First among equals

[pullquote]Manzoor Pashteen, the leader of the PTM, is charismatic and brave, but is that enough for the state to grant Pashtuns the right to life?[/pullquote]

When Manzoor Pashteen gets nervous, his right eyebrow twitches. It’s almost unnoticeable; he himself claims to be unaware of it. He is also fidgety when he becomes nervous, especially with his hands. When television anchors expect him to prove his Pakistaniat, his patriotism — a hoop all marginalised communities are made to jump through before they are heard — you can hear the sustained tick tick, tick tick of the ball point pen in his hand.

Off camera, during his talks, when he is interrupted he uses his hands to wave down the chanters, the sloganeers. This is because he’s not a speaker who riles up the crowd using anger. His style is more bayaaniya — he will tell you stories that shrink and expand your heart, and make you understand how human the Pashtun pain is, how universal their demands are.
Pashteen, the leader of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM), has not taken centre-stage to ask for separation; on the contrary, his demand is inclusion. He’s not here to ask for a change in the Constitution; he simply demands that the Constitution be upheld in FATA. His demands are basic: justice for the murder of Naqeebullah Mehsud; the formation of a judicial commission to investigate police encounters; the demining of FATA; a reduction of military curfews and check-posts in the tribal areas; and the return of the thousands of missing Pashtuns that are allegedly held by the army and its intelligence services. The formal list of missing people that the PTM has compiled has 1,200 names.

“We are not out here to ask for money, or schools, or even roads, our basic demand is the right to life,” he tells me during a series of phone conversations between us. According to the 24-year-old who is the eldest among his seven siblings, currently there is no certainty to life in his hometown in the Sarwakai district of South Waziristan Agency or other tribal agencies. “This is why we are protesting, we want the right to live without being disappeared, without losing limbs to landmines, without being shot in murky police encounters, without being abused and humiliated at every check-post,” he says to me. “Are my demands unconstitutional? Don’t you already have all these rights?”

When Pashteen speaks, you listen. At first I thought it was just me who was spellbound by his stories, hanging on to every word. But looking around, at a student rally in Garden Town Lahore, and then at a discussion at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) earlier this month, I realised that Pashteen’s storytelling abilities are at par with those of Scheherazade. After all both storytellers tell tales for the same reason: to stay alive.
Manzoor Pashteen tells heartbreaking tales, in the simplest possible language. He talks of mothers who have missing sons. Of how it feels to see a mountain of burnt books, Babylon style.

Pashteen tells heartbreaking tales, in the simplest possible language. He talks of mothers who have missing sons. Of a 7-year-old girl who saw her mother being shot to death. Of how it feels to see a mountain of burnt books, Babylon style. Of families whose bodies were attacked and obliterated by drones, to such an extent that when the father wanted to piece his children together he had to sit down and think about which finger matches which palm. He tells stories about families that lost homes to bombardments and had no option but to set up camp under the shade of keekar trees, only to lose their daughter’s life to a snake that shared their camp.
But along with the logos — the cold hard facts — he also brings pathos, in the form of humour, to the table. Once your heart is heavy and devoid of hope, Pashteen will reveal his naughtier side and take a dig at someone. One of the devices that Pashteen uses is that of apophasis. This is when the speaker brings up a subject by denying that it should be brought up. Ideal for rhetoric in Pakistan. At a speech in Lahore, he says, “I won’t speak about how when we came back to our villages we saw our houses destroyed and the bricks of our houses used to build the Army Hospital. It might be dangerous to speak about this, so I won’t.”

He does it again on TV when a journalist grills him about his demand of relaxing the number of check-posts in FATA. “I won’t talk about the hanky-panky and double dealing that goes on at these check points. It might be dangerous,” says Pashteen. Even the grizzly journalist succumbs, and smiles.

Pashteen’s stories are not unheard. Unless you consciously chose to have your head in the sand, you would know about the brutality of the Frontier Crimes Regulations, the collective punishments, the landmines and so on. But then what is it that makes Pashteen’s retelling so moving?

