Articles on this Page
- 09/21/19--02:19: _What is Article 149...
- 10/08/19--01:50: _The infamous ‘char ...
- 10/14/19--06:17: _Is a Karachi uplift...
- 10/25/19--07:13: _Will we fight a wat...
- 10/31/19--06:58: _Should Karachi fear...
- 11/11/19--23:13: _Is Pakistan’s smog ...
- 12/05/19--04:05: _The Dua Mangi case:...
- 12/23/19--04:53: _In conversation wit...
- 01/14/20--05:05: _MQM-P continues to ...
- 01/23/20--04:46: _How Pakistan’s fash...
- 09/21/19--02:19: What is Article 149 really about: Karachi’s woes or PTI vs PPP?
- 10/14/19--06:17: Is a Karachi uplift package the solution to the city’s woes?
- 10/25/19--07:13: Will we fight a water war inside Pakistan?
- 10/31/19--06:58: Should Karachi fear the sea?
- 11/11/19--23:13: Is Pakistan’s smog epidemic about to get worse?
- 12/05/19--04:05: The Dua Mangi case: A glimpse into our society’s rotten morals
- 01/14/20--05:05: MQM-P continues to play a dangerous game of political charades
- 01/23/20--04:46: How Pakistan’s fashion industry is polluting the environment
Karachi deserves better than being embroiled in a perpetual tug of war between the federal and provincial governments. Karachi’s people put up with rampant crime, non-existent waste management, inept policing, poor infrastructure and chaos when it rains on a daily basis. Hoping for change but slowly losing optimism. However, Federal Minister for Law Farogh Naseem thinks he has found the solution to these problems in the Constitution’s Article 149 (4). But the federal minister is wrong. Article 149 (4) gives the federal government the authority to give directions to the provincial government under certain conditions. The important point here being that the federal government can only give ‘directions’. Directions which are not binding on the provincial government of Sindh under the Constitution. If Naseem believes he can take charge of Sindh through this provision, he is mistaken. Directions under Article 149 (4) can only be given under certain circumstances spelled out in the text of the Constitution. The first condition is that directions pertaining to the economy must have a link with the economy of Pakistan as a whole, not limited to just the province. Second, directions can be given to prevent any ‘grave menace’ to the peace or tranquility of Pakistan. Again, as a nation. None of the reasons given by the federal government seem to be sufficient to trigger either of these two conditions. All the problems that the federal government has highlighted seem isolated to Karachi and do not seem to have national implications. This by itself should dismiss jubilations from the federal government that through Article 149 (4) they can wrestle control away from the provincial Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). But let’s assume that Article 149 (4) can be implemented. Does this mean that the federal government can take over the provincial administration? Clearly not. The purpose of Article 149 (4) is the following: after the 18th amendment, powers over certain issues were given to the federal government under the Constitution. Any power that was not given to the federal government (as listed in the fourth schedule to the Constitution) belonged to the provinces (except under certain limited scenarios under the Constitution which require provincial consent). The aim of Article 149 (4) was to allow the federal government to give directions to provinces on the best way to implement federal law. It gave no authority to the federal government to dictate provincial government on matters that were within provincial authority. This view is borne out by precedent developed by Pakistan’s courts. The Lahore High Court, in Avari Hotels versus Department of Excise and Taxation, 2009 PTD 1868 Lah, held that Article 149 (4) was for the harmonious enforcement of federal law throughout Pakistan. It did not give the federal government authority to regulate provincial law and administration. In doing so, the Lahore High Court was following precedent established by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in cases such as Iftikhar Hussain Shah versus Pakistan, 1991 SCMR 2193. It is then legally incorrect to say that Karachi’s administrative control can be transferred into the hands of the federation via Article 149 (4). The maximum the federal government can do is give directions to the Sindh government. It is then up to the latter if it wants to follow those directions or not. This is good segue into explaining what this whole issue is really about: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) inability to work with the opposition. We have seen it in Parliament where, because of PTI’s belligerent attitude towards members of the opposition, it cannot get any legislative work done. Simply put, the PTI does not want to work with the PPP. Forcing it to look for ways to circumvent them. While it is true that the PPP has a poor track record when it comes to developing Sindh in general, the use of Article 149 (4) will solve none of Karachi’s problems. It will, however, undermine two very important things: the concept of federalism that was painstakingly hammered out by the 18th amendment. A concept that the PTI continues to show animosity towards by trying to increase the powers of the federal government. It will also undermine the votes of the people of Sindh. Love the PPP or hate them, they have democratic legitimacy in Sindh. The people voted for them, and if the PTI respects democracy, then it must respect their mandate. Trying to find workarounds to the people’s vote does the PTI no favours. Had Article 149 (4) given the federal government the power to take over administrative control of Sindh, I would have still urged caution. I have written before of the problems of playing ‘constitutional hardball’ i.e. using legitimate powers to attain undemocratic aims. Such actions spell the death of democracy. A proper functioning democracy requires adherence to unwritten norms just as much as written ones. One such norm is the norm of ‘forbearance,’ as I have previously explained, this means, simply, that while some person or body may have the power to do something, they are reluctant to exercise it because excessive use would damage the democratic system. In short, it means self-restraint for the greater good. As Harvard law professors – and authors of How Democracies Die – Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt state, the reason American democracy has worked for so long is because of the restraint shown by its institutions. I realise that this may frustrate many people, especially the people of Karachi. While they live with the city’s myriad problems, these sermons on democracy may seem like empty platitudes. But I see no method apart from slow, incremental change through the democratic process that can fix Karachi’s problems. The federal government, with its hands full with the national economic crisis, is surely not the best institution to fix Karachi. People want radical, transformative change without realising that it is a myth. Control by the federal government cannot transform Karachi. Only by studying and appreciating the underlying issues that cause Karachi’s problems can solutions reveal themselves. That is a slow process, and is dependent upon democracy at the grassroots level. It involves strengthening local government systems in the province. And it involves people making the solutions to Karachi’s issues a necessary point for electability. If Imran Khan and Naseem want to fix Karachi, here is what they must do: they must see the Sindh government as legitimate. That is the first step. This politics of polarisation over Karachi’s carcass moves nothing forward. Only then can the federal government and the provincial government sit together and save Karachi. Imran needs to exercise diplomacy with the Sindh government. He must make change happen from within the existing structure. One year on from the PTI’s electoral win, it is time for the PTI to realise that its political polarisation project is making the country suffer. We must work together because the people of Karachi deserve better. It bears remembering that many of Karachi’s problems exist because of the lack of provincial autonomy over decades. The federal government was so busy building Punjab that they forgot about the other parts of Pakistan.
