Amid pandemic, Pakistani cities gear up for year’s largest women’s rights event

Activists of Pakistan trade unions attend a rally, ahead of International Women's Day in Lahore, Pakistan on March 7, 2021. (EPA)
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Updated 08 March 2021

Amid pandemic, Pakistani cities gear up for year’s largest women’s rights event

  • Human Rights Commission of Pakistan urges govt. to protect and empower participants during peaceful marches on International Women’s Day
  • Aurat March has attracted thousands and made headlines around the world since its inception three years ago

KARACHI: As thousands of Pakistanis prepared to partake in the country’s largest women’s rights event to mark International Women’s Day on Monday, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) urged the government to “uphold” the public’s right to peaceful marches and “safe” spaces.
“Commission expects the state to uphold women’s constitutional right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to ensure that women’s marches across Pakistan on 8 March are provided security and safe public spaces,” Hina Jilani, Chairperson HRCP, said in a statement.
She added that women’s rights “do not exist in a vacuum” and were “tied intrinsically to the vigor and wellbeing of a civilized society.”
The nationwide event known as Aurat March, using the Urdu word for women, will see protests being held in different cities on Monday, with organizers saying they were expecting a low turnout due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The march will be held with strict health guidelines...we are expecting 3,000 to 5,000 participants this year,” Qurat Mirza, an organizer of the Karachi leg of the event, told Arab News.
It’s a comparatively low number compared to last year when “10,000 participated in the protest in Karachi,” the largest of Aurat March events in the country.
“Last year, 10,000 participated in the march in Karachi, which is the largest of Aurat marches in the country whereas the participation across Pakistan was estimated to be 50,000 including in major urban units like Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Quetta and Peshawar and small cities like Hyderabad, Faisalabad, Multan,” Mirza said.
Since its inception three years ago, Aurat March has made headlines worldwide when slogans and posters raised by Pakistani women and minorities became the subject of intense national debate, leading to countless reports of online harassment, including murder and rape threats.


Mirza said that this year, too, participants were willing to brave the pandemic to highlight the rising incidents of abuse against women.
“Violence against women has increased during COVID-19, and if women’s oppression hasn’t ended in the pandemic, then why should we suspend our resistance? We remind the state that our protection is our constitutional right, providing which is the duty and responsibility of the state,” Mirza said.
On Sunday evening, Aurat March organizers from Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, said on Twitter that in light of the pandemic, there would be an Aurat Dharna (sit-in).
“6 foot ki doori, Magar inqilab zaruri [Please ensure 6-feet distance but the revolution is crucial],” they said on their official Twitter page. 
Broadly, the theme for this year’s march is women’s health care struggles and is further divided into 15 demands, which highlight patriarchal violence and discrimination faced by women and sexual minority groups when accessing health care in Pakistan.


“We have added a sit-in to the march to press for our demands. We will come out on the roads again for our rights if they are not fulfilled by authorities,” Sheema Kermani, one of the Aurat March pioneers, told Arab News on Sunday.
Last year, a court in Lahore was petitioned to place restrictions on the event, which the complainant said had an agenda of spreading ‘anarchy, vulgarity, blasphemy and hatred’ against Islam, but the march was given a conditional go-ahead.
In the past, there has been an uproar in conservative circles over slogans used, including, “My body, my choice.”
Global watchdogs have expressed concern in recent years over what they see as a growing clampdown on rights campaigns in Pakistan, and in 2020, local police submitted a report to the court stating that the event faced a threat from militant groups including Pakistani Taliban militants.

 

 


World must recognize Pakistan's commitment to regional stability, says top general

Updated 10 April 2021

World must recognize Pakistan's commitment to regional stability, says top general

  • General Nadeem Raza asks the international community to take notice of rights violations in Indian-administered Kashmir
  • Says the nation has high expectations of the country's armed forces while addressing a graduation ceremony at the Pakistan Military Academy

ISLAMABAD: Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC) General Nadeem Raza said Saturday the world must recognize Pakistan's consistent peace overtures to its eastern neighbor and take notice of rights violations in Indian-administered Kashmir while addressing graduating cadets at the Pakistan Military Academy, Kakul.
According to an official statement released by the military media wing, ISPR, Raza said his country was committed to peace and had made significant contributions to regional stability.
He also maintained that the whole nation stood united against the menace of extremism and had high expectations of the Pakistani armed forces.
The CJCSC made these observations during his visit to the country's premier military training institution where he reviewed the graduation parade of the 143rd PMA Long Course.
Among those who successfully completed the rigorous training also included young cadets from Iraq, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Nepal.
Raza advised all PMA graduates, including members of the 17th Lady Cadet Course, to keep themselves abreast with latest challenges.
"The only way to meet these challenges is through professional prowess and dedication as the Nation pins high hopes on Armed Forces of Pakistan," the ISPR statement quoted him as saying.


Rizwan steers Pakistan to their highest-winning T20 run chase

Updated 10 April 2021

Rizwan steers Pakistan to their highest-winning T20 run chase

  • Pakistan's previous highest T20 chase was 188 against Australia in Harare in 2018
  • Rizwan made an unbeaten 74 as Pakistan chased down a target of 189 with one ball to spare

JOHANNESBURG: Opening batsman Mohammad Rizwan steered Pakistan to their highest winning run chase as they beat South Africa by four wickets in the first Twenty20 international at the Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg on Saturday.
Rizwan made an unbeaten 74 as Pakistan chased down a target of 189 with one ball to spare.

Their previous highest T20 chase was 188 against Australia in Harare in 2018.

