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Some progress in Pakistan this week

From many perspectives, this was an eventful week for Pakistan



As the monsoon rains lashed across the country, amid pounding inflation and protesting traders, Pakistan witnessed important developments this week. Though most incidents will have long term impacts which are expected to unfold with time, their significance at present can also be not denied.

ICJ orders consular access to Yadav, rejects Indian plea:

Judges at The International Court of Justice, The Hague, Netherlands during the hearing of Kulbhushan Yadav’s case.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) announced the much expected verdict on the Kulbhushan Jadhav case. Pakistan claims it has supporting evidence that Jadhav, a serving Indian Naval officer, had been sent on an espionage mission to Pakistan, for which he has been sentenced to death by a military court. His case was taken up by India to the ICJ. India had demanded Jadhav’s release and until then, consular access, which were both denied by Pakistan.

The ICJ noted that Pakistan broke Vienna’s convention by not informing Kulbhushan of his rights and not allowing him to meet Indian representatives. Pakistan has been ordered to review the death sentence as well and grant consular access to the imprisoned – a verdict highly celebrated by Indian media as its state’s success.

But the court also rejected India’s plea for the release of Jadhav and annulment of the case. ICJ’s decision not to order acquittal, release and return of Jadhav is seen as a victory on Pakistan’s side.

Kulbhushan Yadav was arrested in March 2016 in Balochistan on allegations of espionage

Thus what we saw was another war of words between the two countries over conflicting interests and different dimensions of the same verdict. The stances held by media of both countries were correct, although they may have not given the complete picture to their audience. At least in Pakistan, media houses were chided by some for having a national interest supersede journalistic ethic. Hence the war of words continue not only across the border but also within.

Hafiz Saeed nabbed in terrorism financing case:

Hafiz Saeed – AFP File Photo

In any case, another development for which Pakistan claimed yet another victory, was the arrest of Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, in connection with a terrorism financing case while on his way from Lahore to Gujranwala.

The Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) declared that the JuD chief was financing terrorism from massive funds collected through non-profit organisations and trusts.Hafiz Saeed is the founder of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), although he claims to have played no role in the group since 2001. LeT is accused by India of masterminding the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed more than 160 people and is also alleged of attacking Indian security forces and government targets.

For Pakistan, the arrest is indeed of crucial importance, since Pakistan has been facing increasing pressure to crack down on armed groups said to be operating on its soil. In 2017, it was placed on a watchlist by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a 39-member inter-governmental body that monitors curbs on terrorism financing and money laundering, which also gave a warning in February this year.

Sindh Assembly adopts resolution to stop forced conversion:

Sindh Assembly – File Photo

On a positive note, the Sindh Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution, demanding an end to forced conversion of non-Muslim females and action against the elements involved in the practice. According to the annual report of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Sindh had over 1,000 forced conversions of Christian and Hindu girls in 2018.

In March this year, on the day of the Hindu festival of Holi, a man claimed in a video that his two underage daughters, Reena and Raveena, were abducted from Ghotki district of Sindh and were forced to change their religion from Hinduism to Islam. However, the girls filed a petition in Islamabad claiming that they were over 18 and had willingly converted to Islam, and married the men they wanted. They also sought protection from their family, claiming the family had harassed and threatened them. The Islamabad High Court (IHC) placed both the girls in government custody and ordered a ‘fair and transparent inquiry’.

Hindu community leaders from Sindh’s Ghotki district alleged that two underage sisters had been abducted by some locals on the eve of Holi. Photo Credit: Screen Grab

The Senate’s Standing Committee on Human Rights had approved a bill at the beginning of this year that sets the minimum legal age of marriage at 18. But the bill still has to pass through the National Assembly, where it faces opposition from hardliners.

In 2016, the Sindh Assembly unanimously passed a bill which placed an age limit upon conversions. However, the bill failed to make it into a law as it was effectively blocked by right winged religious groups.

Accountability drive, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi arrested:

Shahid Khaqan Abbasi – AP File Photo

Amid the hues and cries and victories, the accountability drive of the state continued on full swing. This week, yet another former prime minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi was arrested in a case pertaining to the awarding of a multi-billion rupee liquefied natural gas (LNG) import contract.

