Posts Tagged ‘Pakistan’

Rendezvous with Gulalai Ismail, Commonwealth Youth Award winner from Pakistan

Written by Anam Gill on . Posted in Anam's blog: Global issues, E-Magazine, General Information, News & Updates, Take Action

file

Photo Source: Google

Gulalai Ismail, a 28-year-old Pakistani human rights activist from Peshawar, has been awarded the 2015 Commonwealth Youth Award for Excellence in Development Work recently. Gulalai was chosen as the winner from the Asia region out of a shortlist of sixteen extraordinary young people from across the Commonwealth.The award recognizes outstanding young people under 30 whose development projects and programs have had significant impact on their communities, countries and across the globe.

Speaking to me, Gulalai said that we should speak up no matter what, “Silence perpetuates more silence and speaking up will bring change, a smaller and a humble change ” she said.

Congratulations Gulalai for being awarded the 2015 Commonwealth Youth Award for Excellence in Development Work. How does this award affect your work and commitment towards the cause you stand for?

I think this award has increased awareness about the role of young women and girls in promoting democracy, peace and human rights. This award is not just recognition of my work as a person, but recognition of the voices of the women and young people who are working in extremely challenging and life risking situations for their rights and development of their communities. Today, in Pakistan young people makes the largest population dividend, at least 50% of these young people comprises of young women, but unfortunately if we look at the statistics only 18% of women in Pakistan has received more than 10 years of education, 90% of the women are becoming victims of domestic abuse, and millions of girls around the world are forced into early marriages. I believe a decent, peaceful and developed world isn’t possible without investing in gender equality, without making the world a better place for women. This award is the recognition of similar voices.

Can you please tell us a bit about your organization and its work?

Aware Girls is young women led organization, an organization which has been established by girls and young women in 2002 with the purpose of providing a leadership platform to young women where they can get information about their rights, institutes and policies which protect their rights, can strengthen their leadership skills and can act as advocates of change, equality and peace.

Our objectives are to empower young women and girls by strengthening their leadership skills and by creating a conducive environment where young women and girls can exercise their human rights which includes sensitizing communities about different issues and rights of girls and advocating for systems and policies which ensures that young women and girls’ can live a decent life and can exercise their human rights.

We are working on human rights education, girls’ leadership, civic and political empowerment of young women, economic empowerment of young women, sexual and reproductive health rights of young women and on countering and preventing violent extremism in our communities i.e. in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province of Pakistan.

Through our work we are changing the lives of girls for example few years back, Shazia, who was then 14 years old participated in our HIV/AIDS education campaign which inspired her, she took became member of our AIDS Discussion club which was like a leadership incubator for her, she started raising awareness among her peer through peer to peer education about HIV/AIDS prevention. It increased her self-esteem and confidence. When few years later her family told her that she can’t take admission in college because it is against their culture and family values she didn’t accept the decision, she stood for herself and convinced her family that she has to go to college. Today, she is studying in a medical school getting her degree of Lady Health Worker. There are thousands of other stories like this which are encouraging us to keep on going against the odds.

You were just 16 years old when you set up Aware Girls, was it challenging?

Even after working for more than 12 years, it’s challenging. We are still reclaiming our leadership spaces. Our society is yet not comfortable with the idea of a women leader though Pakistan has some amazing women leaders but even then we have to go a long way to create acceptability of women in leadership roles.

There was so much inspiration and sense of responsibility around me, I was determined. I knew one thing only and that was: I have to play my part in making this world a better place, it doesn’t matter how small or big role I play. It would have been really unfair if I would have just let things happen around me and not do anything about it.

How has your father being a human rights activist contributed in your view point considering that it is challenging to voice concerns on extremism and violence in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa?

My father is amazing, he always taught me “Speak up, no matter how shrill your voice is, no matter how huge the opposition is. If you feel like speaking up- just speak up and don’t worry about the consequences”. He himself is a very brave man and has always challenged the structural inequalities in the society, my parents are my inspiration. When we were young, long before 9/11 my father was put in Jail in a Blasphemy Case because he was speaking up for peace and because he was advocating the idea that we shouldn’t support any militant group in Afghanistan. He fought the Blasphemy case for 7 years, only because he spoke for peace and non-violence. But even then he remained brave enough to speak for peace. I come from the family of fighters- so it was kind of okay to start up a venture for empowering women and girls.

We witnessed what happened to Malala Yousafzai when she tried talking about women issues, wasn’t there a threat for you coming from the same place?