One of his listeners, Rabia Saeed, a Lahore-based student whose family hails from the Orakzai Agency, has a few ideas about why Pashteen’s bayaan deepened her sorrow but lessened her pain.
“Pashteen made my hurt, our hurt as a community, real. I’ve heard these stories before, but I didn’t know that I was allowed to discuss them in public, nor did I know that I was allowed to feel pain about these stories,” she says. “The death and brutality were just facts of our lives. Pashteen turned them into tales that can be retold and spread.”

Pashteen says that for the last 16 years, talking about their trauma was a taboo, which he has finally broken.

In school Pashteen had the reputation of being an all-out nerd. Once accepted to Gomal Univeristy in Bannu for an MA in veterinary sciences, when Pashteen decided to run for president of the Tribal Students Organization in 2014, the buzz was that he’s not popular enough to be president. “He sacrifices his sleep to study, he’s too much,” they said. In his defense, he says his father, a schoolteacher, would teach him at night after completing his day’s work, and that is how his night-time studying habit formed, he says at a lecture at LUMS.

But why veterinary studies, I ask him. Does he have a particular interest in animals? In response, the leader of a movement — that is “an affirmation of life in the midst of death,” according to academic-activist Ammar Ali Jan — placidly says: “Walid sahib ney kaha tha, toh hum nay karliya,” [My father said I should do veterinary studies, so I did].

Pashteen’s father dissuaded him when he began campaigning and creating awareness for Pashtun rights, in 2014. But he thinks that secretly his father was happy and proud. Apart from the pressure Pashteen felt from his family and villagers, there was pressure to stop demanding the right to Pashtun life from colleagues as well.

It was after securing presidency of the Tribal Leaders Organization that Pashteen really began his career as a human rights activist. He organised the only way he knew: door-to-door. He knocked on tribal students’ doors to ask for support in raising a united voice for Pashtuns. They told him he was paagal [mad]. “You should go see a psychologist, they said” says Pashteen at LUMS. “Whenever Pashtuns have demanded their rights, they’ve been shot dead. You are nothing but the son of a common school teacher, you have no power behind you.”

They began helping people get over their fear of speaking truth to power by holding study circles. Then they expanded to small jalsas, protests at Haq Nawaz Park in D I Khan, demonstrations in Bannu; at that time, they were still only known as the Mehsud Tahaffuz Movement (MTM).

And then after four years of slow but steady activism, a few arrests and threats, arrived a catalyst — in the form of Naqeebullah Mehsud’s untimely and unfair murder. Everyone connects Pashteen’s popularity to Naqeebullah’s murder, but very few know that Pashteen had already chalked out the Islamabad Long March in the December of 2017, a month before Naqeebullah was killed.

There was something about Naqeebullah, his social media persona or maybe his aspirations to be a model that gripped not just Pashtun heartstrings, but those of the nation at large. So when Pashteen announced a jalsa and connected it to Naqeebullah, this time not in the tribal agencies or its surrounding areas, but in Islamabad, people came out in droves.

At the start of the ten-day sit in, journalists ignored it. Politicians looked the other way. But eventually the 6,000 non-violent protestors outside the National Press Club, in February 2018, could not be ignored. The jalsa no longer represented only the Mehsuds, so from MTM, the movement became Pakhtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM). Political parties came to give their haazri and eventually the government came too. They agreed to fulfill PTM’s demands and the jalsa dispersed.

The jalsa dispersed from Islamabad on Feb 10 but in the hearts of Pashtuns, the awakening had just begun. So the PTM and Pashteen have been holding jalsas and events in Lahore, D I Khan, Quetta, Killa Saifullah, Peshawar and all over social media. After 16 years of war and oppression, they have found a leader who looks like them, dresses like them and most importantly, dares to speak their truth.

Pashteen is not the only Pashtun leader who has risen in the last decade or so. To say that would be to erase the history of so many brave Pashtuns. Take Ali Wazir for example. He is vocal about the oppression of FATA, and has paid the price of losing 17 family members. But while Ali’s hurt is fiery and angry, Pashteen’s is calm and controlled. Pashteen doesn’t make his pain about himself, the PTM is about humanity at large; they have invited all the historically oppressed to his movement: Baloch, Hazara, women, and all Pashtun regardless of their tribe.