Women and their clothes made for viral news recently when the Haripur District Education Officer (DEO) issued a notification which stated that all schoolgirls must wear burqas since it will ‘protect’ them against harassment and rape. The move left Pakistanis divided, with some vehemently calling out the government, while others blatantly supporting it. Those for the decision, argued that a covered up woman will inculcate ‘decency’ and, for the lack of a better word, ‘tame’ the raging hormones that supposedly, largely remain out of men’s control. An extension of this argument says confining women within the four walls of a house will also protect them from predatory males. Although the notification issued in Haripur was later revoked, the mindset which led to its implementation continues to persist. In Mardan, burqas were distributed amongst schoolgirls while students in elementary schools were advised to observe the purdah. Those against the notification turned up in hordes on Twitter, calling out the government for what many deemed to be hypocritical behaviour. Such incidents only highlight the age-old victim blaming mentality and perpetuate the notion that women’s clothes are what provoke men into raping or harassing them. While the dust was still settling around the notification in Haripur, a horrific incident came to light, where six men entered a woman’s house in Karachi and gang-raped her within the confines of her own four walls, a place deemed safe for her by even the most conservative of corners. The men not only violated her but also filmed the ordeal on their mobile phones and threatened her with dire consequences if she she spoke up against the attack. Luckily, their tactics intended to shame her into silence did not work and the first information report she registered against the men led to all six of them being arrested, out of which two were identified as police officers. This horrific abuse of human rights, and gender based violence makes two things very clear. Firstly, the very men hired to protect us are part of the problem and, secondly, even the confines of a woman’s house cannot save her from rape. This leads me to ask, will engulfing a female in many metres of cloth really safeguard her against the world, and what is one supposed to do when that very world comes crashing through her door? Then where is it that a woman is safe and how long will we deny that so-called ‘decent clothes’ and confinement within the famous ‘char dewari’ (four walls) cannot protect women from a man capable of tearing through both? A hijab or burqa may cover a woman, but it does not automatically manifest basic decency in the onlooker’s eyes. Any woman who wears either of them will tell you that it does not magically provide protection from being leered at, being brushed against, or being harassed. [caption id="attachment_88899" align="alignnone" width="600"] Photo: Twitter/Sonam Mahajan[/caption] Perhaps it is then wise to look towards the men perpetuating the problem. It is perhaps time to acknowledge that sexual frustration or someone’s clothes are not excuses which can be used to justify sexually abusive or violent behaviour. These excuses merely hide a problem which our patriarchal society just does not want to acknowledge; our men and the way they are raised. Men are usually raised devoid of soft emotions, with lines like ‘achey bachey rotey nahi hai’ (good boys don’t cry) and the classic ‘boys will be boys’ normalising aggressive and often uncalled for behaviour. Sexual aggression does not always stem from unbridled desire but is sometimes also a twisted expression of toxic patriarchy and male insecurity. When the argument becomes that men rape out of a biological compulsion, it not only trivialises the problem but also absolves men of all the responsibility, leaving room for just the victim to be blamed. It is about time that society stops portraying rape as a knee jerk reaction hardwired into the brain. The Karachi gang-rape tragedy also forces one to take a good hard look at another victim blaming argument that is often brought up after such cases, ‘Why are sexual crimes not reported immediately after the incident, if at all?’ Like I said earlier, if the very police force hired to protect citizens is committing unspeakable crimes and also threatening victims with blackmail, who is to say that justice will be properly served? Even if the police are not directly involved, reporting sexual crimes is harrowing because harassment by members of law enforcement agencies is extremely common in Pakistan. Many cases go unreported due to the social stigma attached and the power of the agencies involved. Ironically, all measures taken to prevent rape, or to safeguard the rights of women are focused on restricting their movement and penalising their freedom; be it in the form of handing out burqas or restricting them to corners of buses or confining women to their homes. None of the measures apply to the men. There is no talk of reforming them or teaching them to be better. And how can there be when society faults the cotton on one’s back instead of the brain between one’s ears. For too long we have put the responsibility for sexual harassment and rape on women and the choices they make. As a society, we have to address the real source of these vices, which is the way these men are raised and the patriarchal misogynistic values which are imparted to them. Policing women and their choice of clothes while absolving men of all responsibility are not long-term sustainable solutions, and there is a dire need for things to change.
