Deeply influenced by the social inequalities around her and inspired by her father’s social work in her early age, Shad Begum would become a known figure nationally and internationally because of her determined struggle to improve the conditions of the marginalized segments, especially women, of her community in the northwest of Pakistan – a deeply religious and conservative area where Taliban publically executed men and women on non-conformity to their version of Islam.
I am a mother of two children
shivering with pain, anger, and helplessness to imagine the heart-wrenching
agony of the mothers and fathers, who lost their innocent children in the
horrific attack on Army Public School at Peshawar. The monster of terrorism has
crossed all limits of warfare, destroying mosques and other places of worship,
attacking funerals, and now even devouring the blood of innocent children. As a
nation, we Pakistanis are at a loss to understand as to what went wrong with
our society, our values, and our policies that nobody feels safe in this
country. We have offered great sacrifices in the War against Terrorism yet they
remain unrecognized by many people around the world.
The loss of lives of innocent
school children have shook the conscience of people around the world. There are
statements of condemnations and sympathies for the bereaved families. The
school children in Pakistan, even in India, stood in solidarity with the
parents of the martyred children. Politicians, civil society, the government,
the military, the judiciary and media – all stood united to formulate a united
response to the horrific tragedy of the Peshawar school attack. The
Parliamentary Committee came up with an Action Plan to deal with terrorism in
Pakistan, yet there are questions that remain un-answered.
Photo credit "Hamri Web"
The attack on Army Public School
Peshawar is not the first horrendous crime against innocent civilians; neither
is it going to be the last. Malala Yousafzai was shot by militants along with
her schoolmates while she was going to school. We also remember Aitezaz Hassan,
the school kid that stopped a suicide bomber to explode himself in the school
morning assembly. Aitezaz Hassan deserves the highest respect of this country,
who sacrificed his budding life to save other mothers from weeping their hearts
out. The sacrifice of Aitezaz should have a constant reminder that terrorists
will not spare even school children, but we quickly forgot the tragedy and
didn’t take appropriate measures to protect our schools. While this is true
that the government cannot provide security to every school, there must have
been an exercise to identify vulnerable schools and should have devised a
security strategy for them.
We must look deeply inwards to
search for answers. There should have been a judicial commission to understand
the causes of the Peshawar school attack; fix responsibility and avoid future
happenings but the government felt content with setting up a parliamentary
committee to devise a policy but unfortunately policies are not always
The civil society has come up
with an equally strong response by organizing vigils and protest against
apologists of the attack. It is important to organize such events regularly so
that the tragedy is converted to our national strength and resolve to end
intolerance and extremism in our society.
We must also keep in mind that
terrorism is a problem of regional and global dimensions. The reforms in FATA
have long been overdue. We need to terminate the sanctuaries of terrorists who
use inaccessible or poorly governed areas in Pakistan. The mainstreaming of
FATA in national development is the first step towards a peaceful Pakistan. The
people of FATA need local government institutions like other Pakistanis to
solve their local problems without looking to the federal capital for every
We should also seriously think
about the militants’ rehabilitation and reintegration in the social life. These
militants have been taught this way of life for years and punishment is not the
only solution. After every conflict, countries and government take special
measures to reintegrate militants to normal life.
Peace is not possible without a
just society. Pakistan, both at the State institutions and society level, must
take sustainable steps to counter the menace of militancy and intolerance.