Well as I said, we still have a long way to go! It’s not easy to speak up on women rights, to speak against Talibanisation and to speak for Peace while living in the heart of the Province where the militants have a stronghold. But that makes me stronger, becoming weak and fearful is not an option. The only option we have is to be strong enough to reclaim our society; we can’t leave it to the extremists, militants, and to the patriarchal culture.

There is quite a lot of negative propaganda on social media against me, we received threats, we have been attacked as well but all of this just makes me stronger, happier! Because then I know that yes, my work is bringing change in my community- be it a smaller change.

What do you think is different between you and her that protect you from the extremist elements?

I think Malala can’t be compared to the work of anyone. She is extra ordinarily brave, she was in Swat and she was raising her voice at a really young age when everyone was afraid of speaking up. She was already an icon in Pakistan, a young leader who put her life at risk. For me, she is a hero not because she was attacked but because of what she did before she was attacked. She is a role model for the world!

What message do you have for women on International women’s day?

Speak up- No matter how shrill your voice is, silence perpetuates more silence and speaking up will bring change, a smaller and a humble change.

Justice Deferred is Justice Denied

Written by Anam Gill on . Posted in Anam's blog: Global issues, E-Magazine, General Information, News, News & Updates, Take Action

images

Photo Source: Google

On Wednesday the Federal Government of Pakistan temporarily deferred execution of a 14-year old Shafqat Hussain just few hours before he was set to be hanged. In Pakistan the use of torture evidence and execution of juveniles is illegal. Surely the legal system has specific procedures for dealing with juvenile delinquents yet Shafqat Hussain was arrested and tortured to confess to killing of a child.

The only evidence the courts had was his confession he made after nine days of being tortured in a police cell. He was not tried as a juvenile nor was he given access to a lawyer.

Moments like these make me recall the famous quotation; peace is not the absence of war but the presence of justice. Justice is a fascinating word. We hope to get justice in an unjust world, made unjust by our power hunger, selfishness and greed. Where is the compassion we are seeking? Why are we seeking it in the first place?

What a shame that it took the weight of civil society and an uproar to push the Minister into deferring the execution just hours before he was due to be taken to the gallows. We seek the judicial system for justice and what if the same system is flawed as an entity? We don’t know how many other juveniles are facing the same fate.

Being a signatory of child rights conventions, Pakistan should take measures to meet standards of juvenile justice. Sarah Coleman, Child Protection Chief, UNICEF

The existing Juvenile Justice Ordinance 2000, consisting of only 15 sections, does not cover many important aspects pertaining to child delinquencies, the ordinance needs to be improved. Barrister Salman Safdar

Shafqat Hussain was kept in solitary confinement, blindfolded and beaten brutally by the police. He was being electrocuted and stubbed lit cigarettes on his arms while being asked to confess to the crime.

 I was tortured so severely and continuously that my mind ‘just stopped’. I have no recollection of the trial. Shafqat Hussain

It is important to note that after a seven-year moratorium, Pakistan has reintroduced the death penalty and has also introduced military courts. It will begin executions where clemency and appeals are no longer an option. Following the 2014 Peshawar school attacks that killed over 100 children, the death penalty was reintroduced last December.  According to Amnesty International since 2012, 24 people have been executed including three whose convictions were unrelated to terrorism.

Is this shameful retreat to the gallows a way to resolve Pakistan’s persistent security and law -and -order problems? Those who argue the shallow logic of an eye for an eye, it is worthy to note that the charges of blasphemy, adultery and apostasy are also punishable by death. It is indeed a moral catastrophe for Pakistan. The death penalty and military courts are not known to be the deterrents of crime, especially the military courts where the judges and prosecutors come from army ranks. This indeed is a controversial addition to the flawed judicial system along with Anti-terrorism Courts.

Two months after Pakistan’s Interior Ministry stayed the execution of Shafqat Hussain and ordered an inquiry into why a juvenile was given a death sentence, Pakistan’s Anti-terrorism Court issues a fresh execution order.

Draconian courts like these operate on the premise that the accused is guilty unless proven innocent. Shafqat Hussain who has spent 11 years on death row was not a militant and had nothing to do with terrorism. He worked as a caretaker of an apartment building during his brief freedom in Karachi.

In an era of injustice, shameful violence and intolerance it is our duty to raise our voices for sanity and compassion.  We can’t call Pakistan just and democratic when it provides assistance to banned armed outfits, violent sectarian groups and puts innocent juveniles on death row.

