We have failed Junaid Hafeez

Junaid Hafeez, a university lecturer accused of blasphemy, has been sentenced to death by a district and sessions court in Multan. While the verdict has left me deeply disturbed, it is, unfortunately, hardly surprising. Why? Because this is something which has become a routine in such cases. It appears that the blasphemy law has essentially rendered the entire legal structure completely helpless. Nothing demonstrates our collective cowardice and moral depravity better than the manner in which the blasphemy law continues to be implemented in Pakistan. My mind goes back to one of the first high profile blasphemy cases in 1993, when three Christians, ...

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Locked wheelchairs: A look into Balochistan’s dilapidated healthcare system

“The wheelchairs are locked!” exclaimed one of the employees of Quetta’s dilapidated Civil Hospital as my ailing grandmother desperately waited in the car parked outside the medical superintendent’s (MS) office at the hospital. In a state of panic, we started running in search of a wheelchair or a stretcher so that we could take her to the Cardiac Care Unit (CCU) ward but we failed to locate either. When we tried to reason with the employee again, he lamented that the staff is forced put everything under lock and key since people end up taking wheel chairs home with them. I ...

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Why are we not addressing the HIV epidemic seriously?

In April 2019, the media reported that there was a sudden rise in cases pertaining to human immuno-deficiency virus (HIV) amongst the children of Rato Dero a small town in the backward province of Sindh. Unfortunately, this was only the tip of the iceberg.  During the next four months, a total of 30,192 people were screened for HIV, using WHO certified testing kits out of which 876 were found to be positive for HIV. Over 82% of those who tested positive were children. Dr Assai Ardakani, WHO Representative to Pakistan, speaking at an HIV awareness seminar, stated that over 85% ...

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Busting myths about water scarcity in Pakistan

By 2050, 5.7 billion people could be living in areas with severe water scarcity at least a month a year – that means almost six out of 10 people could be suffering from water shortages. This alarming report by the United Nations, presented last year, led to some much needed dialogue among world leaders. However, it has resulted in little change, and a nuanced discussion about water scarcity is often marred by the prevalence of certain myths regarding the water crisis in Pakistan, and around the world. For instance, many in Pakistan believe that desalination is the ultimate remedy which will cure water shortages ...

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Why does the ASF continue to use fake bomb detectors?

If you’ve ever been to an airport in Pakistan, you have probably come across a security official gingerly walking past your car with an antenna-equipped device. This device is supposedly a state-of-the-art bomb detector named ‘Khoji’, which is being manufactured by our very own Airport Security Force (ASF). Theoretically, the antenna of the bomb detector should swivel towards your car if you’ve decided to greet your incoming family member or loved one with a garland of grenades instead of flowers. In simple terms, the antenna is supposed to swing towards any object that contains explosives. Or so we are told. Unfortunately, ...

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Is the international market interested in Pakistani products?

The Indian government has encouraged the creation of Micro to Small to Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in order to increase exports. The list of products that the Indian government has compiled recently for the MSMEs to consider and potentially engage trading in, is quite extensive. In a similar effort, a list of products has been compiled by our Ministry of Commerce. This article seeks to highlight the importance of choosing an appropriate product to export as well as gaining the initial set of customers for the relevant product. Firstly, it is important to pay attention to a pattern that I was ...

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Can Pakistan hold India responsible for religious discrimination?

A couple of days ago, the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 was passed by the Lok Sabha (upper house and the Rajya Sabha (lower house) of the Indian Parliament. Due to the discriminatory and exclusionary nature of the act, the Indian government is getting a lot of heat from the international media. Internally also, India has received and continues to receive flak from the liberal sections of the Indian press, Muslims and from populations of the northeastern states of India, who fear that the aforementioned bill will endanger their indigenous culture and languages. Several international humanitarian organisations, such as the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), Amnesty ...

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The health epidemic plaguing Thar

The Tharparkar desert in Sindh boasts an area of 22,000 square kilometres and is host to a population of over 1.6 million inhabitants, most of which reside in 2,880 villages which fall under seven talukas or tehsils, namely Mithi, Diplo, Chachro, Islamkot, Nangarparkar, Dahli and Kaloi.  The expanse is divided into 64 union councils. District Tharparkar was separated from district Mirpurkhas in the year 1990 and Mithi was designated as the region’s headquarters. Despite the demarcation, the infrastructure in Thar remains abysmal. Not only does Thar battle yearly droughts and famine, it also struggles with a high infant morality rate, with over 700 ...

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Basic human rights still considered a privilege by the Pakistani state

The 10th of December is celebrated annually as International Human Rights Day to highlight the importance of safeguarding civil liberties across the globe. It was on this day, in 1948, when the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a document that sought to protect basic freedoms of the world’s population. Today marks the 71st anniversary of the same. This year’s theme is “youth standing up for human rights” which seeks to highlight the innovative mediums through which today’s youth is raising awareness regarding pressing civil liberty issues.  Human Rights Day – A brief history After World War II, it was apparent ...

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How to empower small businesses in Pakistan

In my recent conversations with the Ministry of Commerce, it was apparent that the government wants to equip 50,000 micro, small to medium enterprises (MSMEs) with an export capacity so that their products can be offered online. I tried to offer sincere recommendations to the government so that they can adopt a methodology to go about this in the most cost-effective and expedited manner. In my first article on the e-commerce policy framework, I highlighted the importance of marketing, payments and logistics which are essential components if the government wants MSMEs to have sustainable exports. In the discussion I had with the ...

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