While a military response to the problem of militancy becomes inevitable in certain
circumstances, it is the overall causes that we have to reflect on to address
this challenge that is now threatening our future. We must revisit our domestic
and external policies; invest in education and human development, and promote
values of tolerance, peaceful coexistence, and mutual respect to progress
 Shad Begum is a human rights
activist from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan and a recipient of international
women of courage awards.
process of globalization of the world economy and the telecommunication systems
through the internet has changed the shape of global businesses and trade. It
has not only provided new opportunities for growth and investments, but has
also made old modes of productions useless, thus leaving many job markets
redundant. Globalization has given shape to new complexities in trade and
investments with little space for dialogue and cooperation, especially among
regional countries. To understand these complexities and meet the challenges,
the International Cooperation Platform (ICP) in Turkey organizes Summits since
2010 to provide a platform for dialogue to political leaders, government
representatives, academia, media, civil society and philanthropists. ICP is a
‘the International Cooperation Platform (ICP) is an independent institution
founded with the principle of enhancing proactive multilateral and
inter-disciplinary cooperation for sustainable development’.
year, the topic of the 5th Bosphorus Summit was: “Changing Scenarios
of Tomorrow: Capturing Complexities and Cultivating Dialogues”. The Summit was
graced by Abdullah Gul, former President of the Republic of Turkey, and was
attendedby, , among others, leaders
such as Lord Lamont, former Chancellor of Exchequer of UK, Her Royal Highness
Shaikha Farihah, Princess of the State of Kuwait, Ms. Pohamba, First Lady of
Namibia, and Mr. Shaukat Aziz, former Prime Minister of Pakistan. Mr. Aziz was
the key note speaker for “In the light of recent transformation, how to
Construct Economic Trust and Confidence in Europe, North Africa and Middle
three days conference in Istanbul thoroughly discussed important topics such as
New Dynamics and Paradigms in Global Trade and Investment, Financing Infrastructure
Projects, Solution Platform for Sustainable Future, the future of the World
Banking and Financing the Sustainable Future and Development, Bridging the
Gender Gap, New Technologies in Communication and Transportation, and Emergence
of Smart Cities etc.
is one of the most developed Muslim countries with an annual GDP of
approximately 820 billion USD for the year 2013. Agricultural products,
textiles, home appliances, motor vehicles, ships and other transportation
equipment are some of the major components of Turkish economy. The common
history, heritage, and geographical proximity of Turkey with the Middle East
and North African countries (MENA) makes it a major player both globally and
regionally; especially given the fact that it bridges two continents: Asia and
many other developing countries, Turkey has mostly resolved its national
questions and has set up its State direction. Turkey was the bastion of the
Ottoman Caliphate and the centre of Islamic power before the First World War,
but it has resolved the question of State and religion. Istanbul, also called
the city of mosques, is heralded with mosques yet the tolerance for other
faiths is inspiring. Turkey has also intelligently addressed some of its ethnic
and regional issues by engaging the Turkish Kurds in a peaceful dialogue for
the last one and a half years. Pakistan can learn from Turkey in dealing with
the Baloch issue in Pakistan. With its modern infrastructure and developed
human resource, Turkey is well-set to lead on many fronts, especially among the
from the official discussions, it was most enlightening experience to visit the
Topkapi Palace, which was the seat of power of the Turkish Sultans for almost
four centuries and the centre of court intrigues as shown in the popular TV
play “Mera Sultan” on Pakistani channels. Apart from other attractions, the
Palace has invaluable pre-Islamic and Islamic relics including the cloak and
sword of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). It has been declared as a World Heritage Site
by UNESCO in 1985 and attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists from around
the world each year. Side by side with the Topkapi Palace are the Blue Mosque
with its exquisite domes and minarets, and the Aya Sophia Museum.
Cappadocian caves and underground city in Kaymakli Central Anatolian region,
dating back to the 1600 BC Hittite civilization, is the major attraction for
foreign tourists. Going through inside narrow caves and passages, one is
reminded of the ingenuity of human spirit by constructing such cities
underground in rocks but at the same time it speaks of the human brutality as
these people went inside underground cities because of fear of attacks by other
the city of the saints – is a unique spiritual experience for Muslims and
non-Muslims alike. Maulana Rumi lived and taught in this city. I felt blessed
to attend a Sema – the religious dance and music by Dervishes – on the occasion
of the Shab-e-Urs (birthday of Rumi) celebrated each year on December 17th
and attended by lovers of Rumi from around the world. To feel the love,
kindness and spiritual energy created by the Sema is a breathtaking experience.