Exercising the Divine Obligation

Written by Anam Gill on . Posted in Anam's blog: Global issues, General Information, News, Uncategorized

At some point in our life we do tend to question humanity. In my lifetime I have questioned this virtue many times revolving around the basic ethics of altruism. Someone rightly said ignorance is bliss and knowing too much can only make you suffer. But how can we stay aloof in a world bombarded with news talking about the crimes committed on fellow beings just because they have a different color, race, religion, gender and so on.

We love to brag about peace, social cohesion, justice and it is true that there have been incidents where your faith in humanity is restored but then comes the reality check.

A few days ago I read about the brutal killing of a Christian couple in the suburb of  Lahore, Pakistan. Shahzad Masih, twenty eight years old and his five months pregnant wife Shama Masih, twenty four, were brutally tortured and later set ablaze by an enraged mob at a brick kiln.

1797536_10154823823295068_573681171684153730_n

 The deceased Shama and Shahzad Masih

Photo Source: Dawn.com

According to a newspaper source:

 “The entire episode took place in the presence of policemen and on the orders of a local Panchayat comprising notables and clerics of the area,” said Javed Shahbaz, a close relative of the deceased couple.

On Tuesday, November 4th, the prayer leader at the mosque of Chak No 59 of  Kot Radha Kishan, a suburb of Lahore made a provocative announcement on the loudspeaker urging all the male members in the area to gather at the kiln where the couple worked.

 “O villagers, I have a sad news for you. A Christian woman has burned the holy Quran. Therefore, all reasonable men and even young male children (of this village) are requested to converge at the brick kiln as early as possible so that a decision could be made ” Sadiq, a 55-year-old man quoted the cleric making the announcement.

 Within an hour people poured in big numbers at the kiln. It is also reported that earlier that day the couple was locked up in a room to stop them from fleeing bonded labor by the owner of the kiln over monetary dispute. While the angry mob attacked the ‘blasphemers’ the police stood there helpless. The blasphemers have left three children under the age of six.

 This is not the first incident of blasphemy to be reported where before the matter is taken to the court the incited mob headed by a cleric heads out to attack the ‘blasphemers’. The state institutions always claim not being able to handle the situation leaving everything at the hands of the charged groups. The same state institution looked different when protests were being staged in the capital to oust the democratically elected government, that time they weren’t ‘helpless’ and could handle the situation.

 It is no secret anymore that many accusations of blasphemy are used to settle personal scores or to harass the religious minorities. Interestingly the Council of Islamic Ideology, that advises the parliament on Islamic aspects of laws, stated that no amendment to the blasphemy laws will be considered.The blasphemy cases have been stacking despite many assurances. According to the Islamabad-based Centre for Research and Security Studies the blasphemy cases have been registered due to nonsensical reasons that a sane mind can’t decipher.

The hostile stories of blasphemy cases where people rather entire villages are set ablaze remind me of a troop of Savanna baboons in Kenya, the Keekorok troop.  Dr Robert Sapolsky studied the troop for 30 years identifying stress and hierarchy in baboons. These amazing yet Machiavellian creatures required a kind of baboon political shrewdness. The study showed that the most cunning and aggressive males gained top ranks in the hierarchy and all the perks like personal groomer, females for their choosing and all the food to eat.

In the troop every male knew where he stands in the society and whom he could torture. The tough and snarly baboons once fought with a neighboring baboon troop over a garbage dump containing meat tainted with bovine tuberculosis. The strong baboons did get to eat all the food but that led to selective killing of dictatorial and vilest males. A social and behavioral transformation occurred after that which was unique in the notoriously aggressive primate. The calamity had a profound effect on the Dr Sapolsky’s research. Every alpha male was gone and the Keekorok troop was transformed left with more females and socially affiliated males that altered the atmosphere of the Keekorok troop.

So what does this alteration teach an average person? Don’t treat somebody badly just because you are having a bad day and don’t just place on somebody in any sort of manner.  Social connection and harmony is a very powerful thing and this is what the baboons taught us. If they were able to transform sort of an engraved in stone social system we don’t have any excuse saying that human social systems have certain inevitability. We now have a haunting question from Dr Sapolsky’s life work that is are we brave enough to learn from a baboon? After the complete transformation the Keekorok troop not only survived rather thrived with a congenial atmosphere and without stress. Can we?

Is The Nobel Peace Prize Gamed?