And they have all come running. When Pashteen arrived at Killa Saifullah earlier this month, he was greeted like a rockstar. While walking up to the stage, the crowd love-surged towards Pashteen so ferociously that his posse had to hold hands and make a human chain around him for protection.

Pashteen is articulate, educated, and fearless, but that’s not all. His appeal is also cultivated through details. For instance, the clothing he chooses. The red-and-black hat that he won’t be seen without has developed its own legend: it’s said that Pashteen received it from a labourer in his hometown. Now, his followers, including PkMAP’s Hashim Khan, don the Pashteen-hat with pride.

A close friend of Pashteen’s, Raza Wazir, says that his appeal comes from the work he has done at the grassroots level. When no one was working for the Pashtuns, it was Pashteen who was recording the names of the those who had been forcibly disappeared, or those dead by landmines. “He was providing food and ration to families that had lost everything,” says Raza. But Pashteen’s true appeal, in Raza’s opinion, lies in his vast vision. “Most leaders work for their village, their tehsil, their tribe. Pashteen invited all Pashtuns,” he says. “And made them feel welcomed, important and heard.”

Pashteen can’t say why he is receiving this attention. He does say that he derives his energy from the mothers whose sons are missing and fights for their right to life. “Laapata is such a small worthless word. It doesn’t carry the pain of a missing family member,” he says. “When your son is laapata, your trauma has no wound so it can never heal.”

Pashteen claims to not have any mentors. When I ask him who he looks up to, he laughs awkwardly. “You are right, most leaders do have someone to look up to, but everyone we looked up to has been killed,” he says. He’s speaking of FATA’s local masharaan [leaders]. In his stories, Pashteen pays homage to how they continued to dare to speak truth to power — despite knowing the costs — until there were no masharaan left. He says instead of learning from books of philosophy or literature, he has learnt from his own experiences of living in a warzone.
In a recent opinion piece, he says that people tell him to read the history of Pashtun people, to prevent repeating the same mistakes. A friend recently gifted him Dr King’s A letter from Birmingham Jail. But he hasn’t yet found time to crack it open. He says, instead, perhaps it’s time for the Pashtun to make history of their own. Since the pain is their own, only they know the prescription.

He doesn’t think that no one can replace him, nor does he care about who leads the PTM to success, as long as Pashtuns are awarded the right to live. In this sense, he can be regarded less as a leader, and more as the first among equals.

According to journalist Rahimullah Yusufzai, the army is watching the PTM and Pashteen closely. “They aren’t acting yet because perhaps they are waiting for Pashteen and his excitable colleagues to make a mistake themselves.”

Activists are not politicians; they aren’t trained about what they shouldn’t say to the media. Already, the PTM has made some mistakes. In Killa Saifullah, earlier this month, Pashteen and others were booked for raising anti-army slogans.

A second fear for PTM is pressure from Pashtun ethno-nationalist parties. At first, they supported him and the Pashtun Long March, but now, Yusufzai says, they may be feeling threatened by the PTM. “Just last week a member of the PTM, Mohsin Dawar, who is also a member of the ANP, was removed from ANP’s youth committee. He was told that since he is part of another [PTM] group he can’t hold a position in the ANP,” says Yusufzai.

On his part, Pashteen negates the idea of him entering parliamentary politics. But who is to say that in the upcoming election, the PTM won’t garner support for certain parties over others? Already, under coercive pressure from television talk show hosts, Pashteen has admitted that on a personal level he wishes FATA to be merged with KP.

Yusufzai also predicts “in the future, there may be infighting in the PTM, especially at the tribal level”.

But even with these fears looming large, PTM’s demands are steadily being met. The demining of South Waziristan has begun. Rao Anwar was arrested last week. Although the naysayers say the arrest has nothing to do with PTM, many such as Yusufzai and activist Jibran Nasir believe that PTM’s pressure had a lot to do with Anwar’s arrest. Even disappeared Pashtuns are being sent home, others are being presented in court. The numbers are small, mere hundreds in light of the missing thousands. But it’s a start.

In another life Pashteen would’ve opted to be an Air Force Pilot, but when he saw the Air Force dropping bombs on him, he gave up that dream. Then he thought, maybe the system could be changed from the inside? He thought about joining the Public Service Commission and even took the exam, he scored a 150 — you only need 124 to be called in for an interview.