It is no secret that the urban centres of Sindh have been ignored for quite some time now. The city of Karachi voted for Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in the last general elections hoping that Imran Khan would change the fate of this neglected city, yet no concrete policy measures have been put in place in order to help solve the myriad of problems that this city is facing. The 18th amendment has further complicated matters and left the city to a government that is essentially ruling an urban centre with a rural mandate. Therefore, in light of the city’s deteriorating condition, it isn’t hard to see why some quarters have been calling for the invocation of Article 149 in the metropolitan. The proposed Karachi uplift package seems like another attempt at trying to get the federal government to help remedy Sindh’s problems. At the behest of Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P), PTI has assured the party that the federal government will release funds for the city, and other urban areas of Sindh, if the provincial government refuses to do so. This proposal only reinforces the ongoing tussle between the provincial and and federal government about who should be held responsible for the deteriorating state of affairs in Karachi. Under the previously announced Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP), Karachi is expected to receive Rs16 billion for the facilitation of 44 development projects in the city. But will simply funneling money into the urban centres of Sindh solve the inherent problems that are festering in these cities? Brief spurts of monetary relief will be largely inconsequential if there is no uniform development policy put in place by the Sindh government. Throwing cash at Sindh in the hope that the province will reform itself represents a short-sighted approach towards a larger issue and such reactionary measures are representative of an inability to formulate long-term policy goals. Due to such inefficient policies, the masses are not only burdened by the problems which result from poor infrastructure, they are also expected to donate for relief measures which should be the responsibility of the state. Take for instance the ‘Lets Clean Karachi Fund,’ which appealed to citizens to contribute monetarily so that a cleanliness drive could be carried out in the city. Why should the taxpayer be burdened with this? It is the duty of the provincial and municipal authorities to put into practice solutions to the wide array of problems which have been harvesting in Sindh. A failure on this account thus leads to the likes of MQM-P having to ask the federal government for a Karachi uplift package. While the proposed uplift package will supposedly address the most pressing issues plaguing Karachi, the reason it is needed at all is because there has been no serious effort by the government of Sindh to improve urban infrastructure in the province. The recent rains exposed the performance of the sitting provincial government when the entire city was submerged in water, the sewage system collapsed, people died due to electrocution, and piles of garbage accumulated across the city. Due to the absence of an urban management system, inefficiency of the civic agencies, and corruption within the concerned departments, civic issues are continuously piling up while the city government and provincial government are engaged in a relentless blame game – all while the citizens suffer. Petty politics and personal grudges have meant that Karachi’s problems continue to fester, as evidenced by the spat between Mustafa Kamal and Wasim Akhtar. A comprehensive package is therefore badly needed for this city. The current governance vacuum in the region can be only filled if the federal government comes to the rescue with some federally funded projects. Besides the Karachi package, the federal government must involve foreign parties to help with issues such as the revival of the Karachi Circular Railway, solid waste management, the Karachi Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) network, and a complete overhaul of the city’s sewage and water supply infrastructure. Karachi is home to people from across the country, and each day more and more people migrate to the city in the hope of improving their economic prospects. The crumbling infrastructure of this city is increasingly ill-equipped to handle this uncontrollable influx of people. The burden on these facilities is already immense, due to which katchi abadis (illegal settlements) have sprung up across the city. These issues need to be tackled by formulating a comprehensive strategy before any future initiative is put into action.
