The women who kicked the hornet’s nest

Women’s groups in Pakistan are set to take out ‘Aurat March’ defying threats from extremists

Thousands of women across Pakistani cities will join the Aurat March (Women’s March) on Sunday to mark the International Women’s Day, defying threats and warnings issued by conservative and right-wing groups. Since 2018, Aurat March has been held in many cities including Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad, demanding equality and an end to gender discrimination.

This year’s charter of demands include a just economic system, freedom from exploitation and discrimination, reproductive rights, transgender rights and child rights. However, certain groups have come out against the march, threatening to use violence against the activists.

Last year, right-wing groups had targeted the organisers of the Aurat March, mainly on social networks. This time, posters and murals prepared for the march were vandalised in Lahore. In Islamabad, a mural that was being painted ahead of the march was defaced by students …

A festival of ideas in Lahore

The 8th edition of the LLF saw a host of delegates discussing issues from poetry to multilateralism

The eighth edition of the Lahore Literary Festival (LLF) that took place from February 21 to February 23 in the city had a plethora of writers and speakers. They included Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk, historian William Dalrymple, Nigerian-British novelist Oyinkan Braithwaite and strategic analyst Vali Nasr.

One of the most important cultural events in South Asia, the LLF “is a labour of love”, said Razi Ahmed, the fest’s founder and CEO. Every edition is planned a year in advance and it requires a lot of persuasion to get the best delegates to travel to Pakistan. “We work closely with our delegates to show them a multi-faceted sense of the city — Lahore — where it’s surely pivoted around the LLF but also encompasses an experience of the city’s streets, architecture, food, museums and private homes.” Mr. Ahmed said.

Why Lahore, one may ask. “Lahore has historically been a gateway of ideas…

A case of exploding mangoes and nerve gas that ‘brought down’ Zia’s plane

Former President’s son points to ‘suspicious’ role of ex-Pak. General, ex-NSA, while also blaming Indian and Israeli intelligence agencies

In an exclusive interview with a foreign publication, former President and Army Chief General Zia-ul-Haq’s son Muhammad Ijaz-ul-Haq says the role of former Army Chief General Mirza Aslam Beg and former National Security Advisor General Mahmood Ali Durrani “draws suspicion” while “based on the evidence that he has collected Indian and Israeli spy agencies were also involved” in the his father’s plane crash in August 1988. 

According to Mr. Haq’s interview, “the plane came down due to spraying of nerve gas in the cockpit that maimed pilots. He also confirmed the presence of explosives in the mango crates, besides claiming that a projectile had also hit the plane.”

Talking to The Hindu, Mr. Haq says he believes that Generals Beg and Durrani were somehow involved is because “some of the doctors who were working in CMH Multan informed us [Gen. Zia’s fam…

The ‘good’ and ‘bad’ women of serials: How a Pakistan show has triggered debates on depiction of women on television

Superhit drama serial 'Meray Paas Tum Ho' has instigated arguments, both online and offline, for its representation of women

Last month, Pakistanis saw the finale of the superhit drama serial, Meray Paas Tum Ho (MPTH). The drama was such a hit that its finale was screened in cinemas across Pakistan and was watched by 80 million viewers. But the most watched TV show in Pakistan, which had 23 episodes that ran from August, has also triggered heated debates both online and offline on its depiction of women. A petition was filed in a court to stop its screening as, according to the petitioner, the story was giving a bad impression of women. It was dismissed.

MPTH was a tragic romance series written by Khalil-ur-Rehman Qamar. The story is about a love triangle where a married woman (Mehwish) falls in love with another married man (Shehwar). She leaves her husband (Danish) for her lover but the latter’s wife throws her out and sends her husband to jail. She then tries to go back to …

Protesting for reform in education, getting charged with sedition

Students held rallies across 50 Pakistani cities seeking greater say in the running of universities

On November 29, thousands of students marched in 50 cities of Pakistan for their rights. Their main demands included calls to the authorities to lift the ban on student unions, increase the education budget, provide better facilities at educational institutions and take action against people involved in sexual harassment.

Student unions have been banned in Pakistan for 35 years. Taimur Rahman, an academic, musician and political activist, said student unions are nurseries for the future political leadership in a democratic society.