Written by Anam Gill on . Posted in Anam's blog: Global issues, Books & Magazine, E-Magazine, General Information, Green Economy, India, News, News & Updates, Publications, Regions, Take Action

The manufacturer of armaments and an inventor of dynamite Alfred Nobel once said:

“I intend to leave after my death a large fund for the promotion of the peace idea, but I am skeptical as to its results.”

In a non-harmonious world the word peace has a central focus these days. It is often used and abused but most importantly it lacks an agreeable definition.  To me it is often unreal and utopian. Interestingly in the field of peace research there are terms like negative peace and positive peace, carrying a normative value of striving towards peace. Who would better understand the complexities that revolve around the word “peace” than the Norwegian Peace Prize Committee considering the Peace Research Institute in Oslo, Norway has dedicated years researching on peace.  I don’t want to sound cynical as I do believe that another world is possible. But for that to happen we need to be aware of the realities that are often deliberately hidden from our sight.

The ways in which things work in this world are strange. It is true that many die in anonymity no matter how big their contribution or how many years they have dedicated to serve humanity. I don’t want to propose my own list of the worthy opponents nor have anything against the individuals who won this year’s prize. The India- Pakistan duo does sound lovely and reflect the ethnocentrism of the Western world.

In 1990s the chairman of Norwegian Nobel Committee Francis Sejersted once acknowledged,

“The prize … is not only for past achievement. … The committee also takes the possible positive effects of its choices into account [because] … Nobel wanted the prize to have political effects. Awarding a peace prize is, to put it bluntly, a political act.”

 As the high profile award ceremony takes place in one corner of the world many experiencing conflicts on daily basis are unaware what this peace prize is all about. How about asking a Syrian, a Palestinian, a Liberian, an Iraqi, an Afghan …. for a definition of peace? In 2009 this prestigious award was bestowed on Barack Obama. Was it for ramping up the drone program?  In 2012 European Union was given the award right after it bombed Libya. Is the prize just about Norway’s geopolitical tilt?

The makers of the war can’t fool people by bringing temporary peace.

In Pakistan Malala Yousafzai recently being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize stirred many debates and discussions in the media. I am proud of Malala and her stance on education for young girls but what I question is the credibility of the Nobel Committee. Just to put on record there are many girls in Pakistan voicing similar concerns not yet picked by the West to propagate white savior complex.  Malala is the voice of Pakistan but being a 17 years old girl she might still be unaware of the manipulation that comes with her situation.

The Nobel Committee based in one small West European nation, comprising of members of political establishment is not capable of assessing who has done the most for peace in the world. The decision made by such a committee is prone to some kind of ideological bias or ethnocentricity.

Managing to hyphenate India and Pakistan yet again by awarding the prize jointly to Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai does sound and looks good yet to be taken with a grain of salt. No matter the pattern of funds or relationships with evangelical organizations Malala Yousafzai’s contemporary has dedicated many years of his life for a cause. This does make me say that Abdul Sattar Edhi might have been a choice for the committee too considering his work and service.

What would be the impact of this Nobel in Pakistan? The Taliban has promised more violence and we can assume they will carry out more attacks on women and schoolchildren which surely would boil the blood in the West. That might also lead to more Malalas suffering at the hands of the Talibans, who might not be given a safe haven abroad to continue to voice their concerns.

In the past we have seen how the hands of hardliners are strengthened be it Myanmar, Iran and China. The peace prize awarded to Aung San Suu Kyi, Shirin Ebadi and Dalai Lama brought no assistance to the awardees or the cause they stood for. 2000 Tibetans were executed, several imprisoned by the Chinese between November 1989 and April 1990. It was right after the Dalai Lama was awarded the prize in October 1989.

It is time to move away from the dangerous prize. The Nobel Peace Prize does not guarantee change in the world but celebrates and reaffirms liberal ideal for which it should be recognized. But the increasingly frequent cases in which the award is bestowed seeking democratic political change, the winners should beware.

Nature’s Fury is Inevitable

Written by Anam Gill on . Posted in Anam's blog: Global issues, E-Magazine, General Information, Green Economy, News, Publications, Take Action

Against the backdrop of the current political deadlock in Pakistan, many other important issues affecting thousands of people have been sidelined.

The media is all eyes and ears for the fiery speeches, debates and discussions in the power play, and the awareness definitely plays an important role in stabilising the situation.But what about the section of the populace greatly affected and displaced by the current war in north west Pakistan and the floods?PAKISTAN_-_0911_-_Alluvioni_e_Chiesa_(F)

Photo Source: www.asianews.it

At least 193 people have lost their lives and 164 injured across Pakistan during floods in the first week of September. The overflowing rivers are wreaking havoc on already frail infrastructure in many regions in Pakistan.