Earlier in the month, the news of Narendra Modi threatening to cut off the flow of water from India into Pakistan made headlines across country. But as justified as this outcry was, it does beg the question as to why we seldom raise a voice against the manner in which water is stolen and wasted in Pakistan. The cries for more dams and reservoirs have thus far failed to result in tangible projects, while elsewhere in the country corruption watchdogs have uncovered that certain influential landlords play a big part in the theft of water. There have been many media trials in the past, leading to convictions, but non of this has led to a major political or judicial breakthrough on this important matter. One primary cause for concern is the tanker mafia which in many cities controls and dictates the flow of water. No criminals can thrive in a system without the support of those in power and the backing of their financial empires. Supplying impure and substandard water for the people of Pakistan will only further worsen the situation for the country’s already beleaguered masses. Additionally, the Indus Delta has also been on the verge of death for the last few years. According to the 1991 Water Accord, it was decided that downstream water supply to regions in Sindh would be mandatory until a survey was conducted to determine the exact amount of supply required for the benefit of the people of the province. Let us break this down. A minimum of 10 million acre feet (MAF) of water is the required quantity, and the failure to reach this mark has led to a major shortage of water within the Indus Delta basin. For Karachi, the crisis is much more serious since the theft of water is a thriving business and politicians are yet to openly identify this growing problem and have yet to use legislation to crack down on it. Almost 35% of the water supply is stolen through different forms of organised crime such as the use of illegal hydrants, home suction devices or the mafia controlling the supply in highly populated areas, where water is sold for a higher price. In some areas of Karachi, like Orangi, people walk all the way to main water tanks and fill their cans manually to ensure that households get a daily supply of water. Many of the pipelines that have been laid out are of substandard quality, thus leading to leakages and wastage of a lot of water along the transmission route. People still pay their water bills on time and the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB) has yet to make sincere efforts to ensure that their internal problems are attended to. Sewage has started to penetrate water lines, contaminating the water supply and resulting in hazardous chemicals and diseases permeating the water. Furthermore, we must also keep in mind that bottled water is only affordable for a certain class, and ground water is brackish and not fit for consumption. People living in apartments are paying approximately Rs3,000 per month for water supply maintenance, while still using bottled water for drinking, where the average cost of drinking water on a monthly basis is around Rs4,000 a month for an average family of four to five people. So the combined cost of water per household today would be around 7,000 for starters. Yet, the government has not announced any strategy on equitable water distribution for the nation nor have they announced the names of the biggest water thieves depriving the nation of the basic commodity which should actually be free for consumption in a true welfare state – after all what is point of us paying our taxes if we are not even getting basic amenities like water? We must also agree that the commitment made under the Water Accord of 1991 was subject to the construction of more dams. However, would one province agree to a drastic reduction in its own share in order to increase the share of water to another province? Is there a water policy officially in place? Will we fight a water war inside Pakistan? A policy must now be implemented to revisit the clauses of the agreement. Water is a booming business, a commercial enterprise that is reeking of profits right now. Civic sense must prevail and the people of Pakistan must be given a clear right to safe and clean drinking water. Progress reports on dams currently under construction or already functioning must also become public information. The people are suffering as a result of the economic downturn and we as a country are still not out of the woods yet. Sooner or later, the issue of dams will surface and we do not want a water emergency, especially in a country with a primarily agrarian economy, to remain unresolved and unattended.
On November 28th 1945, a deadly earthquake occurred 100 miles South of Karachi in the Northern Arabian Sea, triggering a Tsunami which resulted in the loss of over 4000 lives. Since then, no tsunami has occurred off the coast of Karachi, but the location of the city does make it susceptible to a host of climatic disasters, because Karachi could very well be in the path of a storm in the near future. Over the past few days a series of cyclones in the Arabian Sea have been presenting a clear and present danger. A cyclone named ‘Kyaar’ damaged several coastal villages earlier in the week, while another cyclone named ‘Maha’ is reportedly gathering some worrisome momentum. The local government issued warnings and coastal travel was restricted since there were chances of heavy rains and rising sea levels with deep sea waves that could rise up to 10-15 feet above sea level. Moreover,the provincial disaster management authority (PDMA) was also put on alert while law enforcement agencies were also on stand-by. An escalation on this front could create a very serious situation on our coastline, one which we are clearly unprepared for. Regardless of whether or not cyclone ‘Maha’ results in any damage, it is evident that our current inability to deal with such a potential threat has opened the door for several questions as to why our agencies are so woefully ill-equipped to handle such potential calamities. From 1900 to 1990, global sea levels rose between 1.2 millimeters and 1.7 millimeters per year on average. By 2000, that rate had increased to about 3.2 millimeters per year and the rate in 2016 is estimated at 3.4 millimeters per year. This has happened due to the changing tidal flows in coastal regions, and one of the leading factors that results in rising sea temperatures is thermal expansion. The past century is witness to many changes in ocean patterns as oceans continue to absorb over 80-90% of the increased atmospheric heat, resulting from increased fossil fuel emissions globally. Climate change is the single biggest reality that is impacting the earth across all continents. Rapidly rising sea levels can cause death and devastation, leading to land slides, flash floods, soil erosion, water contamination, agricultural loss and major human displacement, requiring a massive relocation effort which would simply not be possible in a city like Karachi. What is happening today is that enormous amounts of waste material and other hazardous substances are being dumped into the ocean. This releases large amounts of atmospheric gases leading to a rise in the earth’s temperature, thus resulting in higher ocean temperatures. So, is Karachi at risk? Eight out of the world largest cities are coastal cities, and Karachi is one of them. Because of rising ocean temperatures, birds and animals have started to now migrate to higher altitudes due to better optimum temperatures elsewhere. Lots of plants previously found along our coastal areas have now become extinct. The Increasing acidification of our seas and rising temperatures are only making the situation more dangerous. Furthermore, the issue of overpopulation is also another damaging factor in a city like Karachi. This has further compounded the city’s waste disposal problem, thus meaning that we continue to dump garbage in the sea. As per the findings of the National Institute of Oceanography Pakistan, Karachi could be at risk of becoming submerged under water during the next 40 years. If our oceans are rising by an average of six millimeters annually, it could mean a bigger threat to our country than earlier anticipated. Moreover, in and around Karachi, over 3.5 million acres of agricultural land has been eroded since 1956, which has in turn further exacerbated an already complex issue. This indicates a clear and present danger for a population of over 21 million people. Karachi is going through a major sea-change and we can no longer afford to ignore this reality. We must engage with the environmental experts and come up with immediate solutions. Any natural disaster like an earthquake in the Arabian Sea could trigger a tsunami, just like it did back in 1945. The only escape from this increasing eventuality is timely action and precaution. Protecting the coastal environment and formulating a comprehensive cyclone and tsunami plan has to be a priority for the provincial government. We have seen too many issues continue to be ignored in Pakistan due to ignorance and neglect.
