HRCP alarmed at threats to Peshawar NGOs

Press Release, November 17, 2008

Lahore, November 17: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has expressed anxiety at the growing reach of extremist elements in the NWFP, especially at recent threats by the so-called Tehreek-e-Taliban to an NGO working on development issues and women’s rights, in Peshawar.

A statement issued by the Commission on Monday said:

“On top of the recent spate of targeted killings and abductions in Peshawar and generally in the NWFP by extremist elements, this escalation in threats to NGOs is not only aimed at the civil society but at whatever remains of the state’s writ in that part of the country.

“In the latest threat sent to an NGO’s Peshawar office by email, the extremists’ claim of having photographic and video evidence of immoral activity by female staff – being seen with male colleagues and working in the field without wearing a veil – and asking them to “mend their ways” should not surprise anyone.

“The escalation in pressure and blackmail against NGOs working for public welfare has not come overnight, but is a direct result of the authorities cowing down to extremists, negotiating with criminals and ignoring clear signs of dilution of state authority.

“The government must take meaningful measures without wasting any more time to ensure safety, security and freedoms of individuals, as much for the citizens’ sake as to reassert its authority in a region where extremists are filling the void left by the State.”

Iqbal Haider

Rally condemns killing of journalists, demands arrest of Shoaib’s killers

Staff Report

ISLAMABAD: Rawalpindi Islamabad Union of Journalists (RIUJ) on Wednesday took out a rally to condemn killing of a Swat-based journalist, Qari Shoaib, who represented a national daily.

Hundreds of journalists from the twin cities participated in the rally that started from Rawalpindi-Islamabad Press Club camp office and culminated at the same point after marching on Municipal Road. A heavy contingent of police was around to avoid any untoward situation.

The protestors were carrying placards inscribed with slogans, seeking arrest of Shoaib’s killer(s) and security and freedom for journalists. They also condemned killing of other journalists.

Addressing the rally, Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) Secretary General Mazhar Abbas said the union would stage countrywide protests from November 26 to ‘expose’ the government’s alleged plan to gag the media.

He appealed to the journalist community to join their hands for the protection and freedom of the media. “This is our sole responsibility for fighting against those who want to pressurise journalists,” he said.

RIUJ President Afzal Butt said that Shoaib of Daily Azadi, Abdur Razzaq of Royal News and Azeem Lughari of Dharti TV were shot dead by ‘elements’, which wished imposition of curbs on the media. He took a parliamentarian to task for lashing at a local news channel for no reason. Butt said that two anchorpersons of local television channels were also receiving life threats.

Security forces ‘mistakenly’ kill journalist in Swat

WAT: A local newspaper journalist was shot dead when he did not stop his car as a military convoy passed during a curfew in Swat, said police on Sunday.

Police said that Qari Mohammad Shoaib, 32 – a reporter with the Khabar Kar daily – was shot in Mingora on Saturday when he failed to heed warnings.

“The security personnel gave him several warnings … he was signalled to stop, then they shouted and also fired in the air, but he kept moving towards a military convoy and finally one of the bullets hit him,” said police. “Had he stopped, this mishap could have been prevented.”

Journalists took to the streets in protest in Mingora on Sunday morning.


SC takes notice of FGSH doctors’ manhandling

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) on Saturday took suo motu notice of manhandling of Federal Government Services Hospital (FGSH) doctors by the son of National Assembly deputy secretary and his friends on November 1.

Chief Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar has directed Inspector General of Police (IGP) Syed Asghar Raza Gardezi, Chief Commissioner Kamran Lashari and Secretary Health Suleman Ghani to report the matter to the court personally on Monday or Tuesday at 2pm, Doctors Action Committee President Sharif Astori told Daily Times.

He said National Assembly Deputy Secretary Tariq Khakwani had sent some people to mediate between the Doctors Action Committee and his son and his friends but the committee told them that mediation would be considered in the Monday’s meeting.

Meanwhile, doctors are continuing their protest to press the authorities to arrest those who had manhandled their colleagues.

Staff Report

Increased unfair labour practices against women workers

Khadijah Shah

LAHORE, PAKISTAN, Oct 25: Muttahida Labour Federation chairman Muhammad Yaqub articulates there is a marked increase in unfair labour practices against women workers due to suspension of labour inspections.