Unfortunately, the date of the interview clashed with a national event he had arranged — the Long March — and he chose consciously.

“I wish I had a chance to live a normal life, who doesn’t?” he says. “Your capability is one thing, but the halaat around you also define your life choices.” Recently he’s made another choice he wishes he didn’t have to. His baby girl is one month old, but he hasn’t been able to carve out time to sit with his family and choose a name for her.

This Article originally published in TNS

Probe ordered into FIA’s cyber action

Crackdown on PML-N social media warriors | Nawaz says govt must respect freedom of expression | Uninformed Ahsan says action was meant against terrorists, extremists, hater-mongers

ISLAMABAD – In another manifestation of there being two parallel governments at work in the state of Pakistan, the interior ministry has ordered a probe to find on whose orders a crackdown has been launched against ‘pro-PML-N social media activists’.

The harassing and picking up of social media activists by the state agencies is not new, as many people deemed or dubbed ‘anti-state’ or ‘anti-social’ have been targeted in the past too.

In January this year, some bloggers had mysteriously disappeared only to be returned under unexplained circumstances.

But the issue of ‘freedom of expression’ and its permissible extent has taken a sharp political turn since the ouster of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who launched a political war on the army-judiciary duo after his disqualification in July as a result of Panama Papers investigations.

The broader segregation between pro-democracy and pro-state institutions segments of society had already been narrowed down to pro-and anti-Nawaz divide, which was only deepened by the ouster of ruling party chief and his defiant demeanour.

The issue of crackdown on the social media activists was lately highlighted when FIA’s cybercrime wing arrested on Friday two men suspected of posting anti-judiciary and anti-army remarks on social media.

This was followed on Saturday by PML-N President Nawaz Sharif’s demand – made through the party’s Twitter account – that the interior ministry ensure the recovery of missing activists.

Interestingly, the cybercrimes law under which the action is being taken against the social media activist by the FIA was legislated last year when Nawaz Sharif was prime minister, and opposition parties had strongly criticised it fearing that PML-N government would use it for political victimisation.

A few days earlier, reports circulated on social media that a crackdown has been launched by the FIA and other security agencies against the social media activists who have been found involved using the cyber space to write against the army.

A number social media activists were found blaming that bloggers, journalists and social media activists having pro-PML-N views are being harassed, picked up and questioned for expressing their political views.

They claimed that it was a targeted action as some of these media activists were part of now defunct Social Media Cell headed by Maryam Nawaz, the daughter of Nawaz Sharif.

The interior ministry did not give any official version over the reports of disappearances and arrests of social media activists. A spokesperson of the interior ministry avoided comment over the issue and only said that he was seeking details on the matter.

In a Twitter statement, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal said that “we are investigating on whose orders they (pro-PML-N activists) were picked up.”

Asked by a Twitterati why the federal government and PML-N leadership were silent over the ‘forced disappearance’ of PML-N workers and micro bloggers, the minister said that action was meant against terrorist and extremist organisations spreading hatred through online media and not against political activists.

The minister’s remarks on social media drew criticism from some activists who said that it was unfortunate that FIA, working under the interior ministry, had rounded up two activists and minister did not know about it.

Haroon Baloch, a digital rights activist and a researcher at the Bytes for All, said that perhaps FIA had started probe against some activists on the basis of a list earlier prepared by its Counter Terrorism Wing (CTW).

He said those activists were being especially targeted who were supporting a specific political discourse that had emerged in the country after the Panama case verdict. However, he was not sure about how many people have been probed by FIA or other security agencies.

Earlier in May this year, the CTW had launched a crackdown on dozens of social media activists for allegedly running an organised campaign against the country’s armed forces, under the newly legislated prevention of cyber crime law.

A number of supporters of ruling PML-N had been rounded up and the campaign had been spearheaded under the instructions of then interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan. Nisar had taken notice of online criticism of the armed forces following the May 10 announcement by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) to withdraw a controversial tweet that had rejected the government notification regarding the findings of the probe committee, set up to investigate Dawn leaks scandal.