According to the National Disaster Management (NDMA) report, 28, 538 people have been affected in Punjab and Azad Jammu and Kashmir.The number of people displaced by floods at this moment is still unknown. Sadly, even catastrophes of this magnitude can’t bring our politicians together and prioritise these issues.

Just a glance at the record of floods from 2010 to 2014 shows how major a threat monsoon rains currently are. Surprisingly, in the 2010 floods, the number of individuals affected exceed the total of individuals affected by the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, Kashmir earthquake in 2005 and the Haiti earthquake in 2010.And the loss of lives is not limited to the figures or numbers reported every time in the media.How many more red flags do we need to realise that climate change is an issue which affects all of us?

It is sad to know that globally, the people most affected by climate change are the ones who are least responsible for it.Perhaps that’s why we’re so resistant to the climate change alarm, which sits comfortably amidst us as we go about our agendas with the ‘business as usual’ approach.There is near-universal agreement among activists that efforts to limit carbon emissions have failed miserably, and that failure doesn’t come because the movement has embraced the oxymoron of “sustainable growth” or because it needs to work more closely with the business community. Rather, it’s because climate change activism is not challenging the key invisible narratives that drive our civilisation.

Being part of the Rio+20 UN Earth Summit held in Brazil, I can say that the willingness to acknowledge the threat and act accordingly is lacking.Now with another UN Summit on climate crisis in September, it is hoped that meaningful action will be taken. We have had enough talks sitting comfortably in the past behind closed doors.Earlier talks have ended mostly without reaching any important conclusion or an action plan. It should be more than just about choosing an exotic destination, inviting world leaders and activists to talk. We have had enough talks and it is no rocket science that we are destroying the biodiversity which allows nature systems to work efficiently.

It is time to take action if we want the seven billion people living on this planet to live with finite resources. No amount of funds can save us if we keep on destroying and polluting the soil, water and air which keep us alive.

The People’s Climate March to be held on September 21 aims at gathering hundreds of thousands of people in the streets of Delhi, New York, London , Berlin, Rio de Janeiro and Jakarta; and pressure world leaders who will be gathered for the UN Secretary General’s Climate Summit to take action on global warming.This is the largest mobilisation in the history of climate change and it wants to send a strong message to the world leaders — it is time to take action.

“People from across the planet will be making sure that leaders gathered in New York know the demand for action comes from every corner. This is the first truly global problem, and it has spawned the first truly global movement,” says Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org.

In Pakistan, the issue of climate change is often sidelined and replaced with more “important issues”, without the acknowledgement that the social, economic and political issues are all intertwined.The earthquakes, the floods, the energy crisis, the rising temperatures, the unavailability of clean drinking water — are these not ‘important’ enough problems? Or is it just that we choose to stay aloof?

 Recently, most Pakistanis rejected the hypothetical UN Study based on a conjectural 9.0 magnitude earthquake in the Makran Trench (a meeting point for Arabian and Eurasian tectonic plates, off the coast of Pakistan). The study stated that Karachi, home to around 18 million people, could be wiped out by a tsunami if something like that happens.

Karachi experienced a tsunami in the past too. In 1945, around 4000 people lost their lives to it.Instead of being sceptic about it, it is time to take aggressive measures to counter climate change. We are already seeing and feeling its effects. Let’s not shut our eyes to it.

Republished from http://www.dawn.com/news/1132137/how-many-disasters-does-pakistan-need-to-focus-on-climate-change

Better to lead than to dictate

Written by Anam Gill on . Posted in Anam's blog: Global issues, E-Magazine, General Information, Green Economy, News, News & Updates, Publications, Take Action

264350_10151447009699527_1145090830_n

Imran Khan, Chairman Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf  addressing the crown in Islamabad.

Photo Source: Google

I grew up in a time when the debates regarding political correctness carried immense importance. The 21st century claims to be a century of development and prosperity. For whom, the selected few? I still don’t know. Again the definitions of these vague terms vary from person to person depending on their interests and agendas.

I am caught in bewilderment as I write now. Watching Imran Khan, Chairman Pakistan Tehrik-e Insaaf is a spectacle that puzzles me and at the same time makes me feel sad about where we are heading. As I said earlier I have to be politically correct but in times like these we can’t look at things in black and white. What is right and what is wrong I can’t tell much as I am not a political scientist who is aware of various forms of governments and what would or should be the “best” system according to which a country should be governed.

