s killing, as the student who opted for murder as an expression of disagreement dismissed the judicial system for ‘freeing blasphemers’. Rather th
an learn lessons over the past decade, we have simply mainstreamed hate, extremism and the practice of taking the law into one’s own hands. You cannot reflect if you don’t know how to reason.
It was also not the only incident last week that highlighted that dialogue is dead in Pakistan. The sentencing to life imprisonment of two more accused in Mashal Khan’s killing was a reminder how that outspoken young man who sought to champion students’ rights was silenced through false blasphemy accusations and lynching, rather than debate.
Take a look: Intolerance? Bigotry? Ignorance?
Similarly, the KP Assembly’s unanimous resolution against the Aurat March held earlier this month signalled the complete lack of appetite for a national debate on a key issue: women’s rights. With its parliamentary trappings, the resolution may seem like a discursive way of presenting an alternative opinion. But in the Pakistani context we cannot be so naive.The resolution accused women who participated in the Aurat March of behaving in an un-Islamic manner and furthering the agenda of ‘hidden forces’ seeking to undermine Pakistan’s social norms. It called on the federal government to ‘expose’ those forces and unravel the ‘conspiracies’ of the marchers.Despite the democratic veneer, KP’s parliamentarians know that by invoking ‘hidden forces’ and claiming that the participants went against Islam they have effectively silenced those voices and squashed the potential for a much-needed debate on women’s rights. In the present climate, there can be no worse insinuation than that someone has behaved unpatriotically or potentially committed blasphemy: the former results in intimidation, harassment, unlawful detention, torture; the latter in mob violence and death.
The resolution is doubly frustrating because it will douse the spark of dialogue that the Aurat March had lighted. The days after the march were a rare instance in recent history in which an actual debate was brewing.
Following the peaceful marches — and in light of the media’s disproportionate focus on a few provocative posters — there was a lively conversation among Pakistani feminists: march organisers defended their decision not to police the content of posters; feminist icons such as Kishwar Naheed spoke out against some women’s calls for greater sexual and reproductive autonomy; women’s rights activists from different political backgrounds and generations discussed the priorities and parameters of gendered activism in Pakistan.Initially, a wave of cyberbullying, and the ridiculous #MardMarch social media campaign, sought to silence these women’s voices that had proven brave enough not only to agitate, but also to debate. But what the misogynistic online backlash failed to silence, the KP resolution likely will.Abdul Rasheed, an MMA MPA in Sindh, will be pleased. He argued there was no space for the Aurat March in Pakistan’s narrative. His comments presume that this narrative is the same for all 200 million-plus Pakistanis, when it could not possibly be so. His call for the government to control such events shows that dialogue — which is what peaceful movements want — falls well outside the imaginary of our political representatives.
The death of dialogue is a global phenomenon thanks to the noise of 24/7 media, the power of the sound bite, the rise of the celebrity politician, and the far right resurgence. But in Pakistan — which is weaponised, brutalised by a decade of terrorism, and traumatised by a history of martial law — the lack of dialogue means the only language we know is violence. God help the nation that speaks by killing.

ٹرین مارچ: بلاول 25 مقامات پر کارکنوں سے خطاب کرینگے

پاکستان پیپلز پارٹی کے چیئرمین بلاول بھٹو زرداری منگل کو خصوصی ٹرین کے ذریعے کراچی سے لاڑکانہ کے لیے روانہ ہوں گے، وہ راستے میں 25 مقامات پر کارکنوں سے خطاب کریں گے۔
بلاول کے لیے خصوصی ٹرین کے لیے خصوصی سیلون آج کراچی پہنچے گا،اس خصوصی ٹرین کی سیکیورٹی کے انتظامات بھی خصوصی کیے جائیں گے۔
ریلوے حکام کے مطابق بلاول بھٹو زرداری کے لیے کراچی سے لاڑکانہ تک خصوصی ٹرین چلانے کی درخواست دی گئی تھی، جسے منظور کر لیا گیا۔
بلاول بھٹو منگل کی صبح کراچی کے کینٹ اسٹیشن سے روانہ ہوں گے، خصوصی ٹرین 10 ڈبوں پر مشتمل ہو گی جس میں ایک خصوصی سیلون، ایک ایئرکنڈیشن سلیپر اور اکانومی کلاس کی 8 بوگیاں شامل ہیں۔
بلاول بھٹو کے لیے ریلوے سیلون پیر کو کراچی پہنچے گا، اس میں بلاول بھٹو زرداری اور ان کا اسٹاف سفر کرے گا، اس سلسلے میں ریلوے پولیس سمیت سندھ پولیس کی جانب سے سیکیورٹی کے خصوصی انتظامات کیے گئے ہیں۔
ذرائع کے مطابق وی وی آئی پیز کو سیکیورٹی فراہم کرنے والے اسپیشل سیکیورٹی یونٹ کے 50سے زائد افسران و اہلکار بلاول کے ساتھ سفر کریں گےجبکہ پیپلز پارٹی کے رہنماؤں، کارکنوں اور میڈیا کی ٹیم بھی خصوصی ٹرین میں سفر کرے گی۔
بلاول ہاؤس کے ترجمان کے مطابق بلاول بھٹو زرداری کراچی سے لاڑکانہ کے سفر کے دوران 25 مقامات پر عوام سے خطاب کریں گے۔
وہ 26 مارچ کی رات نوابشاہ میں قیام کریں گے، وہاں سے 27 مارچ کی صبح خصوصی ٹرین براستہ سکھر رات کو لاڑکانہ پہنچے گی، جہاں پیپلز پارٹی کے کارکن بلاول بھٹو زرداری کا استقبال کریں گے۔