Speaking at a training workshop for informal sector women and trade union workers at Kot Lakhpat here, he said a number of medicine companies, garments and confectionary units had started employing home-based women workers to multiply their profits. Such women were being paid nominal wages and denied all the benefits available under labour laws.

Federation secretary-general Muhammad Hanif Ramay alleged hundreds of thousands of workers in formal and informal sectors were being denied minimum wages and made to work for up to 12 hours a day in violation of the ILO conventions due to relaxation in working hours allowed during the tenure of Pervez Musharraf.

A majority of female workers in formal sector had not been issued appointment letters and were denied social security and old-age benefits.

The violations of law could not be checked owing to suspension of labour inspections.

Ferhan Mazher
Chairman (Rays of Development Organization, Sargodha, Pakistan)

Cabinet approves bill to protect women against workplace harassment

ISLAMABAD: The cabinet on Wednesday approved a bill aiming to protect women against workplace harassment, Information Minister Sherry Rehman said.

Under the proposed legislation, the government plans to set up a special appellate authority to handle complaints from women who face harassment at work.

The minister said that the bill, which will be sent to parliament for approval, would amend criminal laws to increase punishments for offences related to the harassment of women.

It also asks organisations to form inquiry committees with at least one female and two male members to investigate sexual harassment complaints.

tahir niaz

‘Women for workplace equality’

Khadijah Shah

LAHORE, PAKISTAN, Oct 11: The advent of electronic media has boosted the visibility of women journalists as never before, though women still face an uphill struggle in their battle to achieve workplace equality.

These views were expressed by veteran journalist Beena Sarwar speaking at the conclusion of the first National Conference of South Asian Women in the Media (SAWM) here on Saturday.

Sexual harassment and an increasing conservative atmosphere that stipulates an ever-stricter
dress code for female journalists were among the concerns.

On the second day of the conference, Asma Sherazi, Saima Mohsin, Mona Rana, Faakhra Tehreem, Beena Sarwar and Rubina Jamil discussed these challenges in detail, and resolved to make the SAWM’s complaint cell more active as a tool of advocacy for women in the media.

Participants noted that expectations were now greater than ever from the democratic government to safeguard rights of women in the media in the country.

“The women’s movement in Pakistan has always been related to the democratic process,” noted Beena Sarwar.

The conference concluded with an awards session in which women pioneers from various fields such as sports, education, and media were recognized for their achievements at both national and international level.

The awardees included Kanwal Naseer, Sultana Siddiqui, Frieha Altaf, Ameena Saiyid, Nahid Siddiqui, Rehana Hakim, Kiran Khan, Shabana Akhtar, Sajida Mir, Asma Jahangir, Muniza Hashmi, Afzal Tauseef and Dr Arifa Syeda.

Ferhan Mazher
Chairman (Rays of Development Organization, Sargodha, Pakistan)

‘Harassment bill to provide maximum protection to victims’

ISLAMABAD: Harassment at workplace is a sensitive issue and any legislation seeking to deal with it must incorporate the element of safety as well as ensure maximum assurance of justice to the victim, Federal Women’s Development Minister Sherry Rehman said on Friday.

“We have broadened the ambit of law, extending it to cover harassment against both women and men. Harassment is a common phenomenon at work, and men could be as much of a target as women are,” the minister told reporters after chairing a meeting to finalise the draft of the Protection from Harassment Act, 2008. Government officials and civil society members attended.

Sherry said she wanted the content of draft law cleared. “A woman finds her career as well as her reputation at stake when she takes offence to sexual harassment. We want the legislation to provide maximum security to the complainant to encourage her/him to pursue the case at an official level. The victim must have an expanded range of choices in terms of authorities dealing with the complaint. We have therefore included an inquiry commission as well as an ombudsperson to ensure that there is an internal as well as an external set-up to address the grievance.”

The minister said the meeting also discussed details of the draft bill. “There was extensive consultation on the language and the broader text of the draft act. This is the first proposed legislation against sexual harassment, and we felt it was important to present the law in a manner that it reinforces the constitutional provisions of right to security and dignity to every citizen. Our constitution is very clear on all matters pertaining to human rights, including the right to work, and gender discrimination. Laws guided by constitutional principles can not only guarantee protection of rights, but also ensure the supremacy of the constitution.”