Pakistan slapped with heavy penalty in gold mining case:

The Reko Diq Project site – Photo Credit: Tethyan Copper Company Pakistan / File

Talking about mineral resources, just at the turn of the week, the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), one of the five organisations of the World Bank Group, announced a huge penalty of $5.976 billion against Pakistan in the Reko Diq case.
The management of the Tethyan Copper Company (TCC), to which the penalty and interest is to be paid, had filed a suit for recovery of damages and then arbitration before the ICSID in 2012, after the Balochistan government rejected a leasing request from the company.
Reko Diq mine is famous for its vast gold and copper reserves and is believed to have the world’s fifth largest gold deposit.

Inzamam steps down as chief selector:

Inzimam-ul-Haq addresses a press conference at Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore – Photo Credit: White Star

In other news, Inzamamul Haq announced his decision to no longer be the chief selector of the men’s cricket team after July 30. His decision comes after Pakistan’s disappointing campaign in the recently held cricket World Cup, in which Pakistan failed to qualify in the top 4 teams.

Man arrested for second marriage:

Lahore High Court – File Photo

Women’s rights received a boost when a Lahore court sentenced a man for performing a second marriage without his first wife’s consent. The man in question was handed an 11-month jail time and a fine of Rs5 million, on the complaint of his first wife Shamim Bibi.
The news, a shock to some and comical to others, is an example how given rights in Pakistan are not known and thus, not practiced in the country. The Muslim Family Laws Ordinance, 1961 of Pakistan, includes a mandatory requirement for Muslim men to seek permission from their first wives as well as an arbitration council, if wishing to marry again. Recently, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) had ruled that failure to comply with this requirement would result in punishment, which includes fine and sentence.

Women’s historic participation in KP’s first-ever assembly elections:

KP Assembly – File Photo

And in anticipation of more rains to come in view of the forecast, the week ended with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s merged tribal districts electing their representatives for 16 general seats of the provincial assembly, in the first-ever KP Assembly elections. Among the 285 candidates, 2 were women competing for votes – another first in the strictly conservative region.

So although prices continue to soar and opposition members kept crying hoarse, from many perspectives, this was an eventful week for Pakistan. But progress would only be achieved if the spirit is maintained in the weeks to come.

The writer is a broadcast journalist and freelance writer. She has keen interest in issues concerning women, religion and foreign affairs.


The Mystery Colour Pink Beholds

Colour stereotype is creation of our own societal values



Pink has long been associated with girls, so where does this association come from?

Everything for a girl is pink, or will have at least a hint of pink. Starting from her nursery, toys, dresses to lunch box, school bag, pink is bombarded on girls.

There are a number of ways through which colours are imposed upon children. It begins when the baby is not even born. The phenomenal advancement in technology and prenatal testing, now makes it possible for parents to find out the sex of their still-not-born babies. This allows parents to decorate the nurseries in colours that they think are best suited with their newborn’s gender. It is the first step towards colour imposition.

It won’t be wrong to say that a baby girl is born in a pink world. It is this colour that she would find all around her after she opens her eyes for the first time. The room shading, dresses that she wears, toys she plays with and even birthday cakes she gets, are all pink. It’s not the parents only, this colour specification has become so real that new born gifts also comply with it. Visit a store for newborn accessories and the first question that is asked is about the gender of the baby. Even story books and children’s cartoons do their best to teach individuals gender specific behaviour . Barbie, Hello Kitty, My Little Pony n Friend are all girls’ favourite cartoons, painted in pink. Even the adventurous Dora wears a pink tee. Watching them, young girls associate themselves with the colour.

Marketing strategies that brands use further establish the colour identification for gender. It’s a psychological factor that brands exploit to leap their sales. They strictly follow with ‘pink for girls and blue for boys’ rule and make sure their customers comply.

Studies show that after the age of two, children begin to understand gender specific roles and girls choose pink over other colours to identify theirs. Professor of Gender and Culture at the UK’s Leeds University, Ruth Holliday, states that “Even very young girls understand that pink things are for them. In experiments where guns were painted pink and My Little Ponies were painted black and made to look spiky, three-year-old children assumed the gun was a girls’ toy and the pony a boys’ one. The colour rather than the function determined gender appeal.”

Colour preference isn’t biological, it’s more of a human made marvel. Girls and boys are both born with the similar arrangement of biological composition, the only difference being X & Y chromosomes. It’s not that girls have a pink chromosome or a pink strand of DNA that compels them to like pink more. And if we look at historical perspective, the findings are interesting.

