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Archive for the ‘Societal Issues’ Category

Guatemala: Indigenous Village Declares Internet Access a Human Right

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Read the rest of the article on Global Voices.


Written by afiasalam

August 29, 2012 at 6:25 am

Speak Up Against Gender Based Violence

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Today is the start of the 16 days of activism against gender based violence. Violence in any form, and against anyone should be condemned, without fear or favour, and across all barriers of religion, class, race and nationality. However, there are certain segments within our society that are more vulnerable than others, and such activism helps focus attention on their plight.

Women, especially in all societies are struggling to find a level playing field and break the chains that have traditionally bound them to a secondary position. There are societies where they have been able to make strides, bit look around you? What do you see?

Do you see them as equal human beings? Do they get the respect they deserve?  What happens to them if they try to claim their space in the public sphere? Are they allowed to control their own destiny? Take their own decisions?

Have they been provided equal opportunities? It is not just the men who discriminate against women… societal norms have dictated attitudes that perpetuate male superiority… by women too. A mother gives better food to her son, she may also give preference to him for healthcare, and if resources are in short supply, the boys education is continued while the girl child’s is stopped. If a mother can do this to her child, is it any surprise that we hear of mothers in laws and sisters’ in law abusing the newcomer in the family?

However, that form of violence cannot happen unless there is tacit approval from the authoritarian figures at home, who are usually males. Then there violence within relationships; between husbands and wives, ‘friends’, brothers and sisters, of grandparents and uncles upon the females of the family do are not submissive to authority. Violence that can take the form of extreme torture and even death.

And what about the workspace. People usually associate it with harassment in offices. Yes, that does take place, but various progressive measures are being taken to tackle it. What about domestic workers, or women working in the factory floors, or in the fields, and at brick kilns? They are just as prone to violence by their employers and colleagues. How much recourse to law do they have to lodge complaints and get relief. Especially as they are usually economically dependent on their tormentors for survival.

Usually an umbrella of religion, culture and traditions is held up to justify these heinous crimes. The pressure to submit to these without asking any questions is so great that it has stagnated the society which has forced half of its population to a sub human level. No religion condones it, and any culture and tradition that does, should just be thrown out of our lives.

Be a part of the change. Speak up against violence wherever you see it. This is a struggle of the powerless against the powerful. Put your weight behind the powerless and become their protectors; in your homes, in your educational institutions, in your workplace or out there in the public sphere.

Become an activist through your actions, as well as written and spoken word. Fill these 16 days with conscious activities so you can also claim credit for change for the better.

When you see any form of violence against women, be it emotional, physical do you speak up?

If you haven’t done so in the past, would you now be willing to Speak for Change?

Written by afiasalam

August 9, 2012 at 11:33 am

Posted in Societal Issues

A Little Feel Good Story

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Spending hours in a thana (police station) wasn’t my idea of a leisurely evening, but sometimes, you gotta do what you gotta do. Upon receiving an emergency call from the driver that the car had been involved in an accident, the first reaction was to find out if he and the occupants of the other car were safe. They were, but he told me he was being taken to the nearby police station along with the other party to settle the matter.

With a deep sense of foreboding, I made my way there, not really knowing what to expect though prepared for the worst, going by the ‘horror stories’ one hears and reads about. Many hours later, when I came out, I had a completely different impression of the place, as well as the people running it.

Once at the police station, I saw both the cars and drew my own conclusions and then went in. We were ushered into a waiting room, where, so as not to get into an argument and counter argument, I asked the person on duty what had happened. He gave me a very concise account, and then I asked the other party what their intentions were. The man said he wanted the car repaired, and I agreed to get it done through the insurance. The policeman on duty asked me for the original registration book, which would be handed back once the insurance assessment was done.

As that had to be sent for from home, we waited it out and it was in this waiting period I observed how the police station functioned. Not once did I hear the crude language one has come to associate with the policemen, or boorish behavior. The person manning his post seemed efficient and totally clued in, handled the roster change, and communicated shift timings to his colleagues in a professional manner. This professionalism seemed to be a norm, and nothing that could be a ‘put on’ in the presence of ‘laddies’ in the room.

I saw two to three cases, of purse snatching, hit and run and another being handled in a most professional manner with the complainants leaving from there very satisfied. This was indeed a pleasant surprise; however, little did I know I was in for a bigger one. I was told that the ‘Sahib’ wanted to speak to me in his room, and I thought… oh oh… now what.

I went into the SHO’s room, where the pleasant young man asked me to sit, and said that he, and his people had determined that my driver was telling the truth, and the fault was the other driver’s who was drunk! Before I could get over that shock, he said he didn’t see why we should be getting his car repaired, even if it was through insurance, as he had committed an offense and action needed to be taken against him.

His request was for me to wait just a while more until they had him medically examined, and once it was officially proven that it was a case of drunken driving, he would be charged accordingly and we could leave without any paperwork.
Upon asking if I did anything, I told him I was a journalist, he wanted to know whether I blogged! I answered in the affirmative, and he wanted to know on which website, and when I answered Speak for Change, another young uniformed officer sitting in his room broke into a grin from ear to ear!