Friday arrests

The FIA’s cybercrime wing arrested two men from Rawalpinidi on Friday. Anwar Aadil was rounded up from Railway Carriage Factory Colony and Wajid Rasul Malik from Al-Noor Colony, and later both were shifted to an undisclosed location.

Earlier on Thursday, FIA registered a case against them in the light of an inquiry that was conducted on the complaint of a resident of Islamabad.

The FIR registered by FIA says that Aadil and Malik through their twitter accounts “illegally, unauthorisedly, dishonestly with malafide intention and ulterior motives uploaded, disseminated defamatory/objectionable and disgraceful material/contents against the honourable judges of Supreme Court, [the] armed forces of Pakistan, Government of Pakistan etc.”

The FIR states that such illegal activities were causing disharmony and unrest among the public and inciting hatred and contempt against the government and state institutions.

The case has been registered under different sections of Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA), 2016 and Pakistan Penal Code (PPC). FIR says that “role of others [aiders and abettors] will be thrashed out during the investigation” and “competent authority has accorded permission for registration of case.”

Nawaz statement

In a statement issued from London on Saturday, Nawaz Sharif expressed serious concern over the harassment and disappearances of those social media activists who are endorsing the point of view of PML-N and declared it an attack on the freedom of expression.

“It is the constitutional responsibility of the government to respect freedom of expression, including on social media,” he said in the statement released through the party’s Twitter account. The former premier said that it was condemnable to suppress opposite political views through force.

“The law of the land gives the right to freedom of expression and the right to oppose anyone’s views while remaining within [moral and cultural] values and [limits of] decency. I firmly believe in the freedom of expression,” he said.

Nawaz asked the interior ministry to immediately take notice of the disappearances of social media activists who endorse the point of view of PML-N, and ensure their early recovery.

Two Jhelum girls found playing ‘Blue Whale challenge’, have cut marks on their arms

The notorious self-harm and suicide game, the “Blue Whale challenge”, has made its way in Punjab, as two female college students in Jhelum reportedly inflicted injuries on themselves after they started playing it.

The two students of Government Girls Degree College Pind Dadan Khan, Jhelum had injuries on their arms that looked that they had been made with a sharp-edged tool, Express News reported.

The victims of the so-called challenge have been identified as Warda, a second-year student and Manahil, a first-year student.
One of them had reached to the 18th level of the game, while the other was on the 22nd.

The principal of the college told Express News that the administration contacted the parents of both girls and informed them about the situation.

The girls were also expelled from college to prevent other students from becoming involved in the game, the principal said.

Earlier this month, three people were reported to have played the game in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

A psychiatrist at Peshawar’s Khyber Teaching Hospital (KTH) told The Express Tribune that two young men from Mardan between the ages of 19 and 21 had approached him for treatment after suffering from depression while trying to complete the ‘Blue Whale Challenge’.

A similar case of a 16-year-old girl who claimed to have played the game almost to the last task – killing herself – was also reported at KTH.

Teenager rescued in Blue Whale challenge attempts suicide again

The “Blue Whale Challenge” made headlines after a report claimed that at least 130 teenagers in Russia were instigated to take their own lives by closed social media groups.

The game, which is believed to be inspired from the blue whales who have been known to beach themselves on purpose, prey on vulnerable teenagers with low self-esteem. The victims are manipulated by group admin(s) or game curator(s) into a series of tasks over the course of 50 days.

In the beginning, the participants are given seemingly harmless tasks like watching horror movies, not speaking to anyone for a day or going out at 3am. This escalates into tasks such as self-harm and going without sleep. Ultimately on day 50, the game supervisor demands players to take their own lives.

The players are required to send videos and photos as proof that they have completed their tasks.

Published in Express Tribune

LHC allows transgender persons to use guru’s name for CNICs

LAHORE: Transgender persons will now be able to get identity cards made and vote sans hurdles as Lahore High Court (LHC) has allowed them to use their guardian’s name instead of father’s on forms.

While hearing a petition filed by a transgender person residing in Narowal, Mian Asiya, LHC Justice Abid Aziz Sheikh announced the verdict.

As per Asiya’s petition, she could not get her identity card made as National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) required her to put her father’s details.