History suggests that before the 1900s, babies were usually dressed in white regardless of gender. There were no differentiation amongst them on the basis of their colour preferences. If there was any, it was quite opposite from what it is today. An article in the 1918 issue of Ladies Home Journal reads that “the generally accepted rule is pink for boys and blue for girls; the reason is that pink being a decided and stronger colour is more suitable for boys, while blue which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girls”. Then what brought the switch over?

Anya Helbert, a researcher at University of Newcastle, proposed that women prefer hues of red more because traditionally they have been more exposed to the colour by gathering fruits. Other studies regarding this topic cite some events that gave rise to the present colour enforcement. One such event is World War II, where due to the blue coloured uniform worn by soldiers, blue colour became associated with masculinity.

Similarly, in the 1940s, Think Movement tried to convince girls to embrace their feminism. This movement urged women to embrace their womanhood, with the name tag with pink, the colour naturally corresponding to women.

This colour coding creates a stereotype that stays entrenched in the minds of children even after they grow. They identify themselves with specific colour that not only limits their freedom but also bounds them to act in the ways society tells them to. This kills their imagination and creativity and limits their choices. One of the disastrous implications of this colour stereotyping is that it affects self-esteem. The very basic attributes of pink colour are that it’s pretty, polite, catchy and sensitive. When a girl is told throughout her lifetime that she has to be the manifestation of this colour to look more ‘girl like’, she tries to incorporate these attributes into her personality. The same is for boys, the tormenting and bullying that accompanies wearing pink is staggering to the point that boys, mostly avoid the colour even if they like it.

Angela Weyers, Style and Colour consultant comments that, pink is assumed as a sign of “weakness and a lack of intellectual rigour” and advises women to actually not wear it to work in the corporate world, as they are less likely to be taken seriously. This, along with other stigmas surrounding the color, make it a cliché.

Now when we have understood that colour stereotype is creation of our own societal values, we have to understand this as a societal issue. There is no such thing as real-man or real-woman. And pink has literally nothing to do with a woman. Both men and women are humans with no supernatural specifications and they should be treated that way. Parents, educational institutes and media can play their role in this regard. Rather than fabricating pink and blue norms they need to be responsible in raising individuals. Let pink and blue be treated as colours only.

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Dismays and Delights: How Pakistan fared this week?

Such is the course of time, that humans, after mourning a loss, prepare for the next outcome.



This week in Pakistan was disappointing, to say the least. From the fiasco in the World cup match to the murder of a blogger in Islamabad, the list of dismays is long. India’s positive response to hold talks with Pakistan seemed the only silver lining in the dark clouds of dooms, yet it was quickly rebuffed by India as “fake news”.

It pains as well as amuses me that fans of cricket in Pakistan still remain die hard to their team. Its a different thing to be a cricket buff and another to be supportive of your team, for its been a while that Pakistan’s cricket team pulled a feat worth praise.

Pakistani Cricket Team captain Sarfaraz Ahmed (L), Indian Cricket Team captain Virat Kohli

One did not even need to switch on the TV or check updates on phone on the mess which Pakistan was in its World Cup match against India. The memes did the job pretty well, an area in which Pakistanis’ talent and sense of humour is worth appreciating.

Starting from the mind boggling decision of choosing to field after winning the toss, to poor bowling and miserable fielding (as usual), I can only say that the fans of Pakistani cricket team were very courageous to stick with their support through out the match. In comparison, was the highly professional and progressive Indian team, which showed true characteristics of first class cricket. It was no surprise that Pakistani cricket icon Wasim Akram showed his confidence in India as a player even before the match started.

A Pak-India interaction on a different level received an uplift, when the re-elected Prime Minister Modi of India, finally responded in positive to a series of letters written by his Pakistani counterpart, Imran Khan.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L), Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan

Since early this year, both countries have experienced most severe ties, even reaching the brink of war. The Pulwama attack in Indian held Kashmir triggered a spate of exchanges of words as well as arms. After an informal meeting between the foreign ministers of the two countries at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), Pakistan’s allowance for India to use its airspace for Prime Minister Modi for the SCO meeting of heads of states, Modi’s preference to still fly using another, alternate route while refusing to rub shoulders with Khan at the conference, the ice seemed to thaw.