The match swung in the last four overs of the two innings.
South Africa could score only 29 in their last four overs, while Pakistan thrashed 52 off the last 3.5 overs

BRIEF SCORES

South Africa 188-6 in 20 overs (A. Markram 51, H. Klaasen 50; Mohammad Nawaz 2-21, Hasan Ali 2-28)

Pakistan 189-6 in 19.5 overs (Mohammad Rizwan 74 not out, Faheem Ashraf 30; B. Hendricks 3-32, T. Shamsi 2-29)

RESULT

Pakistan won by 4 wickets

Series: Pakistan lead the four-match series 1-0

Toss: South Africa


Major opposition party leads in re-election in Pakistani town of Daska

Updated 11 April 2021

Major opposition party leads in re-election in Pakistani town of Daska

  • Local news channels claim the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz is winning the contest in Punjab's NA-75 constituency
  • The Election Commission of Pakistan held a by-poll in the area last February but later declared it null and void

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s local news channels claimed Saturday the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party was winning a closely watched electoral contest for a National Assembly seat in Punjab that fell vacant after the death of an opposition lawmaker Syed Iftikharul Hassan Shah last year.
Tens of thousands of people voted to elect their new representative in a re-election held earlier in the day for the NA-75 seat from Daska, a small town in Sialkot district.
The country’s election authorities held a by-poll in the area last February, but later declared the contest null and void due to widespread irregularities that the PML-N blamed on the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party.
The Election Commission of Pakistan suspected back in February that the results of 20 polling stations had been falsified.
Saturday’s electoral contest was largely believed to be between PML-N candidate Nosheen Iftikhar and PTI ticket holder Ali Asjad Malhi, though there were other politicians who also participated in it.
Pakistani election authorities informed a local news channel earlier in the day they had tried to provide a free and fair environment to hold a transparent election.
“Rangers are on patrol duty, ensuring the transportation of election staff and material, while army troops have been stationed in Daska Stadium and will be available on call,” Dawn newspaper reported. “To make the conduct of the re-poll transparent, CCTV cameras have been installed at 47 sensitive polling stations, out of a total 360.”


Pakistan among nations subject to quarantine in Ireland starting April 15

Updated 10 April 2021

Pakistan among nations subject to quarantine in Ireland starting April 15

  • Dublin joined neighboring Britain in bringing in the regime for people from countries deemed "high risk"
  • Strict lockdown in Ireland has turned one of the world's highest incidence rates of COVID-19 into one of Europe's lowest

DUBLIN: Ireland added Pakistan, Turkey, United States, Canada, Belgium, France and Italy to its list of countries where arrivals will be subject to mandatory hotel quarantine, tightening some of Europe's toughest travel restrictions to try to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Ireland, the only one of the European Union's 27 countries to introduce a hotel quarantine, announced it will also require all arrivals to have booked a COVID-19 test for five days after landing in addition to one taken in the days before travelling.

It followed neighbouring Britain in bringing in the regime for people from countries deemed "high risk" or those without a negative COVID-19 test. However, Britain has so far resisted calls for the inclusion of some European countries.

A strict lockdown in Ireland since late December has turned one of the world's highest incidence rates of COVID-19 into one of Europe's lowest.

Elsewhere in the continent, Norway requires a forced stay in a quarantine hotel for at least a week for anyone coming from abroad who does not own property, or can borrow the use of a property, in the country.

Armenia, Bangladesh, Bermuda, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Curacao, Kenya, Luxembourg, Maldives and Ukraine will also be subject to quarantine in Ireland starting April 15, the health ministry said in a statement.

Israel, Albania and Saint Lucia were removed, having been added just over a week ago, meaning arrivals from more than 70 countries must quarantine for up to 14 days in a hotel room, or leave after 10 if they test negative for COVID-19.

The government initially stopped short of a recommendation by health officials last week to add a number of EU countries where large numbers of Irish nationals live, citing potential legal challenges around the bloc's freedom of movement rules.

Hotel quarantine rules are planned to be in place for only a few months, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said this week. Tourism groups have criticised the government for not providing an exit plan on how they would unwind the measures.

"We can see a permanent pathway out of this pandemic but can't allow variants of concern to set us back on the progress we have made," Donnelly said in a statement on Friday.


Pakistan appoints sixth revenue chief in less than three years

Updated 10 April 2021

Pakistan appoints sixth revenue chief in less than three years

  • Under IMF spotlight, country’s tax machinery is tasked with increasing tax collection by 27%
  • Tax collection is a perennial problem in Pakistan, where less than 1 percent of the population files income tax

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s government appointed its sixth tax chief in two and a half years on Friday, as International Monetary Fund (IMF) scrutiny increases on the country’s woeful tax collection record in recent weeks.
The new Federal Bureau of Revenue (FBR) chief, Asim Ahmed, formerly a grade-21 officer of the Inland Revenue Service, will take over a less than coveted job in a country where tax collection is a perennial problem, and where less than 1 percent of the population files income tax.
Since coming to power in 2018, Prime Minister Imran Khan made boosting tax collection a top priority for his government, appealing to overseas Pakistanis to invest in the country and urging the wealthy to pay more income tax.
But under the spotlight of a renewed IMF program, this is a critical hour for the country’s tax machinery as it is tasked with the impossible-- to increase the collection of taxes by a whopping 27 percent in the next fiscal year while focusing collection on the basis of people’s ability to actually pay up.
With his hands tied due to an agreement between Pakistan and the IMF on the broader contours of next year’s budget, a huge challenge for the new chairman will be to finalize a balanced taxation budget while achieving a tax collection target of nearly Rs6 trillion.
Ahmed will replace Javed Ghani, who attained the age of superannuation on Friday after remaining the FBR chairman for 100 days.