The petitioner stated she wanted to put her guardian’s (guru) name instead. Subsequently, NADRA presented the case in the court and also submitted Asiya’s identity card with her guru’s details on it.

Resultantly, the high court allowed transgender persons to put their guru’s details on the relevant forms. The decision sent a wave of excitement among the transgender community, the members of which said they were pleased over now being able to vote as well.

UK Toyshop Opened Its Doors in Karachi

The Entertainer has opened its door for Karachites with a grand launch of its flagship store in the city last week. It was a full day event offering amazing giveaways, games, competitions, face painting, magic show, eatables and many more.

With over 30 years of retail experience, the SEFAM Group decided to bring UK’s largest toy retailer, The Entertainer, to Pakistan – identifying the need in the market for a proper toy shop. The Entertainer is the first-of-its-kind chain of toy shops in Pakistan, and provides an experience consistent with global standards. The Entertainer was founded in 1981 in UK and has over 100 stores across the UK. With five existing stores (one in Islamabad, four in Lahore), The Entertainer aims to open up toy shops across Pakistan and establish a network of toy shops that offer the largest variety of toys and toy brands, quality, convenience and immaculate customer service by well-trained staff.

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The Entertainer also focuses to build customer experience via various in-store activities and events; and providing an online shopping experience.

The grand launch event was attended by media personalities, celebrities and socialites. PR if the event was handled by Keys Productions.

TDF Ghar to Rejuvenate the Old Karachi’s Spirit

With an aim to promote informal learning spaces in Karachi, The Dawood Foundation (TDF) recently opened its gates to a restored 1930’s home that is now converted into a public space. Now called TDF Ghar, will connect the visitors with the rich and vibrant history of Karachi while giving them a place to talk and discuss ideas.

The place has been opened for public from August 22, 2017.

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TDF Ghar is located in Jamshed Quarters area, which is the first dedicated cooperative residential complex for middle class in Karachi. The area was developed by Jamshed Nusserwanjee in 1922 and was a home to multiple ethnicities including Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Parsis and Jews.

TDF Ghar retains its heritage architectural features, but has been rejuvenated into a public space, to re-live the true spirit of residents of this old cosmopolitan city.

While expressing the vision behind TDF Ghar, Sabrina Dawood, CEO the Dawood Foundation said, “TDF Ghar represents the ideology of peace, harmony and equality in rights for everyone. The ideology that was followed by the founders of modern Karachi. TDF Ghar welcomes everyone to share their culture with others, talk about education, arts, science and preserve history in best way. This place was previously underutilized, impractical and empty, watching it transforming into a public space is the biggest source of pride for me. It is truly a testament to the transformative power of art and legacy in our society.”

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The main attraction of TDF Ghar is ‘The Living Room’ museum which comprises antique artifacts and collectables from as early as 1930s. Restored with vintage fixtures The Living Room has plenty to captivate on its own terms. As the name itself depicts that it is a home where the infrastructure, furniture, decoration and the overall ambiance would takes one back to the lifestyle of people living in the old Karachi.

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In the centre of TDF Ghar lies a simple yet beautiful Sehan Café which reminds its visitors of the most famous Irani Café culture of Karachi when sitting on bentwood old Irani chairs and sipping Chai with bun would have been more relaxing than anything else.

One of many specialties of TDF Ghar is a breath-taking view of Quaid-e-Azam Mohhamd Ali Jinnah’s mausoleum from the roof top where one can sit and relax while enjoying the spectacular view of Mazar-e-Quaid. Moreover, three Numaish Halls and a training room can be utilized for organizing workshops, trainings, seminars, meetups, exhibitions, and other activities.

Two girls sexually assaulted in Chakwal

CHAKWAL: Two minor girls were sexually assaulted by their close relatives, police said on Wednesday.

An eight-year-old girl was sexually assaulted by her stepfather in Khaiwal village located in the Saddar police area, police said on Wednesday.

The incident occurred on August 13 but the distressed family managed to report the incident to police only on Wednesday due to the pressure of the accused and an influential person of the village.

The police have arrested the accused who has confessed to having committed the crime.

The accused works as a security guard in Rawalpindi and married the victim’s mother three years ago after her first husband passed away.