However, Pakistani media’s interpretation of Modi’s written response to Khan that India had agreed to resume dialogue, was refuted by Indian foreign ministry.

External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar

“The letters only reiterated India’s old position that it wants normal and cooperative relations with all countries in South Asia (including Pakistan) and that it was important to create an environment free of terror and violence for it. There was no mention of any sort of dialogue with Pakistan,” responded the ministry’s spokesperson to The Times of India.

A similar exchange of letters between Pakistan’s foreign minister Qureshi and his newly appointed Indian counterpart, Jaishankar, was also explained as a mere reply. The hope of resuming of dialogues between the two countries was quashed.

So was the life of Muhammad Bilal Khan, a famous 22-year-old Pakistani blogger, who was stabbed to death in Islamabad, sparking outrage among Pakistanis.

Blogger Muhammad Bilal Khan was murdered in Islamabad

Khan was known for his critical comments on religious issues. He also spoke about the disappearance of activists and journalists. Khan’s shocking death is pertinent in the context that he had a following of thousands on Twitter, YouTube as well as Facebook. Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari has assured of investigation by the government.

Perhaps, a not so highlighted and the lone positive news one could find was the approval of the initial draft of the Zainab Alert, Response and Recovery Bill 2019 by a Parliamentary body. The bill has recommendations for rigorous imprisonment until death for the sexual assault and murder of children.

Photo Credit: AFP

The recommendations are now to be discussed by the National Assembly Standing Committee on Human Rights. Once passed by parliament, the bill will pave way for the setting up of Zainab Alert, Response and Recovery Agency (ZARRA), where missing child cases will be reported to generate an automatic alert. It will also introduce a response and recovery mechanism for missing children.

A draft of the ICT Rights of Persons with Disability Bill has also been approved with recommendations concerning the registration of people with disabilities, reforms to address their grievances and procedures to address their complaints.

While unexplained deaths and disappearances of activists remains a worrying issue, some decision making for missing and abused children as well as disabled persons is a progress in the human rights of country.

Other sectors are eagerly looked upon for some positive news. The nation’s favourite sports of cricket comes back at the turn of the week with anticipation.

The week, which started miserably with Pakistan’s loss against India in the World Cup match, has ended with hopes and fears for the next contest between Pakistan and South Africa. Such is the course of time, that humans, after mourning a loss, prepare for the next outcome. A comeback by Pakistan in the World Cup could raise hopes for optimism in the week that is to begin.

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Baldness: A man’s dilemma

Embracing the look is not going out of style



Male pattern baldness, or androgenic alopecia is the most common type of hair loss in men. The disturbing part is that most men who are affected by the condition, first see the signs of hair loss before the age of 21, that is, at a very young age.

Fawad Saleem, 29, a Karachi based marketing manager in an international company, is one of the many young men ready for a hair transplant after the stages of frustration and shattering self-esteem he went through when he started going bald.

“It’s always a very sudden realisation that you are actually losing your hair. You even laugh off a little hair loss at first. But you never see the baldness coming. Suddenly, all your hair starts falling out. You wake up and find it on your pillow, and then you see it everywhere. You find yourself looking at older pictures when you had hair and then then you realise that the game has started.”

Bilal Javed, a university student aged 25 finds sharing pictures worrisome in the age of selfies. “I didn’t feel very bothered at first but when it (the hair fall) started happening dramatically I felt very uncomfortable and had huge self-esteem issues when sharing my pictures especially.”

He feels that the younger lot feel more affected because older people don’t have to face the dilemmas of today’s age, they’ve passed the stage of life when appearances matter so much. “It is definitely more stressful for people of my age,” he adds.

Why does the hair fall?
Dr Asad Toor, a hair transplant surgeon explains the occurrence of male pattern baldness due to the presence of a male hormone called DHT (dihydrotestosterone), also known as the ‘enemy of the hair follicle.’ Simply put, the hair that has the receptor for this hormone will fall. Usually these hairs are on the top of the head, hence people tend to get bald from the frontal region while hair remains on the back and sides of the head. Genetics determine the presence and distribution of the susceptible hair. Hence, people who have more susceptibility are extensively bald.

Treating baldness
Medication is one option for sufferers that doctors recommend. The success rate is quite high, but it comes with serious side effects for men. As the medicine works by blocking the male hormone DHT; it disrupts other male functions also, resulting in impotence, loss of libido and abnormal ejaculation. Even if an individual doesn’t experience the side effects, the measure is still temporary.