So here is a little thank you for the people at the Clifton Police station in Karachi, and a lesson not to go anywhere, or meet anyone with preconceived notions and a negative baggage, as there is good all around us after all! This is not denying all the negatives that are there as well, but one must acknowledge the good wherever it is found. Speaking up also sometimes becomes a catalyst for change.

Written by afiasalam

August 9, 2012 at 11:32 am

Posted in Societal Issues

“We Learn From History, That We Never Learn From History”

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For those Pakistanis who remember, or have the heart to remember, December 16 has to be one of the most painful days in national history. For this was a day when we as a nation suffered a rude awakening; a reality bite so sharp that finally took the blinkers off our eyes and made us stare at the horrible mess of our own making.

December 16 was the day when Quaid e Azam’s Pakistan ceased to exist. The Pakistan whose struggle was initiated by the visionary Nawab of Dhaka Nawab Sir Khwaja Salimullah Bahadur (Dacca at that time) and other colleagues in Bengal. He founded the Bengal Muslim League in 1907, and in a short span of forty years, saw Pakistan emerge as a new and independent state with two geographically distant wings of East and West Pakistan.

However, more than the the geographical distance of 1000 miles of hostile territory, it were the mechanizations of the powerful elite and vested interests belonging to the Western wing of the country that drove the very people who struggled for independence against the British to launch into yet another struggle for independence from the oppression of their own countrymen.

This day 40 years ago, when the nation was being lulled into a false sense of victory by its president General Yahya Khan, our General “Tiger” Niazi was laying down arms before his Indian counterpart. We had been denied access to truth as reports from foreign news agencies were denounced as conspiracies, and the BBC correspondent Mark Tully reporting on the reverses being suffered by our forces became the man all Pakistanis loved to hate!

Why did we think that the Bengalis, who were always more politically aware and active, which is why they saw through the struggle for Pakistan to its end, would put up with the arrogance, injustice, insult to their intellect and linguistic and cultural suppression? Despite the superiority in numbers, they were denied the right to prevail over the minority. A minority that didn’t deem them to be strong enough, brave enough, Pakistani enough to cede power that was rightfully theirs.

And look where they are today, and where we are today? Bangladesh has made strides in every field be it education, agriculture, industry, poverty alleviation. It has been steadily been rising up all indices while we have been sliding down.

o just like it is mentioned above; “we learn from history, that we never learn from history,” the people of East Pakistan decided to rid themselves of this oppre East Pakistan, west Pakistanssive minority in West Pakistan, and launched themselves once again into struggle for independence, which culminated into the state of Bangladesh.

Looking at it from the perspective of a dispassionate history viewer, they are a nation of doers and achievers. But I am not that. I am a Pakistani. And what does this reality make me look like if not a failure.

Failure is difficult to deal with. It is a painful admission that I could have done better but didn’t. However, beyond the humiliation and pain, there is a fear. A potent, tangible fear that I am going down that path again. It is a slippery slope that I am sliding down because I see similar arrogance, similar atrocities being perpetrated upon Pakistanis, by fellow Pakistanis. As if this was not bad enough, we are allowing outside forces to take full advantage of the divisions in our midst, as had happened in 1971.

We need to sit up, take notice, educate ourselves, read history, and not just the official accounts of history because they have always misled us. We need to tell the future generation about the mistakes we made in the past so they may avoid them.

We must speak for change. We must break the silence. Are you willing to ask questions about what really happened in 1971? Are you willing to learn from the mistakes we as a nation made at that time?

Written by afiasalam

August 9, 2012 at 11:30 am

Posted in Societal Issues

Bhoja Air Crash and Climate Change

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Show: The Afia Salam Show

Host: Afia Salam

Topic: Bhoja Air Crash and Climate Change

Description: We have a national habit of jumping to conclusions. Without waiting for inquiries and investigations, totally incompetent and irrelevant persons are seen passing judgments almost as a knee jerk reaction. We saw this at the time of the tragic Air Blue crash, and again in the case of the unfortunate Bhoja Air crash. But are we taking into account all the possible factors?
Afia Salam asks Dr. Pervaiz Amir if nature had anything to do with it.

Language: Urdu

Strange Bedfellows?

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Show: The Afia Salam Show

Host: Afia Salam

Guest: Michael Kugelman

Topic: Strange Bedfellows?

Description: The US Pakistan relationship has always been enigmatic. Barbs are traded about unfaithfulness and accusations fly about about broken promises. However, at another level, there are some people putting their heads together and suggesting measures that would benefit both Americans and Pakistanis.

Why is the focus only on US-Pak military relations? Should we not be looking at the civilian set up and see how to strengthen bonds to our mutual benefit?

Language: English

Written by afiasalam

December 18, 2011 at 7:13 am

Justice for Women

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Show: Afia Salam Show

Host: Afia Salam

Topic: Justice for Women

Description: Laws are made to facilitate people, but that can only happen if they are applied across the board, and the people also know how to get help through them. Our conflicting legal system further marginalizes the vulnerable segments, especially the women.

Are our laws discriminatory, or is the system not working?

How can the women feel secure because of the laws that exist?

Language: English

Written by afiasalam

December 10, 2011 at 7:17 am