HRCP to Govt: Provide relief to daily wage workers impacted by COVID 19

The novel coronavirus (COVID19) has spread to all countries and at the last count Pakistan had over 200 cases. The response of most countries, based on the recommendations of health specialists, is social distancing, close schools, offices, shops and businesses and work from home. While this may be easy for white-collar workers, it is impossible for daily wage workers.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) issued a statement asking the government to protect “the poor and vulnerable, particularly on daily-wage labourers and workers who rely on the ‘gig economy’ to keep their households afloat.” As HRCP noted “It is not charity, but the responsibility of the state, to ensure food security and access to healthcare for all its citizens.”  

As HRCP stated, “Even if saved from illness, low-income groups will still contend with acute food insecurity. The lack of adequate social safety nets, such as paid leave and medical benefits, means that the overwhelming majority of workers and their families are especially vulnerable in this crisis. HRCP is sorely disappointed with the economic policies of the incumbent government, which has failed to deliver for the majority population. It is time to shift priorities, from subsidising rich individuals and institutions in the name of stabilisation and growth, to putting the wellbeing of ordinary citizens at the centre of any policy planning. The Commission demands that immediate cash and food transfers be organised for the poor and for daily-wage earners, in addition to ensuring their access to free medical care in these testing times. HRCP also demands that health workers, who are at the frontlines of this emergency, be provided the protective gear they need to do their jobs safely and effectively.”

15 million Pakistanis are affected with Hepatitis B & C

At an event, jointly organized by Pakistan’s Ministry of Health Services, Regulations and Coordination (NHSRC), the Aga Khan University and the World Health Organization (WHO), on the occasion of World Hepatitis Day 2019 global campaign, it was announced that 5 and 10 million people are affected with hepatitis B and C respectively.

Further, “thousands of new patients are added every year due to lack of prevention, testing and treatment resources as well as inadequately screened blood transfusion, improperly sterilized invasive medical devices and unsafe injections. Unnecessary injections are widespread and shockingly high numbers of untrained healthcare professionals are delivering such injections to unsuspecting people in Pakistan.”

According to a new study released by WHO “investing in eliminating hepatitis can bring cost savings, because instead of paying for long-term care required for liver cirrhosis and cancer, people would access hepatitis testing, treatment or cure while they are healthy.”

According to an ambitious plan the government hopes to eliminate viral hepatitis B and C infections in the country by 2030 by “scaling up hepatitis prevention, testing and treatment services. In support of the Prime Minister’s initiative, NHSRC also announced new national plans for injection safety, safe blood transfusion, and national infection control guidelines. The implementation will be overseen by the newly created National Task Force of the Ministry.”

No Parks, No Libraries, No Cinema, No Music Events: Sorry State of Pakistan’s Youth

Physical activity and sports are critical to the growth and development of youth. The 2017 United Nations Human Development Report for Pakistan, however, portrays a sad story about the Pakistani youth and their involvement in social and civic activities.

Based on the 2015 Youth Perception Survey, “of 7,000 odd youth surveyed, when asked about access to recreational facilities and events, 78.6 per cent said they had no access to parks, 94.5pc had no access to a library, 97.2pc had not been to a live music event, 93.9pc had not been to a sports event, 93pc did not have access to any sports facilities, 97pc had not been to a cinema — and 71.7pc reported that they did not have access to or attend any of the above activities or events.”

According to a column in Dawn, it appears that Pakistan has gone backwards in this arena as well. During the 1980s, “more than three decades ago, we had regular physical education sessions and had sports in our school: cricket, hockey and football in particular, but also table tennis and a couple of other sports. There were regular inter-class tournaments, and the school teams participated in inter-school tournaments. More than the school though, our neighbourhood had lots of children, and we used to have teams for almost everything. Some of the teams were even organised as clubs. We attended different schools, were part of different social and economic groups, but we played together and played almost any sport we could get excited about. When the Pakistan team played cricket, we all played cricket. When Pakistan used to win hockey tournaments, we would all catch hockey fever. We used to play cricket or hockey almost every evening, and matches were played on the weekends. The experiences of my friends, of around the same age group, is also similar.”

Further, “even elite schools do not seem to give the same importance to sports that they once did. We hardly ever hear of inter-school tournaments now. Even at the college and university level, sports have lost some of their importance. When Government College used to play Islamia College at cricket, it used to be quite an event in Lahore. We do not hear about such matches anymore. At a recent public event, Najam Sethi also lamented the demise of school-based sports activities. He also linked Pakistan’s poor performance in sporting events at different levels to the demise of school and college level sporting activity. Schools used to be nurseries for cultivating cricket talent. They are no longer so. Colleges and universities, at one point, were producing players who would go on to make their name on the international stage. This does not happen anymore.”

Finally, “the issue is not just about sporting performance. It is much deeper and broader. Sports are activities that not only shape the body, they shape the mind as well as the community. People learn to work, play and interact with each other through communal activities. They learn how to perform individually as well as collectively, as members of a team. They learn how to cooperate and how to compete. A lot of this is about citizenship. Sports can be an important element of education, and an effective and meaningful way for engaging our youth. But, for this to happen, we have to start thinking locally again. Schools have to become the hub for supporting sporting activities. Local governments and communities have to step forward to provide the needed support. Resources are important, but, the willingness and ability to organise is even more essential than money. Local governments have to create spaces (grounds, tracks, courts, etc) but these need to be managed by schools and/or local groups.”

The Economist asks Pakistan’s khaki umpire to stop meddling

In a piece titled ‘Foul Play’ the leading global magazine, The Economist asked Pakistan’s generals to stop meddling in Pakistan’s politics. Using the cricket analogy the magazine referred to the generals as the ‘khaki umpire’ who have “long pulled the strings of Pakistani politics.”
According to The Economist: “Whether in the 1970s in the era of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, or in the 1990s during Mr Sharif’s earlier terms, the army’s “jeep-wallahs” first endorsed and promoted pliant civilian leaders, then squeezed them when they grew too independent, and in the end got rid of them.”
However, what “sets this election apart from previous ones” is “brazen meddling” and “greater outcry over the army’s match-fixing. Prominent journalists and some of the country’s largest media groups say they have been threatened and coerced into promoting the PTI and muting coverage of its rivals. At a press conference on July 16th Pakistan’s Human Rights Commission, an NGO, declared that there were ample grounds to question the legitimacy of the elections, warning of “blatant, aggressive and unabashed attempts to manipulate the outcome”.”
The Economist ends by addressing the Deep State: “As for the jeep-wallahs, they must see that they are harming the country they claim to defend. In the 70 years since partition, Pakistan has been torn by war, terrorism, coups, instability and religious extremism. It has lagged ever further behind India economically and on other fronts.”

‘Pakistan Establishment Paranoia: When even Books Threaten Security of Nuclear State’

If there is one thing that scares any authoritarian establishment it is the power of an idea: an idea can light the imagination of a people like nothing else and a taciturn, brittle, unimaginative institution does not know how to deal with it. So, it does what it can do: ban the idea.


Pakistan’s establishment paranoia about ideas is so strong that it extends to anything that is written – whether an opinion piece in a newspaper or a book. So, newspapers can be banned or not allowed to be distributed, news channels can be censored, and books can simply disappear from the shelves.

The recent hullaballoo about books and their authors has gone to crazy heights.

In 2006, when former ISI chief Lt Gen Mahmood Ahmed published a book ‘The Myth of 1965 victory’ GHQ had all 22, 000 copies of the book bought “fearing that its contents could malign its image.”

According to a news report “The book titled The Myth of 1965 Victory, which was published by the Oxford University Press, was found to be “too sensitive” by none other than the Army Chief General Pervez Musharraf. The sources said that General Mahmood Ahmed had submitted the manuscript of his book to the GHQ as per the rules in vogue. However, after going through the contents, the GHQ referred the manuscript to General Musharraf who noted on the file that Mahmood should review some sensitive parts of the book as well as the title especially use of the word myth in relation to the 1965 war. As General Mahmood was subsequently suggested some major deletions by the GHQ, he refused to oblige, saying that it was already in the printing stage. Under these circumstances, the sources said, the GHQ directed the Army Book Club to immediately buy all the 22,000 copies worth millions of rupees directly from the publishers to stop it from being marketed. When some leading distribution houses contacted the Oxford University Press, they were informed that the book has already been sold out. Even otherwise, the sources said, there was a binding on the publishers under a revised contract not to provide it for general distribution.”

Something similar happened to Amb Husain Haqqani’s books. FIRs were registered against former Amb Haqqani “or delivering hate speeches and writing books and articles against the armed forces and the ‘sovereignty of Pakistan’.” In response Haqqani stated “A constant hyper-patriotic media circus at home will not change the impact of my ideas all over the world. Books that are used as texts in universities around the world should be read and understood at home too instead of being made the subject of frivolous police proceedings.”

And now two new books are once again being described as anti-Pakistan- the book ‘Spy chronicles’ co-authored by former ISI chief Asad Durrani and former RAW chief AS Dulat and Nasim Zehra’s book on Kargil.

As per a tweet by DG ISPR Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor, the former ISI chief Durrani has been “called in GHQ on 28th May 18. Will be asked to explain his position on views attributed to him in book ‘Spy Chronicles’. Attribution taken as violation of Military Code of Conduct applicable on all serving and retired military personnel.”

In her recently published book titled ‘From Kargil to the coup’ veteran journalist Nasim Zehra provides an in-depth analysis of Kargil. Instead of welcoming a book of this nature the reaction to within Pakistan’s establishment is why has such a book been published now? The book must be part of a foreign conspiracy to hurt Pakistan. A retired ISI brigadier’s statement on social media sums up the view “Kargil is 20 years old. Close chapter. What motives behind this controversial book? Why now? Who is/are sponsors?”