The shampoos and products that fill the market claiming to provide a fix to hair fall don’t work, yet people try them anyway in a desperate attempt to find the quick solution.

“I tried every type of shampoo that claims to fix hair fall. I’ve even used shampoos costing more than 2000 rupees with bio-tech technology and what not, but it’s all a hoax,” says Saleem.

Hair transplant: The real solution?
Ultimately, hair transplant is the permanent solution.

“Many people eventually opt for transplant. They don’t want to keep taking the medicine for the rest of their lives. Once you stop taking the medicine, your hair starts falling again,” adds Toor.

Although hair transplants are often associated with older men, younger men are also increasingly getting the treatment done. Dr Toor estimates that 30-35 percent of his transplant patients is aged under 30, 15 percent would be the older age group which is above 55 plus, and the remaining 50 percent patients are aged from 30 to 55.

The simple motivation for these men is to boost self-confidence. According to Dr Toor, lots of people who have jobs in marketing, in banks, and wherever public dealing is involved, feel an increased need to get it.

“(Also) Social media, and increased awareness among people has made it a real issue for youngsters especially”, explains Dr. Toor. “(Boys belonging to) new generation take their own pictures, post them online, and in general are more conscious about these things. So, the percentage of younger patients is progressively increasing.”

There used to be a time when only the affluent would ask for a hair transplant. “Now you can imagine that I get shopkeepers to chief executives of companies coming for transplant. It’s across the economic and social strata, all sorts of people are getting treatment,” says Toor.

However, hair transplant also has its own problems. It is especially not recommended for younger men in their early 20s because the pattern of baldness only forms at a certain age.

“But people are in a hurry to get it done which ends up as a bad or ‘fake’ looking transplant. This happens usually by 35 years of age,” says Dr Toor.

An Associate Consultant, Bilal Tariq at 27, is about to have his second transplant. He had his first transplant at the mere age of 22 when he gave up on the sprays and medicines he was using to fight his hair loss. He feels that being socially active, going to university and meeting peers at that time was the most difficult part because of how baldness is perceived as unattractive.

“Even though I couldn’t easily afford it at the time, I made sure to somehow get the hair transplant because getting bald totally disrupted my social life and image”, shares Tariq.

Tariq feels that the transplant has become more of a dependency now. Five years later, he is losing a little hair again and is completely ready for his second transplant.

Other options
Whilst transplants are becoming common and acceptable, there are many men who choose not to take that path.

Stylists have shown that hairstyles can actually help to create trendy looks while covering bald spots. The right style and cut can make the stages of hair loss much easier to handle, since the styles can make the transition more graceful, or even fashionable, if one wants to make a statement.

Experts suggest that the key is to choose a hairstyle which makes the receding hairline less prominent. Haircuts that can help to attain this appearance include the ‘comb-over’ hairstyle, a ‘short pomp’ or a ‘textured crop with a forward fringe’. The slicked back look became very popular in the late 20th century and is still very trendy. Other options include ‘spikes’ which adds height and dimension, reducing the appearance of thinning hair. Crew cuts also help similarly.

Embracing baldness
And yet, for most men today, embracing their baldness with confidence is the answer. This may take time getting used to initially, but in the long-term the decision has helped boost confidence and contentment in the men who chose to do so.

“When I started suffering from hair loss, I shaved off all the hair and just embraced it rather than worrying further. I feel right about it now.” shares Omer Ahmed, 35.

A study in 2012, at the University of Pennsylvania revealed a very interesting insight that changed the follicle game. Researchers asked 59 males and female participants to rate photos of men- some bald, others not- based on perceived confidence. In another study, 367 males and females were shown photos where researchers had digitally removed the hair and then participants were asked to rate them. The studies found that men with shaved heads were perceived as stronger, more confident and dominant and even more attractive.

Men suffering from male pattern baldness may find that instead of spending huge amounts of money trying to cure or reverse hair loss, which mostly isn’t even permanent – the counter-intuitive approach of shaving off the hair may be the better solution.

What does this mean for balding men? The solutions do not start and end at shampoos, creams, or transplant. Embracing the look is not going out of style. So before going under the knife for a long treatment process – grab the razor and give the shaven look a try.

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