Sunday, 30 August 2015

Pakistani working women on average earn Rs. 8,000 only

By Haroon Baloch
R.I. Khan: Women hand-stitching quilt

One would think that the number of women in the Pakistani workforce is growing as economic pressures mount and double income families become the norm. However, the actual figures are surprisingly low. As yet, only 15.76 percent of the women have been allowed to take part in the socio-economic uplift of the country even though women constitute more or less 50 percent of the total population.

Further, the women who are included in the workforce remain underpaid. According to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, the average monthly working wage for women in Pakistan is slightly over 8,000 rupees as against the minimum wage notified by the government which stands at 13,000 rupees per month.

In the developed world, women are playing a crucial role in socio-economic development. Countries like Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Canada, France, Russia, Ireland, Portugal, Ukraine, Latvia, Moldova and Estonia are among those where women stand shoulder to shoulder with men in terms of working wages. But In Pakistan, we still have a long way to go.

The  demographics (2013-14) available from the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) also present an interesting picture of the distribution of the female workforce throughout the country. The majority of working women come from the Punjab which has a 12.92 percent share in total female workforce. WW-2-2This is followed  by Sindh with a share of 2.07.percent Working women in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa remain highly marginalized with 0.15 and 0.62 percent shares respectively.

“Even though women are visible in the workspace in Pakistan, there is resentment against them in public spaces. Men, in fact, are the biggest barriers for women in the public sphere,”  says Zoya Rehman, a gender activist from Bytes for All. She further emphasizes the need for the female workforce to grow because  when an increasing number of Pakistani women make an impact and speak from a position of power, the more their voices will be valued.

Interestingly, while the Punjab may have the largest female workforce as compared to all the  other provinces, it pays the lowest average monthly wages to working women, which equals to 7,105 rupees. Of the 12.92 percent, around 8.18 percent are drawing up to 5,000 rupees a month on average.  Only 1.31 percent are  drawing more than 15,000 rupees a month.

Women’s participation in the country’s socio-economic uplift from Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa is below one percent collectively in terms of their employment share. Most of these women fall in the slab of those drawing more than 15,000 rupees a month. The pattern determines that in these two provinces, it is only the relatively more educated and affluent women who manage to come out of their homes to work

Similar to patterns in the Punjab, the maximum number of working women in Sindh also belong to the lower and middle classes who are drawing between 5,000 and 10,000 rupees a month on average.

It is interesting that in comparison to urban areas, women from the rural areas of Pakistan are more active outside the home. The main reason seems to be that they are more needy but some experts argue that the rural communities are actually less conservative than urban areas. However, this argument becomes invalid considering the number of human rights violations and repressive acts against women seen in these communities, such as honor killing, wani, swara, etc.

In rural areas, 18.35 percent women work outside their homes to earn bread for families. However, their average monthly income is less than 6,000 rupees. In comparison, in urban areas, 12.60 percent women get the opportunity to work but they draw up to 12,500 rupees a month on average.

“Pakistanis need to realize that if more women work, the economy will grow and families will become more financially sustainable and prosperous,” says Zoya.  We must get rid of false notions about religion forbidding women to work outside the home. She argues that Islam grants women more rights than Muslims realize.  And women must exercise these rights publicly and unapologetically.

Credits: Story was originally published at Newsline Magazine

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Terror challenges in Pakistan

By Haroon Baloch

Karachi's Jinnah International Airport, on 8th June (Sunday), came under terrorists' siege, scratching wounds of near past, which further deteriorated the debilitating image of the country.

International media including US heavily debated the episode and highlighted various aspects of terrorism in Pakistan.

Delaware's most listened Radio WDEL 1150AM's anchor Allan Loudell discussed this issue with visiting journalist Haroon Baloch in Wilmington studio.

Listen here

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Jinnah wished a tolerant Pakistan

September 2, 2013

By Haroon Baloch

Referring to one of important speech-recordings of founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, which he delivered on Pakistan’s day of birth, 14th August 1947 in Karachi, he undoubtedly preached the nation for respecting all faiths and beliefs, and tolerance for each others’ religions.