SHO Shahid Gujjar confirmed the arrest of the accused.

“Although the accused has confessed, the report of a medical examination is still awaited,” he added.

In another incident, a 12-year-old girl was raped by a close relative in Kazimabad locality of Chakwal city.

The accused took her to Mozaffargarh where he raped her. The girl’s parents recovered the girl and handed the accused over to police.

The accused is married and confessed to having committed the crime.

“The medical report confirmed that the girl was sexually assaulted,” SHO Zaraat Baloch said.

First-ever bills on transgender rights tabled in NA

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly on Tuesday saw the introduction of two bills aimed at securing the rights of transgender persons in the country.

Tabled by JUI-F’s Naeema Kishwar Khan during private members’ day, the bills include amendments to the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) and Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), as well as the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill 2017.

The bills are the first pieces of proposed legislation that extends any modicum of recognition to this often-ignored segment of society.

The amendment bill offers a wide definition of the term “transgender person”, encompassing “any person whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from the society norms and cultural expectations based on the sex they were assigned at the time of their birth”.

This bill frames penalties for offences against transgender individuals, and aims to make it illegal to deprive such persons from inheriting property, unlawfully evict them from any premises or deny them entry to educational institutions.

The rights bill, on the other hand, enshrines all the rights endowed upon transgender individuals. These include measures such as the official recognition of an individual’s gender identity as their perceive it, the prohibition of harassment of or discrimination against transgender individuals in any walk of life.

The draft law also guarantees all fundamental rights, outlined in the Constitution, to transgender persons and outlines the government’s obligations to the community. It seeks to codify some of the key rights denied to transgender individuals, such as the right to hold public office, the right to vote, the right inherit property and the right to access public places.

Before this, the only legal recognition of transgender individuals’ rights in Pakistani law came from a Supreme Court ruling that conferred a number of fundamental rights, such as inheritance, issuance of a CNIC and entitlement to jobs, along with protection from police harassment.

Saira Peter to release a National song on August 14

London-based, Pakistani Sufi Opera
star Saira Peter has been preparing to release a new National song
(Milli Naghma) “Aye Sar Zameen” on occasion of 70th Independence Day
on August 14.

‘Aye Sar Zameen’ is certainly a top quality find! Saira Peter
recorded her song earlier this summer, but the concept had been
deepening in her spirit for years.

Saira had completed composing the lyrics and music but she
invested several more years carefully crafting the song.
Drawing on her extensive Western classical training, she
gradually enhanced the melody, introduced harmony and built up the
instrumentation.

The song was beginning to glow and shine in its own right. To
her mind, it had to reflect the vast array of beauty and complexity
of her motherland.

Over the past few years, the various incarnations of Saira’s
vocal recordings speak for themselves about how rigorously she has
invested in this project.

Working at London’s Soup Studios, she completed early versions
of the track with the help of seasoned recording engineer Andy Rugg
(whose clients include Beyonce, Radiohead et al).

Later, takes were engineered by Dan Blackett, but she called
in lead engineer Giles Barrett for final mixing and mastering on
Soup’s vintage 1980’s Soundtracs CM4400 console.

It was worth the effort! Against a backdrop of pulsing
strings, relentless drums and sparkling piano, Saira’s unique voice
paints a soundscape as varied as Pakistan itself. Like a glorious
eagle, her coloratura-like inflections wing their way over roaring
ocean, windswept desert, verdant farmland. Her powerful voice roars
into motion as she reaches the phrase “Shad baad rahey mera
Pakistan!” (“May my Pakistan always rejoice!”). But the song is not
yet over.

As the climax approaches, Saira’s voice, now a swirl of layers
and octaves expressed through her expansive 52-note vocal range,
takes flight.

As she sustains and repeats the phrase “Aye Sar Zameen” (“O My
Land”) at ever higher increments, she seems to soar above K2 itself.
With its perfect balance of rhythm and harmony, Aye Sar Zameen
is a jubilant musical proclamation sealed by a triumphant gong
crash.

In terms of lyrical content Aye Sar Zameen is first of all
Saira’s heartfelt entreaty that God would remain forever in the
land, bring Pakistan peace and prosperity, fill her inhabitants with
joy.