The demands made by Mr.Khan that drew attention of many and created unrest according to some are in no way wrong but it is the implementation that puzzles me. Here are the demands of Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf headed by Imran Khan but above all he wants the Prime Minister to resign.

  1. We demand the present Election Commissioners resign immediately as they have lost the confidence of the nation. The system of the selection of Chairman and members of the ECP should be changed to ensure the ECP functions as a truly independent body as guaranteed in the Constitution.
  2. We demand an immediate verification of thumbprints in the four constituencies identified by PTI and the process should be concluded within 2 weeks.
  3.  We demand that all perpetrators found guilty of or complicit in rigging in the 2013 elections must be brought to justice – from the identified ROs and Presiding Officers to those identified as having cast multiple votes.
  4. We demand that for future elections all ROs must be legally accountable to the ECP, as stated in the Constitution, for their performance in conduct of elections.
  5. We demand that post-election appeals must be held in the time stipulated – 120 days – by law and those not complying must be held accountable.
  6. All future elections must be held under biometric system & EVMs must be introduced for the voting with a paper trail.
  7.  As a step towards genuine neutral Caretakers, they must not be permitted to hold any public office for 2 years after their serving as Caretakers.
  8.  That the SC decision of giving overseas Pakistanis the right to vote must immediately be implemented.
  9. We invite all parties who want electoral reforms to form a committee with PTI and come up with a comprehensive electoral reform package for Parliament to pass.

My entire life I have seen people marching against dictatorships, considering it a ruthless form of government. I remember how actively I participated in the discussions when we had to oust General Musharraf. Pakistan Peoples Party’ s slogan loudly said “democracy is the best revenge.” And so we entered a democratic system which had to be a government of the people by the people and for the people. That was my understanding of democracy too a while ago.

So the successful transition from one democratic system to another led to Pakistan Muslim League (N) turn after five years of Pakistan Peoples Party in power. It isn’t a government by the people as there was rigging, massive rigging. It isn’t a government of the people as nepotism led to a many important seats being taken by the relatives of PML (N) and yes it is not a government for the people as many don’t get justice let aside basic human rights. There is dissatisfaction between people over rising food prices, unbearable taxation, unemployment and the list goes on. We weren’t happy then and we aren’t happy now.

Imran Khan came on the forefront telling people to adopt civil disobedience as a way to overthrow the current democratically elected government as it is not delivering what it is meant to. Sadly no government ever delivered what it promised during the election campaigns. I am not hoping for a Utopian world but till how long this political game for more going to continue?

He gave many references of Egypt wanting to make Islamabad’s Red Zone area, Tahrir square. He has been giving examples of Egypt every now and then. I just want to ask him that are you aware how the people of Egypt feel at the present moment with President Abdel Fatah al Sisi? Just a different name that didn’t change anything much.  Are you aware of their struggle and what it led to? All these institutions, these empty buildings, empty of a conscience didn’t deliver what many gathered for, hoping to see a better future. As I write a face on Mohammad Mahmoud street’s graffiti looks into my eyes, face of Jalal Meghazi. He was born in 1992 and lost his life fighting to see Hosni Mobarak’s removal. Those passionate eyes tell me that I died for nothing. The slogans, people gathering in big numbers wanting justice, i can draw similarities.

423766_10151172317528164_1515931468_n

Jalal Meghazi from Mohammad Mahmood street in Cairo, Egypt 

Photo Source: Anam Gill

The power play with its strings elsewhere can only fool the ones gathering or hoping to see better days. Sometimes I feel that the general population is just used or misused for propagating the political interests of the unseen. It was never about justice. Someone rightly said that justice is what love looks like in public. We never want to lose the people we love as they carry an important place in our hearts.

Besides the slogans we are also brainwashed to believe that you don’t get freedom easily you have to give your life for it. This has always been central for gathering crowds and I don’t out rightly reject that but gathering after leaders who want to lead me into an abyss is not what I want,  these Pied Pipers with various names and agendas. However this doesn’t mean that I don’t acknowledge the efforts of all those freedom fighters who gave their lives struggling for justice and freedom.

Years after witnessing all the struggles in the past should make us more conscientious and aware of the fact that using force should not be an option.  We say we are civilized beings so we must act like one and talk things out. Dialogue is essential but it is also important to note that in dialogue both parties should be ready to listen to each other and try to resolve the matter keeping aside the ego and personal interests.  When governments are operated by foreign elements due to their strategic importance they should not be called sovereign states. We live in a globalized world and living in isolation should not be an option either. We are living in a time when we know what is right and what is wrong especially when it deals with the matters regarding justice and peace, the words highly exploited in today’s world.