Jinnah said, “The tolerance and goodwill great emperor Akbar showed to all the non-Muslims is not of recent origin. It dates back thirteen centuries ago when our Prophet (PBUH), not only by words and by deeds treated the Jews and Christians handsomely after he had conquered them.” He further said, “Prophet ensured to them the utmost tolerance, regard and respect for their faiths and beliefs.”

These lines uttered by Quaid-e-Azam are extracted from recently disclosed speech-recording of All India Radio (AIR), which has been decided by Indian government to hand over to Pakistan after a formal request made by the former Director General Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation, Murtaza Solangi in March 2012.

Murtaza Solangi being a veteran broadcaster has indubitably served for the nation’s greatest interest by taking bold initiative for the retrieval of missing links. Indian civil society in this regard has also played a commendable role for upholding the emblem of Right to Information, and Subhash Chandra Agrawal is one who fought for the retrieval of Jinnah’s speech-recordings.

The nation has just commemorated its 66th birthday and today, the ideology of Pakistan as portrayed by Jinnah in his speech of 14th August is fuzzy. The reason is not difficult enough to understand. We direly need to consult with Jinnah’s teachings because he knew exactly that what he desired the Pakistani nation to become. The nation had been pushed in a spam debate of being a conservative or secular state, which had actually been a moment of choice whether to put the country on a path of development or attaining a status of radical Islamic state.

Respecting each other’s views is not a matter of being secular, but it is the lucid wisdom of our religion Islam and what was also iterated by Muhammad Ali Jinnah. He discussed this issue in the Pakistan Constituent Assembly citing Prophet’s (PBUH) deeds.

“The whole history of Muslims wherever they ruled is replete with those humane and great principles and which should be followed and practiced by us”, Jinnah said adding “It will be our concerted efforts to work for the welfare and well-being of all the communities in Pakistan.”

In today’s Pakistan, it dates back to our radical legacy that those minorities who were ensured by Muhammad Ali Jinnah about their freewill to worship according to their wishes, have been passing through an undesirable circumstances.

Christian being the largest minority of the country has time and again been attacked in the name of disrespect of Islam, the religion which itself preaches for being tolerant.

Hindu girls are kidnapped in today’s Pakistan, and by hook or by crook, are converted to Muslims. Thousands of Hindus from Pakistan have been migrated to India just because of the adverse circumstance. Even the supreme judiciary of the country, as per the civil society, could not decide on merit in Rinkle Kumari’s case of forced conversion because of the pressure of mafia involved in such heinous activities.

In short, the percentage of minorities is shrinking in the country, which the radicals proudly voice as of triumph of their missionary efforts or “Tableegh”.

What type of Islam are we following, has been a debate of 66 years of our country’s independence. But the truth is that as nation we have changed our lords contrary to deemed objective of liberalizing our wisdom. Before 1947, it used to be the Britain imperialists and now are the radicals who decide about our social reality. We could not evolve as nation of Jinnah’s vision, for which the piece of separate land was triumphed from Hindustan. The independence was meant for a heterogeneous society where minorities were desired to lead their lives in a way they wish.

It is again the time for this generation to decide whether to become a Jinnah’s nation or let the things drive in a way they have been driving from the past 66 years.

Media responsibility versus ratings

August 17, 2013

By Haroon Baloch

The Islamabad standoff on the eve of August 15th was not only a criminal confrontation but at the same time it also exposed Pakistan media when it comes to journalism of ethics in Pakistan.

Life of electronic media, particularly news channels in Pakistan, spins around good rating a
nd in the pursuit of these ratings; I’ve seen anchors like Maya Khan chasing dates in public parks, fiercely harming the public morality.

Stories of such TV shows are countless where anchors and/or reporters breach the redline of ethical journalism.