At the same time, the song proclaims a majestic announcement
to everyone everywhere. Pakistan’s precious destiny as a “golden and
silvery land” is to shine for all whole world to see.

This week, work began on the production. Like the song, the
video will feature the brand new ideas of a Pakistani girl who lives
in London.

What is India’s caste system?

India has in recent weeks seen some of its most concerted protests because of caste. At least 18 people were killed and hundreds injured in violent protests by members of the Jat community who are unhappy about the caste quota system, as they say it puts them at a disadvantage in government jobs and at state-run educational institutes. The BBC explains the complexities of India’s caste system.

India’s caste system is among the world’s oldest forms of surviving social stratification.
The system which divides Hindus into rigid hierarchical groups based on their karma (work) and dharma (the Hindi word for religion, but here it means duty) is generally accepted to be more than 3,000 years old.

How did caste come about?

Manusmriti, widely regarded to be the most important and authoritative book on Hindu law and dating back to at least 1,000 years before Christ was born, “acknowledges and justifies the caste system as the basis of order and regularity of society”.

The caste system divides Hindus into four main categories – Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and the Shudras. Many believe that the groups originated from Brahma, the Hindu God of creation.

At the top of the hierarchy were the Brahmins who were mainly teachers and intellectuals and are believed to have come from Brahma’s head. Then came the Kshatriyas, or the warriors and rulers, supposedly from his arms. The third slot went to the Vaishyas, or the traders, who were created from his thighs. At the bottom of the heap were the Shudras, who came from Brahma’s feet and did all the menial jobs.

The main castes were further divided into about 3,000 castes and 25,000 sub-castes, each based on their specific occupation.

Outside of this Hindu caste system were the achhoots – the Dalits or the untouchables.

How does caste work?

For centuries, caste dictated almost every aspect of Hindu religious and social life, with each group occupying a specific place in this complex hierarchy.

Rural communities were long arranged on the basis of castes – the upper and lower castes almost always lived in segregated colonies, the water wells were not shared, Brahmins would not accept food or drink from the Shudras, and one could marry only within one’s caste.

India’s caste system is among the world’s oldest forms of social stratification surviving to this day

Traditionally, the system bestowed many privileges on the upper castes while sanctioning repression of the lower castes by privileged groups.

Often criticised for being unjust and regressive, it remained virtually unchanged for centuries, trapping people into fixed social orders from which it was impossible to escape. Despite the obstacles, however, some Dalits and other low-caste Indians, such as BR Ambedkar who authored the Indian constitution, and KR Narayanan who became the nation’s president, have risen to hold prestigious positions in the country.

Is the system legal?

Independent India’s constitution banned discrimination on the basis of caste, and, in an attempt to correct historical injustices and provide a level playing field to the traditionally disadvantaged, the authorities announced quotas in government jobs and educational institutions for scheduled castes and tribes, the lowest in the caste hierarchy, in 1950.

In 1989, quotas were extended to include a grouping called the OBCs (Other Backward Classes) which fall between the traditional upper castes and the lowest.

In recent decades, with the spread of secular education and growing urbanisation, the influence of caste has somewhat declined, especially in cities where different castes live side-by-side and inter-caste marriages are becoming more common.

In certain southern states and in the northern state of Bihar, many people began using just one name after social reform movements. Despite the changes though, caste identities remain strong, and last names are almost always indications of what caste a person belongs to.


What about job quotas?

In recent years, there have been demands from several communities to be recognised as OBCs – over the past few days, at least 18 people have been killed in violent protests by the Jat community in Haryana and last year, the Patel community led huge protests in Gujarat demanding access to caste quotas.

At least 18 people have been killed in violent protests by the Jat community in Haryana
Both are prosperous and politically dominant communities, but they support their demand for caste quotas by saying large numbers in their communities are poor and suffering.

Some say the caste system would have disappeared by now if the fires were not regularly fanned by politicians.

At elections, many caste groups still vote as a block and are wooed by politicians looking for electoral gains.

As a result, what was originally meant to be a temporary affirmative action plan to improve the lot of the unprivileged groups has now become a vote-grabbing exercise for many politicians.