Nobody anywhere in the world likes to be kicked into darkness. People everywhere in the world want to live in peace and if the forces that play an important role in creating wars and unrest think they can get away with it, they should know that the empty slogans of justice and peace don’t fool us anymore. Enough of these theories and intellectual content, act like you are pro peace and justice and that would be enough. Noam Chomsky said “The general population doesn’t know what is happening and it doesn’t even know that it doesn’t know.” Yes when we don’t know anything we make ourselves available to people who can make use of us. So let us open our eyes and try to find the truth.

Truth is a relative term I know but we can try at least or the best we can do is to be righteous in our own capacity. Give our little contribution whenever possible propagating justice and peace in our own little circles and that might turn out to be a catalyst for change.

“No One Chooses to be a Refugee”

Written by Anam Gill on . Posted in Anam's blog: Global issues, Books & Magazine, E-Magazine, General Information, Green Economy, News, News & Updates, Publications, Take Action, Uncategorized

587266-afghanrefugeesafp-1375815158-401-640x480Afghan Refugees

Photo Source : Google

World Refugee Day is marked each year on the 20 June as forced displacements globally reaches dramatic magnitude. The UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon in a special message for the day said that the number of refugees has reached an alarming number with more than 45 million internally displaced people and refugees, making it highest in nearly 20 years.

Every year conflict tears apart the lives of thousands of families who have to leave homes forcibly by the chaos of conflict and war.  How would it feel if today I am asked to leave home along with my family? I cannot even think of a place I can go to. What are the things I would keep and what would be the things I would leave back? These few basic questions make me understand and empathize with all those millions of refugees scattered around the globe still fighting for their right to inclusion.

Established in the late 2000 by the UN General Assembly, World Refugee day aims to highlight the plight and suffering of world’s forcibly displaced. The UN body particularly working in that area is UNHCR that stands for United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees also known as UN Refugee Agency. A lot of people will already know about it considering that the Special Envoy for UNHCR is the famous Angeline Jolie. She was in Jordan for this year’s World Refugee Day to draw attention to the millions of Syrian refugees suffering because of a civil war in the country with no political resolution in sight. Antonio Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees expressed the need for the war in Syria to be stopped, asking those with political responsibilities to come together and take action. Sadly it seems that nobody is willing to take action be it Syria, Afghanistan, Palestine, Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia and the list goes on.

These forcibly uprooted communities by persecution and conflict include 16 million refugees outside their countries and the remaining 26 million others are internally displaced. The global displacement statistics mentioned here were compiled at the end of 2008 by UNHCR and since then these figures are increasing with the insatiability of power hungry people all over the globe.

A noticeable and worrisome situation is the long term displacement leaving refugees in exile for more than five years.  This leaves the communities living in limbo with no future ahead of them. What worsen this already massive displacement problem is the global economic crisis, climate change, growing xenophobia and North and South disparities.

Developing nations host some 80 percent of the world’s internally displaced people and refugees, making them in need for more international support as some countries can least afford the burden. Some major refugee hosting nations in the year 2008 according to UNHCR include Pakistan, Syria, Iran, Germany, Jordan, Chad, Tanzania and Kenya. The countries of origin for the refugees include Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Columbia and Democratic Republic of Congo.

Most of the countries included in the list are the developing nations. With various other ills plaguing the developing nations the refugee problem is not looked after properly leaving many in need for help and support. How easy it is to go to war and how difficult it is to face the aftermath. The ones who take decisions are not the ones affected by these conflicts. They have their safe abodes to go to anyway. The ones affected by the decisions of this war prone populace are asking for help as they need to be protected in the long term. It is not about providing them with the basic short term shelter facilities. It is about giving them their basic rights and looking after their needs in the long term. There is a need to look for sustainable solutions to this problem. If I am the one to make decisions, I would definitely think twice before going to war, no matter the difficulty of situation, through dialogue looking for solutions is the best answer in my mind so far. Some may disagree by saying that some parties don’t believe in dialogue and the use of arms and weapons becomes inevitable. There is always a room for bringing the two or more conflicting parties together at the dialogue table provided that everyone agrees on the fact that war leads to destruction and is not a solution. The undercover political agendas should also be kept in mind here when dealing with such crucial issues.