While covering contemporary issues as a TV reporter, I experienced instances on routine basis where race of breaking the news leaves a journalist far behind and drags him or her to be a runner in any arena.

Interestingly, the time of Islamabad standoff on 15th August marked the silver jubilee of the darkest day of the German press. Exact twenty-five years back on 16th August in the wee hour, two burglars Hans-Jürgen Rösner and Dieter Degowski robbed a bank in a Deutsche town Gladbeck and escaped with two bank tellers taking them under hostage.

In the run later on, the hostage-takers also rode on a public transit bus and took 30 passengers more into their hostage. During the negotiation with the police in the whole drama, hostage-takers killed three hostages. The whole episode lasted for three days and on 18th August in the midnight, one of the police vehicles crashed into the getaway car resulting into gunfire, and finally the arrest of Rösner and Degowski’s arrest.

Other than the timing of Islamabad standoff with Gladbeck episode, the focal commonality between the both crimes was the direct involvement of media because both the drams were broadcast live.

In Gladbeck episode, the media reporters interviewed the hostage-takers and the hostages live and took photographed burglars to their satisfaction in poses like placing guns under the throats of hostages.

In an interview with German International broadcaster DW, media psychologist Jo Groebel said, “Journalists who covered Gladbeck crime story not only satisfied hostage-takers’ desire for recognition and attention, but also incited the criminals to prove themselves in their brutal megalomania.”

In one instance, one of the reporters, later upgraded to Editor-in-Chief of most read German tabloid “Bild”, also managed to travel into getaway car so to direct the hostage-takers into the streets of Cologne.

German press was ruthlessly carped on its ethical infringements, even the reporter who guided criminals in their affairs had to face the allegations of complicity.

What Pakistani media did was not far different to that of German press except they could not guide Sikandar and his wife into their affairs of rusting the capital on the eve of 15th August. However, considering the supposition of many defense analysts commentating during the prime time on all national televisions post-standoff if Sikandar had been getting guidance on his cell phone throughout the episode by his terrorist aides, then media’s role could have become more supportive to the outfit in the drama.

Nevertheless, Pakistani media did the same in satisfying the desires of Sikandar and obsessed him with heroic emotions.

At the same time, self-attained role of Pakistani media as a arbitrator with Islamabad gunman during his live telephonic interviews was one of the major ethical infringements that could have been avoided through anticipatory vision of PEMRA during the five and half hours long drama.

Media interference also affected the police operation and in the case of Islamabad standoff similar to that of Gladbeck robbery, as authorities have seriously questioned it and bluntly declared media responsible for delaying the operation against the gunman because proximity maintained by the journalists with Sikandar refrained police to engage Sikandar in any exchange of bullets.

Following severe criticism for their handling of Gladbeck drama by German media, German Press Council, “Der Deutschen Presserats” barred for conducting any interview with hostage-takers during the hostage situation in future.

Can Pakistan do the same? Will it accept the responsibility of mishandling the Islamabad standoff? And what will be Pakistani media’s role during the coverage of such hostage related incidents in future or confrontation between terrorists and law enforcers are the important questions in developing Pakistani democracy.

Because at the end, it contributes to the name of a nation, and what Pakistan has earned after 16th August episode was a bad image.

Self responsible media is need of the hour after winning the battle against draconian press laws for the attainment of freedom of speech.

Commenting on the coverage of Pakistani media, leading journalist Syed Talat Hussain said, “the role was uncalled for, totally unprofessional in the sense that it created hype, inviting more and people to the venue and created sort of a fiction around it.”

However, he said, media cannot wholly be blamed of what happened on August 15th. He questioned why administration failed in cordoning off crime scene if it is capable enough for maintaining foolproof security inside the red zone.

“We ought to know every visual we show from the scene has consequences”, he said further stressing that journalists should do everything with reference to the fundamental principle of consequences.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Sino-Pakistan trade corridor: A regional ‘game changer’

By: Haroon Baloch

Chairman Pakistan-China Institute, also an active legislator in upper house of Pakistani Parliament, Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed stressed Pakistani leadership to join international community’s bandwagon, especially the deeds of China if development is its desired outcome.

