Stories about rights

Baba Jan’s detention may be lawful but it is not right

One should read the story of Baba Jan Hunzai, if they’re still wary of claims that public administration in Pakistan, particularly away from Punjab and urban Sindh, is colonial in nature. Baba Jan is a rights activist and leader of the Progressive Youth Front (PYF). He and two more youth activists are detained in Gilgit-Baltistan jail for almost a year now; two others were only recently released on bail. Their crime is agitation against the police for killings of a man and his son at a demonstration in August 2011. This was to demand due compensation for the affected families of ...

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My trip to Guantanamo Bay

A few nights ago, I had a dream where I had ended up in Guantanamo Bay again to cover a military commission hearing sans any luggage. It may sound like the stuff nightmares are made of, but in reality, going to Guantanamo Bay to cover military commission hearings of detainees has been a fascinating, if not surreal experience. From the moment the airhostess on the chartered flight announces, “Welcome to Guantanamo Bay”, to the realisation that you are on a tiny strip of land that has borne witness to some of the worst human rights abuses to have occurred on US ...

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Husbands who beat, women who get beaten

What happens when your savior also becomes your enemy? How do you feel when the father of your child emotionally, psychologically, verbally and physically abuses you instead of giving you the respect you deserve? How do you reclaim your self-esteem when he ridicules you and your family and makes you believe every time that it is your fault, when actually it isn’t? Domestic violence causes far more pain than the visible marks of bruises and scars. It is devastating to be abused by someone that you love and who you think loves you in return, because you’ll always end up ...

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Do I have the right to remain Ahmadi?

In 1966, nearly 180 million people in the US received Miranda rights – the right to remain silent to avoid self-incrimination. Half a century later, a religious community in Pakistan, another country of nearly 180 million people, is facing a rather caustic version of the Miranda rights. They don’t have the right, but a duty, to remain silent. The religious group is the Ahmadiyya community. Two recent events frame the issue aptly. First, on January 29, 2012, clerics organized an anti-Ahmadiyya rally in Rawalpindi, attended by 5,000 madrassah students, chanting threatening anti-Ahmadiyya slogans and demanding to take over a 17-year-old Ahmadiyya ‘place of worship’. Then on February ...

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Will I ever be a Pakistani?

During the cricket World Cup in 2011, many who knew that I am a Hindu, including some of my colleagues, asked me who I would support; India or Pakistan. The question was very irritating and annoyed me to the point that I would lose my temper. I didn’t understand why on earth they would ask me such a stupid question – just because I’m Hindu? Why isn’t the same question asked of a Christian when Pakistan plays against Australia, England or New Zealand? Despite the fact that this state was created with a pledge by the father of the nation for ...

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Harassment doesn’t stop us

A recent news story published in The Express Tribune reported a female traffic warden in Lahore who had to get transferred from road duty after she was groped by a man on a motorbike. She said:  “I cried at the CTO’s office and he ordered me transferred to the Ticketing Branch. The same thing happened to several other wardens.” The idea of including female traffic wardens in to the field was to make society a safer place for women. Officers thought that once the commuters saw a lady in charge, they would behave themselves. Unfortunately, that was not the case. It is ...

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Kashmir- where Indian democracy comes to weep

The title of one of the sessions in the recently held Jaipur Literature Festival was “Prison Diaries”. Moderated by Sidharat Vardarajan, editor of The Hindu, the three authors of on stage were all from Jammu and Kashmir; Iftikhar Gilani, Anjum Zamarud Habib and Sahil Maqbool. Whether it was by choice or coincidence, all the prison diaries that have been produced in India in recent times have been written by Kashmiris. Iftikhar Gilani, a journalist by profession who is also well-connected with political circles in Delhi, was picked up in 2002 by security agencies from his Delhi residence on charges of ...

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Saving Face at the Oscars

In the midst of all the negativity that seems to be coming out of our country, every now and then a bright spark emerges. Sometimes it’s a win against the best Test team in the world of cricket. Sometimes it’s something a little more enduring – like Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy. This remarkable woman’s documentary “Saving Face” has been nominated for an Oscar. Yes – you read it right – a Pakistani is going to the Oscars on the basis of a project which highlights “acid violence”. Instead of showcasing the negative, the documentary shows the resilience of its Pakistani victims. ...

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We need domestic violence legislation…now

Pakistan is considered to be the third most dangerous place for women to live in, according to the Thomson Reuters Foundation poll 2011. Despite the fact that the majority population in Pakistan is female, it is still a strictly patriarchal society where women are sometimes killed for something as personal as choosing a husband. In the West, women liberation now means fighting for tax payer funded abortion; in Pakistan, we are still advocating the treatment of women as equal beings who deserve the basic rights to life, family, freedom from torture and inhuman treatment. While there is some progress on  the ...

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Who says I can’t be a Muslim feminist?

People, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, often tell me that I can’t be both a Muslim and a feminist. At a recent book reading in Oregon, for example, a male audience member asked me, “How does that even work?”. These questions demonstrate some of the rigid misconceptions individuals have about Islam and feminism; many people think that they’re mutually exclusive categories. In fact, as a Muslim feminist, I have found them to have more in common than people realise, especially when it comes to social justice. Ethos – the fundamental spirit that guides my faith– is more important to me than edicts, ...

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