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)

Can winking and staring be considered criminal offences under Section 509 of the PPC?

Although the #MeToo movement has not taken off across class barriers or transgressed the rural-urban divide in Pakistan – the way it has in India – it’s already the cause of much alarm. Many are perturbed about the consequences of anarchic media trials. Men worry that one can put up an allegation on Facebook or Twitter and open a trial without any of the procedural protections a court trial would offer both parties – the accuser and the accused. These include lawyers, time to prepare, rebuttals and neutral adjudicators. However, the #MeToo movement contests this position. Legal remedy is not the ...

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In the midst of all the tabdeeli in K-P, did Imran Khan forget about its women?

In June, Imran Khan, leader of Pakistan-Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and now set to be the country’s future prime minister, made a few uninformed statements on feminism. He said,  “I disagree with the western concepts of feminism. It has completely degraded the role of a mother.”   The internet responded to this and set the record straight. The theory and practice of feminism, which is certainly not always western, has led to maternity benefits for working mothers and has elevated motherhood in that regard. But Imran has previously opined on topics that stray from his area of expertise. His views on feminism do not ...

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Miscarriage of justice: For Khadija Siddiqui, justice was delayed and denied

Shah Hussain’s May 25th ‘acquittal’ in the Khadija Siddiqui case has led to public outrage. People’s faith in the criminal justice system seems to be shattered yet again. In 2016, Khadija was attacked by a helmet adorned assailant multiple times, 23 times to be precise, with a knife. On July 29, 2017, a magistrates’ court convicted Shah, her classmate at law school, of attempted murder and criminal hurt (Sections 324 and 337 of the Pakistan Penal Code) and sentenced him to seven years in prison. In March, 2018, a session’s court reduced the sentence to five years, and last week, the Lahore ...

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In a country of abysmal women rights, will the Transgender Protection Act prove to be fruitful?

Last week, the National Assembly (NA) enacted a law to protect the rights of the transgender community. Called the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act 2018, its main provisions validate transgender identity and expression and seek to provide transgender men and women the rights they had under the country’s Constitution but never enjoyed. The act spells these rights out explicitly so there remains no doubt of their full citizenship. The definition of “transgender persons” is thoughtfully crafted to include intersex, eunuch or a “transgender man or woman, khawaja sira or any person whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from ...

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February 21, 2018
TOPICS

Public execution only kills the rapist, not the problem

The Senate Standing Committee on Interior has proposed an amendment in the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) to publicly hang convicts found guilty of kidnapping, murdering or raping children less than 14 years of age. The Criminal Law Amendment Act 2018, if passed, would amend the PPC’s Section 364-A (kidnapping or abducting a person under the age of 14), which currently states, “Whoever kidnaps or abducts any person under the [age of 14] in order that such person may be murdered or subjected to grievous hurt… or to the lust of any person [sic] shall be punished with death.” If amended, the words “by hanging publicly” ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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