Economic cooperation between China and Pakistan, the two time-tested friend countries, do not reflect the true nature Sino-Pakistan ties. Bilateral trade between the both nuclear powers is not more than 13 billion USD with Pakistan’s exports to China slightly over 3 billion UDS. The volume of its imports abuts 10 billion USD, which shows a clear trade imbalance.

Both the countries have extensively cooperated in the defense sector. JF-17 Thunder fighter jets and modern tank technology like Al-Khalid are results of this cooperation. Pakistan is also a client of Chinese missiles, flight system, radars and satellite.

Former Air Chief Marshal, Pakistan Air Force Rao Qamar Suleman, in an interview in 2011 during his tenure (2009-2012) said Pakistan seeks stronger defense cooperation with its friend and neighbor China to help upgrade the defense systems.

Similarly, China is playing a vital role in developing infrastructure in Pakistan. It constructed Karakorum Highway, the only road link that connects Pakistan with China. China has also provided technical and material assistance for the execution of Chashma Nuclear Power Plant. In up-gradation,
Pakistan has established four nuclear power plants, which are generating around 800 Megawatts electricity contributing to its economy. Viewing Pakistan’s increasing energy needs, especially in a time when country is fighting the global war against terrorism and its economy has suffered a loss of 90 billion USD, China has committed to build energy infrastructure.

Newly elected government of Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz, Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif after assuming charge of his office in June 2013 decided to pay his first state visit to China, reciprocating his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang’s first visit to Pakistan in May 2013. During Nawaz’s visit to Beijing, leadership of both the countries have signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to establish Sino-Pak Economic Corridor to foster trade and investment bonds and opening new chapter of economic activity in the region.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif termed this development a ‘game changer’ and apprised that Kashgar, a southern Chinese city will be connected to Pakistan’s port city Gwadar through road and rail routes. Further explaining the scheme, Pakistan’s Planning and Development Minister Ahsan Iqbal told journalists that China will establish industrial zones in Pakistan and its products will be supplied through Sino-Pak Economic Corridor to rest of the would including South and East Asia, Middle East, Central Asia and Europe.

Earlier, this year when Pakistan handed over the Management of Gwadar port
to Chinese authorities, Pakistan’s eastern neighbor India expressed its grave concerns over the development. Indian Defense Minister A. K. Anthony asserted, “it is a matter of concern to us.”

India believes the port close to the Hormuz Strait opens up an energy and trade corridor from the Gulf across Pakistan to Western China. China can also establish its naval base in the town despite China’s stance that Gwadar is a commercial project and part of Sino-Pak long-standing bilateral cooperation.

Pakistan’s Foreign Office official had reciprocated as saying India must have nothing to do with whoever it decides to work on Gwadar.

Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses, India states in its research paper, “Expansion of the Karakorum Corridor” suggests a regional bloc which involves South Asian countries, but works against the unity of South Asia, will be counter-productive, as it will become a tool to protect the interests of Middle East and China in South Asia. It stresses Pakistan not to weaken South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) rather it should help make SAARC a functional bloc and promote economic integration of member states, which in turn will help resolve the outstanding issues between member states including bone of contention Kashmir between India and Pakistan.

Commenting on the developments took place in the recent visit of Nawaz Sharif to Beijing, Senator Mushahid Husssain point outs certain factors that impinge on this convergence of interest between China and Pakistan. China’s warmth with Pakistan has coincided with a ‘war of words’ with India. A prominent Chinese military leader even publicly rebuked India for trying to stir up trouble and provoke new problems on the eve of Indian Defense Minister’s arrival in Beijing. Obviously, India’s increasing coziness to Japan, which Dr. Manmohan Singh visited a week after receiving Li Keqiang, and Vietnam irks Beijing.