The world can become a better place with the love message of Rumi, which is
none other than the message of Islam.
visiting Rumi’s tomb produce a different feelings, to be inside the tomb of
Shams Tabriz, the teacher and beloved of Rumi, is an indescribable experience.
Shams is conspicuous by his silence during his lifetime and in his resting
place. During these trouble times, the message of peace and love by Rumi can
change the course of history and create a better world for Muslims and
non-Muslims alike. One feels the urge to follow Rumi in his invitation when he
Come, Whoever You Are
worshipper, lover of leaving
not a caravan of despair
even if you have broken your vow a thousand times
yet again, come, come.”
The author is a human
rights activist from Pakistan and an Honorary Member of the High Advisory
Council of ICP.
Subject: Government must take steps to stop trafficking of women and girls
The case of 26 girls’ children recovered by local authorities in Karachi should be an eye opener for all those interested in stopping the trafficking of women and girls, especially from conflict hit areas as they are more vulnerable. The problem of trafficking in persons has a regional and global dimension yet Pakistan has failed to take effective steps to eliminate the rackets of traffickers. The four-decade-old conflict in Afghanistan and the recent one-decade conflict in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan have further compounded the problem of trafficking in persons in Pakistan both internally within the country as well as outside Pakistan. The government must take immediate steps to strengthen the legal framework against trafficking in persons, as well build the capacities of state institutions to fight this menace. ABKT impress upon the government that there is a need of concrete steps to stop the trafficking of persons as poverty and lack of information of parents in the rural areas of Pakistan provide a feeding ground for traffickers. The government must direct the district authorities to establish vigilance committees in each district at village and Tehsil levels and verify the credentials of outsiders who acquire women and girls either in fake marriages or in the name of religious education. The media has a responsibility to aware the public about the trafficking issue within in Pakistan as well as globally.
Association for Behaviour & Knowledge Transformation (ABKT)
(ABKT is a non-governmental organization that support sustainable development in Pakistan through the right based approach & potential of local communities to decide upon & manage their own development process)
ISLAMABAD: Although mainstream political parties claim to give importance to women and youth issues, a recently released report revealed that they do not even allow women to vote in election.
Non-governmental Organisation (NGO) Association Behaviour and Knowledge Transformation (ABKT) launched the report at a local hotel on Monday which recommended that parties should encourage merit and allow youth to play a role in party affairs.
Recommendations included a quota for youth in intra-party elections, lifting a ban on student unions and discouraging feudal influence. Elections should be declared null and void in any constituency or polling station that bar women from voting, it said.
The report further recommended that educational institutions should provide an environment to young people to groom their leadership skills and programmes should be organised to increase women`s interest in politics.
Measures should also be taken to increase women`s literacy. It said that the government should also facilitate registration of people living in remote areas.
Most political party representatives present on the occasion claimed that their parties involve women and youth in party matters.
Mufti Ameer Zeb of Jamiat Ulema Islam-Fazal said that his party has been working for women`s rights and has been giving importance to youth.
Pakistan People`s Party`s Ghufran Ahad agreed that no political party gives importance to women and young people.
He said that workers were always ignored and sons of influential people grab the most important party positions.
`The current government is not serious about solving the problems faced by young people. Instead of creating jobs, it has been considering to privatising different organizations,` he said.
Farooq Iqbal of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz said that his party gave priority to women and youth and even in the next elections tickets would be given to youth.
Sana Ejaz of Awaami National Party (ANP) said that women hold key positions in her party and ANP had women minister when it was in government.
Election Commission of Pakistan Director Public Relations Altaf Ahmed said that ECP believed in a democratic Pakistan. He said that a proposal had been sent by ECP that elections should be declared null and void if ratio of polling by women remains at less than 10 per cent.
Human Rights Commission of Pakistan representative Nasreen Azhar said women should be involved in decision making. She said women, youth and people belonging to different religions should be treated the same.
ABKT Executive Director Shad Begum told Dawn that the study includes a survey held in three districts i.e. Upper Dir, Lower Dir and Malakand District. `Study shows that most of the political parties have talked about women and youth in their manifestos but they have no action plan and strategy for them,` She said.
past few years, Pakistani women have achieved international awards in the
fields of human rights and filmmaking. These awards include Nobel, Oscar, Emmy,
the Right Livelihood Award, and the International Woman of Courage Award.
Pakistan stands at rank 72 amongst 153 countries of the world in terms of women
representation in the Parliament. This representation is possible only because
of the especially reserved seats for women and not because of a greater space
for women in politics. Despite these awards and somewhat good raking in
parliamentary representation; however, huge gender inequalities exist in
Pakistan. The recently published Global Gender Gap Report (GGGR) 2014 by the
World Economic Forum reflects on the gender inequalities in the countries of
the world including Pakistan. In the GGGR, Pakistan occupied the second-last
position, ahead of Yemen only.Pakistan
has been consistently on the second-last position for the last three years in
gender inequalities in the world.
Economic Forum is a Geneva-based not-for-profit Foundation and according to its
website, “is an independent, impartial and not tied to any special interests,
working in close cooperation with all major international organizations.”
taking advantage of the data available with credible international
organizations such as the ILO, UNESCO, UNDP, WHO etc., has measured the performance
of countries along four major indices in the gender gap: Economic Participation
and Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival and Political
spends less than the UN recommended 4% of GDP on education. The lack of public
spending on education results in under-developed human resource, which leads to
poor economic performance. The spending on the overall social sector is far
below than the desired level, which affects the health and survival indicator.
empowerment of women is the key to closing the gender gaps in Pakistan but
unfortunately women have either no access or control on economic resources. The
property rights of women are not enforced as men take the responsibility of
managing the economic resources. There are significantly fewer companies which
are owned by women in Pakistan. In financial institutions and business
enterprises, women are conspicuous by their absence in majority cases. The
women workforce in public sector institutions is far below than the desired
level to close gender gaps in employment.
economic dependency of women directly leads to their political dis-empowerment.
Although political parties in Pakistan nominate women on reserved seats for the
allotted quota in parliament, very few political parties allot party tickets to
women on open seats. The representation of women in the political parties
decision-making bodies is only cosmetic, as male-dominated decision-making
bodies within the political parties take major decisions. The percentage of
women ministers in Pakistan is also less than one percent.
inequalities are the result of traditions, customs, and practices that are
heavily tilted in favour of men in the Pakistani society. Since policy-making
is the domain of men in Pakistan, women’s priorities, by and large, remains
outside the scope of development agenda in Pakistan. Almost half of the
Pakistan’s population comprises of female but this huge human resource is not
fully tapped for economic development.
is true that societies develop gradually, we should not forget that deliberate
actions and planning can change the realities on the ground just as has been
witnessed in the case of some recently developed economies such as China, South
Korea and Malaysia.
There is a
dire need of shift in policies to close the gender gaps in Pakistan. The National
Policy for Development and Empowerment of Women under the National Plan of
Action for Women in Pakistan needs a serious attention. It envisages removing
imbalances and inequalities in all spheres of life, including socio-economic
development and women’s equal access to all development benefits and social
services. A policy is relevant only if it is put in action with concrete
milestones and timeframes. We hope that the federal and provincial governments
in Pakistan will take concrete steps to remove gender inequalities and stand
with its head high in the comity of nations. All this is possible only if we
bring fundamental changes in our attitudes towards women as equal citizens of
Pakistan, but the journey of change in attitudes should start from our homes
 Shad Begum is a human rights
activist from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan and a recipient of international
women of courage awards.