Environmentalists in Islamabad were aghast this week when precious old trees in the capital were cut in order to make a bridge to connect sector G-7 to G-8 over the Express Highway, a signal free corridor. Despite their pleas that an alternative loop existed nearby which could be used, the Capital Development Authority went ahead to facilitate traffic flows. Islamabad’s activists are ringing alarm bells because this is exactly what happened in Lahore, with all its fancy signal free corridors, over passes and under passes which steadily ate away the old trees and green belts of the city. The Advisor to the Prime Minister on Climate Change, Malik Amin Aslam, says 70% of Lahore’s green cover has been shaved off in the past decade. Once known as the ‘City of Gardens,’ Lahore’s tree cover went down to make room for new roads and vehicles owned by a rapidly growing population. It has resulted in Lahore becoming horribly polluted in the winter months when, due to temperature inversion, a layer of cooler air is prevented from rising by the warmer air above it and it traps all the pollutants below it. The problem has worsened each year and Lahore’s ‘smog’ season is now awaited with dread. A thick haze descends on Punjab’s capital from October to early January, causing headaches, sore throats and red eyes. According to former Environment Protection Agency-Pakistan head, Asif Shuja Khan, “In the last 15 years, Punjab’s vehicles have increased by 268% (motorcycles by 439% and private vehicles by 327%). And we have not even catered to what effect the China Pakistan Economic Corridor will have once trade starts.” He would like the Pakistan Clean Air Programme (from 2005) to be revived. Before the 18th Amendment to the Constitution was introduced, this programme succeeded in removing lead in gasoline and brought Pakistan’s vehicles to Euro II standards of petrol quality (India is now on Euro IV). Khan stated, “After devolution no one took responsibility for this programme. We didn’t move up from Euro II and we couldn’t even stop 2 stroke vehicles (polluting rickshaws).” Concentrations of particulate matter (PM) in Pakistan’s urban areas are now much higher than those experienced in other regional countries such as Bhutan and Sri Lanka. PM 2.5 readings from the air monitors refers to particulate matter that have a diametre of less than 2.5 micrometres, which is 30 times smaller than a human hair and they settle deep into the lungs and causes many diseases. Those who can afford it have now installed air purifiers in their homes in Lahore and wear tight fitting N95 masks when venturing outside. It has become so bad that I avoid visiting the city in the winter months. Not that Islamabad, where I reside, is all that clear – or Karachi, which is only saved by its sea breeze that usually takes the pollutants out to sea. In Islamabad, which has about as many clean air days as Karachi, we can’t even stop garbage burning – the Capital Development Authority’s (CDA) garbage collectors persist in burning garbage in every sector to get rid of it. Air pollution is in fact a year round problem in this region. In the summers, the air pollution ends up dispersing and during the monsoon season it is washed away by the rains. The first Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) Assessment Report released by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) notes that “thick aerosol haze covers the heavily populated Indo-Gangetic Plains during the dry season, reducing visibility and obscuring sunlight. The haze often penetrates deep into Himalayan valleys, reaching the high mountains.” From its northern mountains all the way down to Karachi, clearly smog is a serious issue for Pakistan. Lahore is the worst off, everyone agrees, with smog increasing in intensity and frequency. Right now in November the United States Air Quality Index readings (shown by privately owned air monitors in Lahore) are typically over AQI 200, which means it is “very unhealthy” according to their classification. But according to the classification used by the Punjab government this means it’s “moderately polluted.” Imran Khalid of the Sustainable Development Policy Institute says the Pakistani classification is much more lenient than the American one and it’s like saying “we know that anything above 98.6F is a fever when taking a person’s temperature, but since you are from a developing country it’s okay! But who are we fooling, this index must be adjusted.” Amin Aslam, on the other hand, says this classification (similar to the one used in India) was devised by the Smog Commission formed under the Lahore High Court in 2017, so it is a legally approved one and it is up to the court to change it. [caption id="attachment_90687" align="alignnone" width="600"] Photo: Air Now[/caption] Last week, three teenagers filed a suit with the Lahore High Court asking for the classification of the Air Quality Index used by Punjab’s Environment Protection Agency to be reviewed. It’s their argument that the classification under-reports the severity of the air pollution. They want to challenge the Smog Policy approved in October 2017 as it sets these classifications. Right now accurate data is also a problem in Lahore as the Punjab government only has three high quality air monitoring devices functioning in Lahore. Aslam has stated that under World Bank funding, 30 more monitoring stations will be set up in Punjab, with 10 in Lahore in the next six months. He says that the World Bank’s Punjab Green Development Programme will enhance EPA’s capacity and introduce vehicle inspection systems in Punjab. This will be sourced out to the private sector. The programme will also provide funds to shift away from polluting technologies used in steel furnaces and brick kilns and provide subsidies to farmers to move away from crop burning. Aslam is also planning to plant urban forests in Lahore from February next year and wants to set “clear timelines/targets” to tackle the smog. We also need a country-wide source apportionment study to identify the pollutants across Pakistan. Right now the only credible report we have is the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation’s study on the underlying causes of smog in Punjab, which used GIS techniques. It notes that the major portion of total air pollutant emissions are indeed coming from the transport sector; a 43% share. The industrial sector is responsible for 25% of the total air pollutant emissions, while agriculture (rice residue burning) accounts for 20%. Aslam agrees, pointing out that the cabinet has agreed to an ambitious electric vehicle policy, which envisions the manufacturing of e-vehicles in Pakistan with China’s collaboration, “Two wheelers and three wheelers can now shift to e-vehicles and investors are excited.” However, Aslam believes we cannot discount trans-boundary pollution coming from India from massive crop stubble burning in their Punjab, “On November 6th for example, the easterly wind changed direction and suddenly the air pollution from across the border came into Lahore and the air quality index went sky high. Yes, we have our own issues but add on the cross border issue and you make it much worse. We hope to take it up at the right forums when they become available.” After all smog is not just a Lahore issue; satellite images show that it stretches from here to the Bay of Bengal, which is why it imperative that the entire region takes immediate action.
Are my clothes speaking to you? Listen closely: Do they tell you where I’m from? What I like? What I desire? Do they say, yes? Does my tanned skin scream to be touched? Does the curve of my neck seem ever so welcoming? I’ve grown up surrounded by this very narrative. The Pakistani vernacular is etched with log kya kehengay - embedded with the notion that my body, if hidden, says no and if exposed, draws the male gaze towards me. But the problem with the male gaze is simply that it does not stop. Not for a fully clothed body, not for an exposed shoulder, not for anything. I’m told that the general populous of men is not used to seeing a woman in a public setting and so I should adhere to their standards and cover myself when in their presence. I’m always being told to stretch my values for those around me. I should be flexible, I should change, I should shrink myself into a cookie cutter image of what people near me need because that’ll somehow make everything better. The brutal truth is that the more we push ourselves over the edge to contain our womanhood, the more it’s being taken away from us. And I’m done. I’ve been done for some time now. Reading the comments surrounding Dua Mangi’s kidnapping have left me disgusted, disappointed, enraged and all around ANGRY. I’m angry at our people. I’m angry at the narrative. I’m angry that this story has been told so many times before. She was dressed a certain way… She was out alone with a boy... She was an unmarried girl out with a boy at night… https://twitter.com/Andyrockz2012/status/1201347190871842816 But the only part of this that truly matters is this - that she is a young girl that has been taken against her will and she desperately needs our help. From the information available so far, it’s being said that Mangi’s kidnapping is linked to her former fiance. Protests and sit ins have been arranged and yet I sometimes question if the mindset here will ever really change. And yet, social media trolls, have taken to the media to slut shame her, acting as defenders of the 'holy word'. So many people tell me that it isn’t that bad being a woman here—that we have it “good”. But what the hell suffices as good? Watching over my shoulder as I walk towards my car at night? Feeling like I’m naked at the market as the men around me assess my body as if I were a piece of meat and not a woman at all? Being forced to hide my pads as I pay for them at a grocery store? Being told to act, sit, look, dress, speak a certain way? Being accosted about my marriage at every wedding—because somehow my only job in life is to procreate? How is any of this good? And how is any of this supposed to help me ever become independent? Even as I write this piece, and try to raise my voice in a place that sees it as unfit, I question how many people will try to push me down. Tell me that they’re afraid for me because I use my pen as a tool to provoke? I don’t need their fear. I have enough of my own. https://twitter.com/areeshababar24/status/1201376283080450048?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1201376283080450048&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Ftribune.com.pk%2Fstory%2F2110990%2F1-dua-mangis-abduction-releases-social-media-vitriol%2F Those blaming Mangi should know that her only fault was being born into a place like this one. Where men hide behind long beards and topis (caps), claiming that theirs is the holy word of God—where the matriarchy somehow extends the same narrative—eerily afraid to protect its own. Every day, the media is flooded with stories of women being taken, used and abused, assaulted, raped - three-year-olds, hospital patients, fully clothed and fully able - women are constantly under attack. People almost seem numb to the amount of kidnappings that take place, but none of this is normal. At its core, there needs to be a rising change, people need to be urged to take on the structures that are failing at their jobs - the safety of our women is at risk, constantly and that isn’t going to change if our structures aren’t willing to go the extra mile. Yes, there are laws in place for the protection of women, but how often is it that the law actually protects someone? How often is it that the law can actually prove an assault? The relationship between legality and morality needs to be carefully combed through so that no one slips through the cracks. Some days I forget how hard it is. I acknowledge my bubble and I know that it's mostly a safe space but the majority of girls and women in Pakistan don’t have that privilege. The key word here being choice. We need to delve deeper into the root of the problem—our social structures are constantly harming women that are just trying to exist—and for what? My heart goes out to Dua Mangi. Little headway has been made so far, and somehow, it always comes down to victim blaming. This girl has been taken, and the narrative around her has been fuelled by animosity. In cases like these, the blame should be placed on the root of our morals. We, as a populous, turn up inherently flawed. These voices inherently reveal the mindset of our country today, and it is terrifying. How many times can society put down its women? How many times can they shut down our voices? It's time these people rethink their values because we won’t stand down, we will continue to fight, and one day, we will win.
Interrupting the festivities of his son’s wedding, I caught up with the remarkably candid Minister Asad Umar for an interview at his residence in Karachi this weekend. We talked about everything from his substantive reform goals as the Federal Minister for Planning and Development to who’s more likely to become a prime minister first, Bilawal Bhutto or Maryam Nawaz.
“The last time you interviewed me, I was fired after four days,” Umar quipped, as we began the interview. “If it happens this time, it’ll fall on December 25th, which will be really sad.”Since wedding festivities were in full swing around us, I couldn’t resist asking him what requires more compromises, staying in a happy marriage or staying in power as a government. He said,
“If you’ve married the person for who he or she is and what they stand for you’ll be with them through the highs and lows. You will also know when to compromise and when to stand your ground. The same is true for being in the government. If you have clarity on what you want to stand for and achieve, then you know where you want to compromise and when you should say other options are better.”The day before the interview, I spent the morning on Tariq Road and the evening on Twitter, asking people what they would like to ask Umar. Despite his constituency being in Islamabad and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) having a stronghold in Sindh, questions about the governance in Karachi repeatedly came up for him.
“There’s no other city in the country which Imran Khan talks to me more about than Karachi. He feels the weight on his shoulders to do something (meaningful) for Karachi,” Umar said.Beyond austerity and stabilisation, everyone now wants to know what the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government has in store in order to transform and reform the country.
“Now we are starting to reach some sort of stabilisation,” shared Umar. “There is still a long way to go but soon you’ll start to see the implementation of the measures outlined (in PTI’s agenda).”
The Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) has played a very indecisive role in the country’s political scenario during the recent years. Their endless charade of intermittently joining and leaving their coalition partners continues to this day. Recently, MQM-P Convener Khalid Maqbool Siddiqi resigned from his cabinet position, stating that the ruling party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) had failed to fulfil its promises. While Siddiqi cited PTI’s lack of interest in the development of Karachi as the primary reason for his resignation, he did not ask his party colleague and incumbent law minister, Barrister Farogh Naseem to resign with him. In fact, Siddiqi, in a presser, said that he never wanted Naseem to quit because he believed that the government required a competent law minister. While it is true that the PTI government is not entirely dependent on MQM-P votes in the National Assembly to safeguard itself against a possible no-confidence motion, it does need MQM-P’s support to keep its majority intact in the Senate. That is why Asad Umar was sent by PTI to address Siddiqi’s grievances, but despite the former’s best attempts, the latter refused to withdraw his resignation. However, the former IT minister promised that MQM-P would continue to support PTI in the parliament with a view to strengthen democracy. Siddiqi’s resignation comes at a time when it appears that the winds of change have gently started wafting through the corridors of power, with PTI’s other coalition partners also expressing disdain at the ruling party’s policies. It is also unsurprising that the MQM-P’s move to leave the cabinet comes immediately after Chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari offered ministries in Sindh’s provincial government to them. Regardless, it is ironic that MQM-P did not participate in the Karachi Bahali Committee meeting even though it portrays itself as the champion of the rights of the people of Karachi and left the cabinet on the pretext of a dearth in the city’s development. This signifies that the urban Sindh-based party has no actual interest in the city’s development and is merely playing a political game. It is plain for all to see that the mayor of Karachi, who belongs to MQM-P, has failed miserably to address the issues of the city. The city’s drainage system is practically non existent and was thoroughly exposed by the torrential rains that took place in the monsoon season last year. Water scarcity, sanitation, crime and cleanliness are potent problems that Karachiities face, in fact it is that MQM-P’s performance in Karachi has been trashy at best. It seems that the mayor's primary job is to constantly to ask for more development funds and then lament at the sad state of affairs. The question then remains; why has MQM-P failed to address the issues faced by the world’s 6th largest city even though it has been in power, in one capacity or another, for the better part of the last four decades? It is important to remember that the party rose to popularity in the 1980s due to its style of people-friendly policies, public outreach programmes and its ability to deliver to the common masses. However, slowly but surely, it became a seat-driven party primarily interested in power politics and lost touch with its voter base. Its founder essentially abandoned the masses by adopting a treasonous stance, forcing the party to distance themselves from him which in turn fragmented the party even more. That is why, in the recent elections, MQM-P was essentially fighting for its survival with the PTI taking the lion’s share of the National Assembly seats in Karachi. However, it appears that MQM-P has not learnt from its mistakes and within the party, there are different factions working to topple each other. Chances are that in the coming years, MQM-P’s political efficacy will be similar to that of Mustafa Kamal’s Pak Sarzameen Party. This is because their political prowess will continue to be watered down by other parties ,especially the PTI, which is trying to cash in on the absence of a united MQM and is engaged in optics through the creation of development committees in Karachi. Additionally, by the next elections, it is foreseeable that both the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and PPP will not have a rift with the powers that be, which means that they can certainly win a few seats in Karachi and may dent the MQM-P power quotient even further. As a result, a party which is already submerged in an existential crisis can ill afford to get caught up in power games and forget the concerns of its voters. For now, MQM-P continues to play a dangerous game by trying to keep a foothold in two boats. It is trying to play to the opposition’s gallery while also giving tacit support to the ruling party by allowing Naseem to continue with his ministerial portfolio. This is the same hypocritical style of politics that has damaged the credibility of MQM in the past and they are repeating the same mistake again. Therefore, in order to ensure its survival, MQM-P must acquaint itself with the art of opposition politics and stop delving into dirty power politics so that it can once again engage with its voters in order to address their problems.