Mushahid stressed that China has some reservations which Pakistan needs to remove for rapid growth of Sino-Pak economic interaction. Objecting the role ‘slow and sluggish’ role of Pakistani bureaucracy, he argued culture of red-tape needs to be abolished as China has numerously complained about it. There are examples when projects have been suffered in the hands of this bureaucratic attitude e.g. 425 Megawatts Nandipur Power Project, Thar Coal project, etc.

Nandipur power project was initiated by Chinese in 2008 with the cost of 329 million USD, but due to callous attitude of Ministry of Law as it did not provide clearance for sovereign guarantees till 2010, China withdrew from the project as the cost went beyond 730 million USD. There are other examples as well where Pakistani bureaucracy hurt the Chinese feelings.

Another issue is the protection of over 15,000 Chinese engineers and personnel engaged in development of Pakistan’s infrastructure. It has been witnessed intermittently when Chinese got killed or kidnapped in Pakistan by the terrorists and authorities failed to provide security to them.

Mushahid advocated the idea of formation of a ‘Special Industrial Security Force’ dedicated to guard Sino-Pak economic corridor, ensuring security to Chinese workforce and its projects in Pakistan.

The newly installed government in Islamabad is committed to successfully execute the strategically important ‘game changer’ project as it believes China is the only partner in the world which can get the country out of the contemporary crises including energy shortage and revival of its economy. In the long run, Islamabad is following the policy of countering the power imbalance resultant of increasing western cooperation with India including United States’ Civil Nuclear deal by strengthening Sino-Pak partnership. 

Monday, 29 April 2013

Imran makes 6 promises to nation to build a new Pakistan

March 23, 2013

By Haroon Baloch

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chief Imran Khan has made 6 promises with the nation to build a new Pakistan.

Addressing a public gathering in Lahore on Saturday evening‚ Imran Khan said he will always speak truth with nation and will stand with oppressed class.

Imran Khan said he will have no property or assets outside Pakistan and will live and die in the country.

He pledged that he will never benefit from power and will not allow any of his relatives to benefit from his being in power. He will not make factories after coming in to power.

He will protect money of public taxes and will not allow anyone to evade tax or spend it on luxuries. He said he will build play grounds and turn Governor House building into a library.

Imran Khan said he will also stand against the brutalities on overseas Pakistanis. He pledged that promises made in the manifesto would be fulfilled. In his address‚ Shah Mahmood Qureshi said if voted to power‚ his party will end traditional politics and build a new Pakistan.

He said in 1940 people supported for Pakistan and today people demanded to build a new Pakistan.

Shah Mahmood Qureshi said PTI has become a force to bring to an end the traditional politics of turns.

He said the country is passing through a critical time with high poverty and inflation rates and dilapidated economy. Only PTI can change the circumstances in Imran Khan's leadership.

He said PTI elected their representatives through intra-party elections and today 80‚000 elected representatives including 23‚000 females are in front of the public.

He said that he was criticized when he decided to join Imran Khan at a time when he had offers from PML-N and PPP. Now his decision has proven correct. He asked public to vote for Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf if they want change in the country.

Story originally published at Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation  

Jashan e Baharan Festival kicks off at Lok Virsa Islamabad

February 24, 2013

By: Haroon Baloch 
The 3-day colourful Jashn-e-Baharan Festival reflecting the culture and music of the country begin in Lok Virsa Islamabad today

Minister for National Heritage and Integration Samina Khalid Ghurki who inaugurated the festival said that the colorful festival is a warm welcome to the spring season in a traditional way.

She said this will be a source of entertainment and relief for the citizens from their daily hectic routine. Minister said such type of healthy activities transmit positive image of the country across the world.

In the festival‚ artisans of all cultures of the country have displayed their local products so to promote their handicrafts.

Executive Director of Lok Virsa Khalid Javed told our correspondent Haroon Baloch that to celebrate spring was a centuries' old tradition including Pakistan. He said extremism has never been our culture; rather our society was famous for religious harmony‚ tolerance and dialogue.

Story originally published at Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation