Imran Khan’s Favorite Maulana of Hoors Blames Women for Covid

On Thursday, April 23, well-known cleric and public speaker Maulana Tariq Jameel, while saying a longish prayer at the end of the Ehsaas Telethon, meant to raise funds for the victims of the Covid-19 pandemic, alleged that “scantily dressed” were responsible for the spread of Covid19 in Pakistan and that these “immodest actions” have brought the Almighty’s wrath upon the country.

These remarks were immediately condemned by a wide range of Pakistani media personalities, human rights activists and politicians. 

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) took exception to his comments and in a tweet, the commission said:

As an editorial in Dawn titled ‘Blaming women’ pointed out, Jameel’s misogynistic remarks were made in the presence of the prime minister and top broadcast journalists. “For the maulana to claim that women should be blamed for a global pandemic is not just ill-informed but also inflammatory. The statements are troubling; not only do they betray a deep-rooted misogyny, they were also aired, unchallenged, from a very high-profile platform. This mentality is reflective of society’s unfortunate tendency to marginalise women simply because social power structures allow them to be viewed as ‘lesser beings’. The remarks also reinforce a dangerous yet normalised idea that targeting women is permissible. The reality is that women in Pakistan, and elsewhere, face systemic discrimination and violence. During this pandemic, domestic abuse cases have soared as women are forced to stay home for extended periods with their tormentors. Despite these challenges, women strive to be recognised and shatter glass ceilings — as evidenced by the effective response of global women leaders in this pandemic.”

Pakistan’s terrible record on Press Freedom could hurt its GSP Plus wishes

Pakistan is one of the most dangerous countries for journalists: many have been tortured and killed, many others – including heads of media organizations – have been imprisoned and the deep state is known to even pursue journalists who are in exile.

In this context, it was dumbfounding when in March 2020, when in an interaction with journalists, Prime Minister Imran Khan claimed that the media in Pakistan had more freedom than any other country. Khan had made a similar assertion last year in July when he visited the United States and also the United Kingdom.

However, as Reena Omer, legal adviser for the International Commission of Jurists, wrote recently in Dawn, “The prime minister’s assertion is at odds with nearly every assessment of media freedom in the country, which includes the recent report prepared by the European Commission on Pakistan’s compliance with the EU’s Generalised System of Preferences-Plus conditions. The GSP-Plus trading status is an instrument of the EU’s trade policy that aims to encourage developing countries to comply with core international standards in return for trade incentives. While the European Parliament extended Pakistan’s GSP-Plus status for two years after reviewing the report, the European Commission’s assessment raises some serious concerns about the human rights situation in the country — particularly related to the freedom of expression and the media — which, if unaddressed, could be a major hindrance in Pakistan retaining the GSP-Plus trade benefits in the coming years.”

Further, “The report noted that there had been a “serious deterioration of media freedom in Pakistan, a trend that began in the lead-up to the general election in 2018”, with national security widely used as a “pretext for cracking down on freedom of expression”. It highlighted the “increasing pressure by security forces, with the tacit approval of the government, on those with dissenting views, including media representatives and human rights defenders”. It detailed the intimidation tactics used against the media, and expressed concern that they often lead to self-censorship by journalists and publishers, which hampers their capacity to continue to function. The report also pointed out how cable operators were prohibited from broadcasting certain networks, and how the distribution of certain newspapers was severely curtailed in the country.”

As Omer notes, “It is unfortunate, however, that instead of resolving to address the concerns raised by the European Commission, the government has further increased its clampdown on the media and dissenting voices since the renewal of the GSP-Plus. Take, for example, the arrest of Mir Shakilur Rehman, the editor-in-chief of the Jang group, who was arrested on March 12 by the National Accountability Bureau on charges relating to a 34-year-old properly transaction. According to Jang Group, over the past 18 months, NAB sent more than a dozen threatening letters to its staff for critical reporting of the authority.

Finally, Omer warns, “Pakistani authorities should take note that Sri Lanka’s GSP status was suspended for a number of years after 2010, when the European Commission found “significant shortcomings in respect of Sri Lanka’s implementation of three UN human rights conventions relevant for benefits under the scheme”. It is therefore crucial for Pakistan to take seriously the findings of the European Commission’s report, as well as observations of the UN Human Rights Committee, and be in a position to demonstrate concrete and significant progress in practice. Failure to do so would hurt the Pakistani people twice over. Not only will they continue to be deprived of protection of human rights guaranteed by Pakistan’s constitution, as well as international treaty obligations, they also risk losing the potential economic benefits that result from the EU’s trade incentives under the GSP-Plus.”

Human Rights Watchdog warns: Pakistan must protect its most vulnerable during Covid

The Covid19 global health crisis will have a colossal impact on the health and livelihoods of ordinary Pakistanis.

According to The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) “the government take the following rights-based economic measures without delay. The government must invest in providing protective gear to medical staff dealing with the emergency across the country. All COVID-19 testing must be nationalised and made available free of cost. A debt moratorium should be declared for at least six months and the State Bank’s monetary policy reviewed such that discount rates are cut. Small businesses must be given non-collateralised credit support, while enterprises should be given tax breaks conditioned on their retaining staff. In addition to existing beneficiaries, the Ehsaas and Benazir Income Support Programmes must be used to reach daily-wage earners immediately to provide them with enhanced livelihood support. It is time to rethink national priorities such that people, not profits, shape the country’s economic system. The situation demands an immediate increase in allocations for health, low-income housing, and social safety nets in the federal and provincial budgets. HRCP also calls on all citizens to appreciate that Pakistan is facing a crisis, and to take all precautionary measures as advised by the government and medical practitioners.”