Asia in Review Archive (2019)


Date of AiR edition

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03 September 2019

Kashmir: Indian Supreme Court gets involved; Khan joins mass demonstrations

(ls) Over the weekend, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan joined a rally of thousands in Islamabad to protest against India’s decision. He promised to raise also the issue of rights violations allegedly perpetrated by India in the disputed region at the United Nations next month. In addition to the protest in Islamabad, major demonstrations were also held in Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar. [Al Jazeera]

India’s Supreme Court has taken up legal challenges to the government’s decision to revoke Indian-controlled Kashmir’s special status. The Court ordered the federal government to file replies to several petitions related to the issue. [Straits Times]

03 September 2019

Pakistan: New law guarantees women agricultural workers’ rights

(ls) In Pakistan’s Sindh province, the cabinet approved the Sindh Women Agriculture Workers Act 2019, which recognizes the right of women workers to have a written contract, minimum wage, social security, and welfare benefits including for child health, maternity leave, and access to government subsidies and credit. It also requires gender parity in wages and gives the right for women to unionize. The Act is expected to also pass the provincial assembly. [Human Rights Watch]

Date of AiR edition

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16 July 2019

Children on death row: Why Pakistan must stop hanging juvenile offenders 

(jk) Despite legislation in Pakistan against capital punishment for offenders below the age of 18 and Pakistan being party to the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) prohibiting capital punishment for juvenile offenders, cases of juvenile offenders’ executions are no exception. The Justice Project Pakistan has launched a book titled “The Death Penalty in Pakistan: A Critical Review” to shed more light on the issue last week. Read an excerpt and more on the project here [Dawn].

16 July 2019

Pakistan: Technical difficulties or “brazen censorship”?

(jk) Three news stations that had broadcast a press conference held by an opposition leader and daughter of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif were suddenly unavailable due to “technical issues” last week. [NDTV]

Reporters without borders however, who ranked Pakistan 142nd out of 180 countries in its 2019 World Press Freedom Index, have cried foul play and called the move “brazen censorship” indicative of “disturbing dictatorial tendencies” and conducted by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority [Reporters Without Borders]

Pakistan’s government ordered the media regulator recently not to allow press conferences by politicians who had been convicted or were on trial. Media freedom is perceived to be “at its worst in more than a decade”. [Al Jazeera]

9 July 2019

Pakistan: Anti-corruption campaign with (un)intended side effects

(ls) Prime Minister Imran Khan’s anti-corruption campaign, implemented by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), is facing increasing criticism. Members of the business community complain that civil servants across the country refuse to sign off on projects in fear of bribery charges, leading to a partial economic standstill. Moreover, the focus of the NAB so far on the new government’s political foes has prompted accusations it is a one-sided purge backed by Pakistan’s powerful military, which is seen to favor Khan. [Reuters]

A number of Pakistan’s opposition politicians including former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif are in jail on corruption charges. Sharif’s brother and former Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif was also arrested last year. Last week, a senior leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) was arrested by the Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) for “possession of a huge amount of drugs”, allegedly found in his car. Moreover, media censorship is on the rise. [The Hindu]

2 July 2019

Important semantics in Pakistan’s parliament but word bans won’t help

(jk) The deputy speaker of Pakistan’s National Assembly last week banned lawmakers from using the word “selected” when referring to the Prime Minister. Using the terms “Selected Prime Minster” had become a way for government critics and opposition to suggest that Pakistan’s PM was in fact chosen by the country’s army generals rather than by the people in the elections last year. [Gulf News] Banning the word has of course drawn more attention to the matter internationally, and although opposition figures may now refrain from using the word, other suggestive phrases such as “hand-picked” are already filling the void. [NYT]

2 July 2019

Women’s startling disadvantages in Pakistan/Government to create special courts to tackle violence against women

(jk) According to the 2018 World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report, Pakistan ranks 148 out of 149 countries in equality for women. [WEF] In addition to that report, the 2017-18 Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey [PDHS] analyses more key social indicators to explain why Pakistan’s ranking is so low, and in particular with regards to gender equality, the results are startling: Pakistan’s women are undereducated, often physically and mentally abused and many lack basic access to information or common services. PDHS states that “49.2 per cent of ever-married women aged 15-49 had no education whatsoever” (25.4pc for men), with nearly 61.6pc (33.3pc for men) in rural areas. Half of the women surveyed were illiterate. The data further shows that “only 12.6pc of women reported to have ever used the internet”. [Dawn]

In addition, domestic and other violence against women is a major problem in Pakistan with thousands of cases such as rape, sexual assault, acid attacks, kidnappings or “honour killings” occurring every year. In one positive development, a Supreme Court Judge has said in a televised address that Pakistan will set up special courts to allow victims to speak out without fear of retaliation and in a supportive environment. The Chief Justice said “we are going to have 1,016 gender-based violence courts across Pakistan, at least one such court apiece in every district.” [The Guardian]

11 June  2019

Pakistan: Government targets the judiciary

(ls) Pakistan’s government under Prime Minister Imran Khan has moved a reference against Justice Qazi Faez Isa of the Supreme Court and another Sindh High Court judge to the Supreme Judicial Council, claiming that they have not declared their overseas properties in their tax returns. Judge Isa originally comes from insurgency-ridden Balochistan province. He delivered several verdicts that openly criticized the army. [The Diplomat]

In response, all bar councils of Pakistan sought resignation of federal Law Minister Barrister Farogh Nasim and Attorney General Anwar Mansoor Khan and issued a call for a countrywide strike on June 14, the day when the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) will take up the references. The bar councils also demanded that President Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Khan resign, saying that the references were filed in such a dubious manner that one could doubt the move was a ‘fixed match’. [Dawn]

The case is reminiscent of when Pakistani President General Pervez Musharaff sacked and then arrested the then-chief justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry in 2007, which galvanized into a lawyers’ movement, one of the biggest civil protests in the history of Pakistan, and ultimately led to the downfall of Musharaff. [Wikipedia]

4 June  2019

Pakistan: A Pakistani journalist arrested for reporting on the Pashtun Protest

(jyk) A Pakistani journalist was arrested following his coverage of the Pashtun Protest that was violently subdued by the Pakistani police, which caused three deaths and scores of injuries among the protestors [AiR 4/5/2019]. The reporter, Gohar Wazir, worked at a Pashto-language TV station called Khyber News and interviewed a prominent leader of the Pashtun Protest prior to his arrest under the charge of violating “Maintenance of Public Order Ordinance (MPO)— a law that allows preventive detention of individuals for up to six months” [The Times of India].

28 May 2019

Pakistan and Russia agree to strengthen ties

(jk) Pakistan and Russia have agreed to enhance cooperation at a meeting between the two Foreign Ministers on the side-lines of the SCO Council of Foreign Ministers’ meeting last week. Then, after Pakistan conducted a successful test launch of the Shaheen-II surface-to-surface ballistic missile, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister pointed out that Pakistan had “every right to improve its nuclear capabilities by developing its own missile programme.” [Pakistan Today, Eurasiafuture]

28 May 2019

Mob violence in Pakistan after Hindu doctor is accused of blasphemy, Clashes between Army and Protesters in North Waziristan

(jk) According to reports, a Hindu doctor was accused of blasphemy by burning or tearing pages from a Quran. After the allegations spread, a mob took attacked and burned shops owned by Hindus in the area. Pakistan is not the only country with laws against blasphemy, but in Pakistan the laws are often abused and used to target minorities or are personally motivated. Hindus are the biggest minority community in Pakistan and most of them live in Sindh province, where the incident occurred. [Pakistan Today]
In the meantime, close to the Afghan border in North Waziristan, Pakistani troops clashed with protesters, killing at least three and wounding many more. The protests were initially held in favour of the rights of Pakistani Pashtuns who live in that region. Pashtuns are alleged to have close links to the Taliban in Afghanistan, of which many leaders have been ethnic Pashtuns. [NYT] In the aftermaths of the clashes, Thousands of protesters have taken to the streets all across Pakistan. [Radio Free Europe]

28 May 2019

HIV outbreak in Pakistan

(cl) Pakistan said on Sunday that over 600 people, most of them children, had tested HIV positive in a village in southern province, allegedly infected by a doctor using a contaminated syringe. [Gulf News] Special health advisor has warned that “the increase in the number of patients being tested positive for HIV is a matter of grave concern for the government”. Pakistan was long considered a low prevalence country for HIV, but the disease is expanding at an alarming rate, particularly among intravenous drug users and sex workers. [BBC News] With about 20,000 new HIV infections reported in 2017 alone, Pakistan currently has the second fastest growing HIV rates across Asia, according to the UN. [Channel News Asia] Pakistan’s surging population also suffers the additional burden of having insufficient access to quality healthcare following decades of under-investment by the state, leaving impoverished, rural communities especially vulnerable to unqualified medical practitioners. [Time]