In a report by UNHCR released in Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, it was disclosed that by the end of 2013 Pakistan continued to host the largest number of refugees in the world. Pakistan has hosted the world’s largest refugee population for nearly three decades mostly from Afghanistan with the help of international community. This developing nation facing power crisis, where a lot of money is allocated on the defense budget does need to focus on other issues like health, housing and education of not only the citizens but also the refugee population. If we see the various reports presenting innumerable data it clearly shows that many in Pakistan roughly 46 percent of the rural population is living below the poverty line. This is a striking figure and does make one question whether Pakistan is capable of hosting millions of refugees or not?

The reasons for conflicts that force people to leave their homes might be many but the end is nearly the same for every refugee. The refugee issue should not just be confined to a single day where rallies and events are being held around the world talking about and promoting the rights of refugees. It should be about working on minimizing the reasons for going to war and forcing people into exile. The report by UNHCR for the year 2013 clearly states that number of refugees, internally displaced people (IDPs) and asylum seekers worldwide in the post World War II era has exceeded 50 million people.

Besides looking after the refugees from Afghanistan, Pakistan is grappling with the issue of internally displaces people (IDPs) from the tribal areas where military operations are being carried out to wipe out the terrorists. Last week a military operation known as Zarb-e-Azb was launched after a dramatic attack on Karachi’s airport and failed dialogue attempts to negotiate a peace deal with the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a militant organization.

internally-displaced-peoples-idp-pakistan-war-imperialism-terrorism-taliban-us1IDPs from tribal areas in Pakistan

Photo Source: Pulsemedia.org

How militant organizations including TTP were born in Pakistan is not a secret anymore and hence I won’t go into that. What I know for a fact is that this has caused unrest in the country and has defamed the country to a great extend. My only question is, if this is Pakistan’s war then why somebody else is paying the bills?

I remember being asked a lot of questions, coming from Pakistan, after Malala was hit by a bullet. People asked me how the situation was like in my country for girls/women. It was indeed a tragic incident in the history and there are many Malalas out there still crying for help, not known to the world. Well it is the same country that had the woman Prime Minister. The country has also produced many successful women pilots, scientists, politicians, educationists, thinkers, musicians, writers and so on. It is the politics coupled with egotism that incite all the problems leaving us with nothing but despair, tragedy and a loss of hope.

The militants whoever they are led to a lot of people being displaced in the country. When this military operation was launched just a week ago I read many articles talking about eradicating the evil and people showing support to the military. To me it was a show where the killers and the ones being killed were living beings. I somehow think that it was not the solution as killing some will result in giving birth to more who spread hate and animosity. It is an endless cycle. That thought was excruciating. Sometimes I feel the need of a superhero/heroine to fix the world of all the wrong doings. Maybe that superhero/heroine is in each one of us, asleep. Buddha was right when he said that we don’t need more successful people in this world rather we need healers, peace builders and lovers of all kinds.

During this extended insurgency in the tribal areas thousands of innocent people have been killed in bombings and gun attacks. I read that during the military operation started a week ago the Cobra gunship helicopters pounded three militant hideouts, killing 12 suspected terrorist and the number of civilians fleeing that area passed 200,000. For these few mad people many suffered.

The current fighting in the North Waziristan triggered a huge exodus of civilians into nearby cities like Peshawar, Kohat and Bannu and also across the border into Afghanistan. The Disaster Management Authority of Federally Administered Tribal Areas also reported that around 157,000 people arrived in Bannu from North Waziristan, where the military operation is being held. Thousands of women and children were also seen travelling by foot.

I don’t know yet where the number would go by the end of the military operation in the tribal areas. I also don’t know the plight of all those children who opened their eyes to war. Pakistan is just one country and many places around the world face similar circumstances albeit the different reasons of conflict. I understand that the international organizations must be doing their best to provide assistance to the refugees and IDPs spread across the globe. It is not just about dispatching relief items and providing short term shelter. When we try to look at it through the lens of sustainable solutions the refugee issue is more complicated than it looks on the surface. I call out to all the important people including the decision makers to look for political resolutions to stop this. Undoubtedly prevention is better than cure.

The international community that felt obligated to spend hundreds of billions to aid the crippling financial system should also feel the same need to rescue the most vulnerable people on earth, the refugees and IDPs. The amount spent on financial bailouts is way more and only a fraction of that is needed besides finding solutions for these millions forced to flee their homes. It might be difficult but it is not impossible. The suffering of the world’s uprooted people and their exile can be brought to an end with the necessary political will from the international community besides humanitarian support.

Syrian children try to stay warm near an open fire in front of tPhoto Source: Valentina Petrova/AP