Stories about rights

Don’t drag Islam into every debate

A wife: Not an adversary, not a subordinate, not a superior, but a companion – an equal, with a role that may be different, but equal. A marriage: A coveted relationship based on mutual respect, companionship, love, and joy. This is how it is supposed to be; this is how Islam sees it. Is that always the case in reality? No. In a disturbing percentage of cases, it is not. Is Islam to be blamed for this, or any religion for that matter? No. Are patriarchal cultural tendencies responsible for it? Often, yes. Why is it then that in almost every article, blog, documentary, book, or piece ...

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A modest ‘proposal’

The reaction that one expects after having written an explosive story on the gay and lesbian community in Pakistan is threatening warnings and murderous calls. All I got however, apart from that usual list of fiery comments on the article, was a very interesting email suggesting a ‘match’ for me (replete with a bio-data and picture akin to a rishta service). I honestly don’t know what to make of it especially since the email that was sent to me with this ‘proposal’ of sorts several months after my story was published.The fact that it coincides with my recent change in ...

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Know your rights: Ilmpossible

Distracted by the political instability of the country, Pakistanis have failed to draw their attention to the termites that have been incessantly devouring the well being of the country. The crippled education system of Pakistan has proved to be one of these destructive creatures. Nevertheless, the presidential assent given to the Constitution (18th Amendment) Bill in April 2010 was an occurrence of great magnitude in this matter.  What were the outcomes of the 18th Amendment? It turned Pakistan into a parliamentary republic; it removed the powers of the president to dissolve Parliament unilaterally. What else did it do to the constitution? ...

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Where is Shahnila Naz?

Soon after my return to Pakistan from Germany, one of the most progressive nations holding on firm to human rights and anti-violence policies, and where I worked extensively on women issues, I was confronted with one good piece of news and one bad. The good news was that a Belgian court had sentenced 20-year-old Sadia Sheikh’s family on charges of killing her for ‘honour’ in 2007. Her brother, who had shot her dead while she had returned to pacify her parents over her decision to marry a Belgian, was sentenced to 15 years. The court also sentenced her father and ...

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Another women’s bill passed – so what?

So another bill was passed in the National Assembly for taking women rights forward. As a woman, and an ardent advocate of women rights, I should be happy and celebrating. But, seriously, I am not. In fact, what does this Prevention of Anti-Women Practices (Criminal Law Amendment) Act 2011 have to offer that the Protection of Women (Criminal Laws Amendment) Act, 2006 or the Protection Against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act 2010 did not offer anyway? Women are still raped, killed for ‘honour’, thrown acid on and harassed at the workplace. Does passing a bill and making it into a ...

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Can you prove your marriage? Not if you are Hindu

A Hindu lady named Perrmessary Mai, aged 45 and mother of four, is the wife of Gomand Gee, and resides in a remote area of District Rahim Yar Khan. In July 2007, she applied for her Computerised National Identity Card (CNIC) after which the National Database Regulation Authority (Nadra) officials asked her to give proof of her marriage. In this regard she was asked to get attestation from the nazim (mayor) of her area or a Hindu MPA or MNA. As she was not able to get hold of a Hindu representative and the nazim refused to help her based on some personal reasons, ...

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Islamabad Diary: Of dodgy scoops and ‘cultural terrorism’

An elected official of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), who I am sure would prefer to remain anonymous since he would not want people to know how he wastes his time courting journalists, sent a text message last week offering his condolences for Roger Federer’s loss at Wimbledon. This had followed an earlier conversation we had had where I explained that the tension over the government’s survival and political machinations in the country seemed so insignificant compared to the travails of the greatest tennis player in history. After receiving the SMS, my instant reaction was to cut the man some ...

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Pakistan, a place where non-Muslims also live

A lot has been written about the plight of minorities in Pakistan – some by minorities themselves but mostly by the majority. In most such reports, analyses and blogs, the focus has been on the aggressive tactics used by a violent and regressive few to intimidate and persecute the middle to lower-middle class of Christians and Hindus. I speak not of Ahmadis, as the persecution they face is a more severe one resulting in death and legislation-led despair. Theirs is a plight I pray for daily. In this piece, however, I want to focus on another aspect of the issue that ...

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Appeasing the Baloch youth

The youth – the future leaders of this country – continue to bear the major brunt of the simmering conflict in Balochistan. Unemployment stands at an all time high. Educational institutions in Balochistan are either mostly closed or only partially functional – either because of threats from Baloch militants or sporadic military sweeps through the areas, or strikes, called to protest for victims of target-killings. Education at large has suffered due to frequent strikes. In 2010, more than 100 working days were lost due to the breakdown of law and order or because of political action, mostly by Baloch nationalist parties. In ...

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Time for the minorities to wake up

Arguably, the communities that have suffered the worst kind of discrimination in Pakistan over the past decade are religious minorities. Hundreds of thousands of Christians, Hindus, Sikhs and followers of other faiths have been up against not only a ‘silent’ hatred by many Muslims but, in recent years, they have also faced the rage of religious extremists. Several external and internal factors, such as attempts by a powerful civil-military establishment to create a theocratic state and a ‘misdirected’ quest to seek dominance over our neighbours, appear to be contributing to the state of affairs we find ourselves in. But one reason ...

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