Abira Ashfaq

Abira Ashfaq

A law teacher in Karachi who works with human rights organisations. She tweets @oil_is_opium. (twitter.com/oil_is_opium)

It is unreasonable to deprive students from the harassment law’s purview

In 2010, after an effective campaign led by the Alliance against Sexual Harassment (AASHA), Parliament enacted ‘The Protection against Harassment of Women at the Workplace’ (PHWW). Little did people know that this statute would change the way we see, and often condone sexual harassment in our society. From a handful of cases filed in the initial years, the number of claims began to rise. Mostly women, but even some men, complained to in-house workplace inquiry committees set up under the law. These inquiry committees comprise three members chosen from the workplace itself. Their decision could result in major or minor penalties against ...

Read Full Post

Would justice be served if Waseem is eventually executed? Maybe, not.

One of Qandeel Baloch’s most important legacies will remain her defiant and glamorous take down of patriarchy through her bold and feisty performances. In the aftermath of her brutal murder, there has been renewed debate around the law against honour killing and its intersection with the laws of Qisas and Diyat. Many Pakistanis are deeply concerned about laws that bypass legal process for a problematic and potentially arbitrary settlement (and that too) for the most heinous of all crimes – murder or a murder for honour. Even more so, people are concerned that this case will hit trial, will end ...

Read Full Post

Does the death penalty target criminals or the poor?

A damning report places Pakistan as third in the list of countries where the most number of executions took place in 2015, after China and Iran and before Saudi Arabia and the United States. In other compelling statistics, in 2014, the Global Slavery Index, Pakistan ranked third in a list of 167 countries where the problem of human slavery is most severe. In 2012, we had the most number of people (28 million) affected by war and conflict. Along with other South Asian countries, Pakistan ranks high in hunger and malnutrition statistics, with about 41 million people undernourished in the period 2014-16, a whopping 22 per ...

Read Full Post

Five legal milestones from 2015 that Pakistan should take pride in

With the Pakistan Protection Act, cybercrime bills and the 21st Amendment, it’s been a tough year for human rights. Yet our courts have been actively making progressive human rights decisions which require a more in depth consideration.  Here are five cases which represent good law: 1) Mumtaz Qadri versus The State Judgment by Asif Saeed Khan Khosa Supreme Court The Supreme Court’s judgment in Mumtaz Qadri’s case held that statements made by Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, though unsubstantiated, were criticisms of the blasphemy law, which is not blasphemy itself. Taseer had made allusions to it being a “Black Law” amended by an unrepresentative military dictator that had ...

Read Full Post

Pakistan’s children are unsheltered, uneducated and uncared for

The Pakistani state treats its children with criminal neglect despite many laws and policies to protect them. The Constitution guarantees children between the ages of five and 16 the right to compulsory education; yet over six million children are out of school, and others in government and private schools receive a compromised education with little practical relevance to their lives. Pakistani labour laws, although ambivalent on what constitutes juvenility, are consistent on the fact that children should not work in hazardous occupations or long hours or at all if they are under the age of 12. Yet, children work long hours and in ...

Read Full Post

Fathers will continue to murder their 12-year-old daughters

The statistics available on domestic violence and other forms of violence against women are startling. According to a NIPS survey, 37 per cent of those surveyed experienced violence – 57 per cent in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P). More than half of the women who have ever experienced physical violence have never sought help or told anyone about the violence. Forty three per cent of women stated that a husband is justified in beating his wife if she argues with him, neglects the children, refuses to have sex with him, goes out without telling him, neglects the in-laws, or burns the food. The stories highlighted by the media ...

Read Full Post

Reinstate the moratorium on the death penalty!

As a legal and human rights defenders’ community, we should condemn the Peshawar attack and express solidarity with the victims. However, lifting the moratorium and executing prisoners on death row will not eliminate the threat of terrorism and militancy or make us safer. It will be another step towards eradicating the constitutional rights of ordinary citizens.  Shafqat Hussain’s case has nothing to do with terrorism and seems more like a public relations gesture to appease public outrage at the heinous and barbaric attack of December 16th. As Reprieve points out, Hussain is of poor background, and was 14-years-old at the time of the offence. ...

Read Full Post

Young global leaders: What it means to the common man

An author from Counterpunch says,  ”After all, despite the pretentious claims of improving the state of the world, Davos is really little more than a posh mountain retreat held for global elites hell-bent on preserving their own privileged class positions.” Likewise, YGL is about picking leaders who will perpetuate the inequities of the world through an anti-poor economic order governed by neo liberal philosophy of privatisation, taking subsidies away from the poor, and making the world an association of large global malls and corporations. Thus the question is wrong. “Do the four chosen from Pakistan (Maryam Nawaz, documentary filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, founder ...

Read Full Post

Why the anti-Muslim ads in New York City were not hate speech

Offensive ads have been showing on New York City buses and in subway station.  One reads, “In any war between the civilised man and the savage, support the civilized man.” Beneath that, in blue, were two Stars of David, and the words, “Support Israel.” Below that, in red text, it read, “Defeat Jihad.“ Surely, this is politically incorrect in a world where human rights discourse has more or less permeated consciousness.  If teachers in colleges made such statements, many would boycott their classes – if employees at the office water cooler called Muslims savages, it’d be the subject of a workplace controversy. Why was the ad ...

Read Full Post

Vukla diaries: The answer is no

Does the little litigant have a chance to be heard in High Court? Can you ever be safe from the treachery of peers? Do young women lawyers even stand a chance? With a heaviness in my heart, the answer to all of the above questions is no, and it took me all of May to figure it out. Last week, students and I sat in Justice MB’s courtroom. MB was not a PCO judge; he is principled, sweet, and likable. But likability does not change systems. The courtroom was crowded with men, and a handful of hassled women with covered ...

Read Full Post