Modern day fashion retailers have adopted the phenomenon of ‘fast fashion,’ which is characterised by the quick turnover of designs that move at breakneck speed from the ramp to the stores and eventually, into the garbage bin. Retailers aim to increase profits by focusing on key elements of the supply chain with an emphasis on increased manufacturing speed at lower costs. The concept of fast fashion has resulted in a changing industry dynamic that boasts a quick response ideology that has inculcated the capacity and ability of retail brands to generate quick merchandise turnover. A popular Spanish retailer that has 1,600 stores in 58 countries was one of the fastest to catch on. They now produce an average of 450 million units of their products, boasting over 10,000 unique designs each year and the capacity to produce them within an average of three weeks, thus becoming the benchmark model for fast fashion by slicing time between design, production and supply. The decreased time period adds to the variety of products available to the consumers which in turn increase the amount of original customers. However, as corporations in the fashion industry capitalise on increased turnover and consumers are busy ‘reaping the benefits’ of lower prices, we fail to see the mammoth cost this trend comes at. Clothing production has roughly doubled since the year 2000. Despite purchasing 60% more clothing items in 2014 than in 2000, consumers retained those purchases for half as long. European fashion retailers went from showcasing and selling two collections annually in 2000 to almost five in 2011. Some brands offer even more. The aforementioned Spanish fashion giant releases a whopping twenty four collections on average annually. To get a rough idea of the environmental cost of this fashion upheaval, it is interesting and equally displeasing to note that 85 % of textile based production is discarded into landfills. Simultaneously, regular laundry cycles release 500,000 tons of microfibers into the sea annually which is estimated to be roughly equal to disposing 50 billion plastic bottles into the ocean. These fibres are often polyester which is a plastic that 60% of garments possess. Carbon emissions released from the production of polyester are three times more than those released in the production of cotton. What makes it even more dangerous for our environment is that polyester does not break down in the ocean. The International Union for Conservation of Nature published a report in 2017 that contained an alarming statistic which stated that an estimated 35% of micro-plastics originate from the washing of synthetic textiles. The fashion industry is also contributing considerably to the water crisis, seeing as how it is the second largest consumer of water globally. It is estimated that 700 gallons of water are involved in the production of one cotton shirt. The fashion industry contributes 10% to the world’s carbon emissions, more than what airlines and maritime shipping emit together. If the fashion community continues to exhibit such blatant disregard to the environment, its share of carbon emissions could potentially increase to an abysmal 25% by 2050 as predicted by the Ellen McArthur Foundation. According to WWF Pakistan, the textile industry in our country utilises more water than is actually required after which the chemically affected effluent is left untreated and discharged into local water bodies. This was pointed out back in 2017 when the All Pakistan Textile Mills Association held a seminar to discuss sustainable strategies for water conservation textile industries. Unfortunately, such seminars are few and far in between, doing little to actually alleviate or address the problem. Pakistan is a water stressed country and so, with the ideology of fast fashion sweeping a nation whose exports primarily consist of textile products, it is foreseeable that this will only increase our water crisis. Certain brands have begun to look for solutions to reduce their environmental footprint. A leading Swedish fast fashion company, who is one of the main corporations behind the influx of inexpensive clothing in the world, is now choosing to recycle their merchandise in the countries where they are produced. The fabric, instead of being thrown into landfills, is reprocessed into different goods, like blankets, insulation, carpet padding and pillow stuffing. Regardless, while some indicators have shown promise that fast fashion is decreasing, solitary adjustments by limited companies will not create a noteworthy impact as long as most corporations refuse to take socially responsible environmental initiatives in the wake of high consumer demand. Local Pakistani retail brands are also contributing to the problem, having chosen to jump on the money minting fast fashion bandwagon. This is exemplified by year round clearance sales where local commercial fashion giants seek to get rid of their ‘old’ stock because their new line is ready to burst through the door. Recently, in an attempt to go ‘green’, a local textile giant launched its eco-friendly canvas bags that would replace plastic carrier bags, their CEO stating that:
“After oil and gas globally, fashion retail is the second largest plastic polluter. Therefore, rather than shy away from this glaring fact, we wanted to be honest in addressing it. We wanted to demonstrate that being green can be good for business too. ”Although this initiative is laudable and the first of its kind by any fashion retail brand in Pakistan, it is only addressing a small slice of the bigger problem pie which such corporate social responsibility (CSR) gimmicks will not solve. Sadly, the Pakistani fashion industry is unabashedly slow with regards to sustainability, awareness and reform stratagem. It appears that they have decided that there is no congruence between profitability and sustainability. Pakistan also faces the unique position of being one of several dumping grounds for international brands where out-dated, unsold stock is imported and even smuggled after which it floods the market. It is then sold at a fraction of its original price in the streets of Zainab market and the lighthouse district. This means that our country experiences not only local textile wastage, but also imported textile wastage, seeing as how more often than not, imported consignments marked as clothing have unusable articles that can only be discarded. For a country with a poor economy, a poorer regard for the environment, and a young population that craves branded clothing, we most certainly have a very serious problem on our hands. Therefore, it is imperative that we develop pre-mptive strategies, revolutionise business models by making them eco-friendly and in general, give due regard to the environment of our country as a whole.