“[They] are the practical training grounds to groom students to understand consensus building, alliance building, canvassing for votes, running for office, and holding oneself and others to accountability.”

When asked why there was criticism against the march and why many universities were actively discouraging students from taking part in the march, Mr. Rahm…

Pak. SC grants six-month extension to Army chief

Asks Parliament to specify terms of service

Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Thursday allowed a conditional extension of the Army chief’s term for six months, during which Parliament will have to legislate on the terms of service of the top general.

On Tuesday, the court temporarily suspended a government notification granting a three-year extension to Army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa. A Bench, comprising Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa and Justices Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel and Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, heard the case and gave a short order on Thursday.

“…we, while exercising judicial restraint, find it appropriate to leave the matter to Parliament and the federal government to clearly specify the terms and conditions of service of the COAS [Chief of the Armed Staff] through an Act of Parliament and to clarify the scope of Article 243 of the Constitution in this regard,” the court said. Therefore, the current appointment of the Army chief “shall be subject to the said legislation and shall contin…

Pakistan SC’s decision on Army chief’s extension likely today

Court slams government for procedural lapses in notification

Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Wednesday adjourned the hearing of the case regarding the extension of the tenure of Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa until Thursday.

If the court decides in favour of his extension or reappointment, Gen. Bajwa will be able to continue his tenure as Army Chief. His current term ends on Thursday at midnight.

Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa said the government has made the Army Chief a shuttlecock due to the procedural hiccups regarding the extension notification. Justice Khosa said that even an assistant commissioner is not notified the way the government handled the Army Chief’s extension notification.

He asked the government to find a solution till Thursday to the questions raised by the court; otherwise the court will act as per its constitutional obligations. Prime Minister Imran Khan called an emergency session of the government’s legal team as well as senior Cabinet Ministers. Gen. Bajwa a…

Pakistan SC suspends Army chief’s extension

A notification for the extension of the tenure of Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javer Bajwa has been suspended till Wednesday by the Chief Justice of the Pakistan Supreme Court Asif Saeed Khosa on Tuesday.

A petition by the Jurists Foundation through Riaz Hanif Rahi had been filed challenging the extension. The petitioner on Tuesday filed a withdrawal application, but the three-member Bench, comprising Chief Justice Khosa, Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel and Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, rejected the withdrawal request and converted it into a suo motu under Article 184 (3) of the Constitution of Pakistan.

The court suspended the notification based on technicalities. The Chief Justice maintained that the summary and approval of the Army Chief’s extension “is not correct”.

On August 19, the Prime Minister’s office issued a notification saying that the Army Chief’s tenure had been extended for another term of three years from the date of completion of current tenure.

President’s pr…

The fight to save Lahore from toxic smog

Three teenage girls have moved Lahore High Court demanding action to tackle air pollution

Earlier this month, three teenagers from Lahore — Leila Alam, Laiba Siddiqi and Mishael Hayat — filed a petition in the High Court against the Punjab government for under-reporting air pollution and requesting a new policy to tackle the issue.

Ms. Alam, a 13-year-old student in Grade 9, said she decided to file the petition because the government was not truthful on the severity of air pollution. “If the government refuses to acknowledge how unhealthy the air is, I don’t think the everyday citizen will really know how hazardous the air that they are breathing is or how much damage it can cause to their lungs, to their circulatory system,” she said.

In the World Air Quality report 2018, Pakistan was ranked second worst for air quality in the world, after Bangladesh (India is ranked third). Lahore, Pakistan’s second city with 11 million people, is badly hit. Earlier this month, the provincial gover…

Hyderabad techie, Madhya Pradesh farmer held in Pakistan for illegal entry

Software engineer aimed to go to Turkey to meet girlfriend

Two Indian nationals, one from Telangana and the other from Madhya Pradesh, were arrested by the Pakistani police for illegally entering the country, authorities have confirmed.

Prashant Maidam, a software engineer from Hyderabad, and Durmi Lal, a farmer from Madhya Pradesh, were arrested in the Cholistan desert area in Bahawalpur, Punjab, last week, the police said.

The Bahawalpur police registered an FIR against them under the Pakistan (Control of Entry) Act on November 14.

They had crossed the border without any identification papers and proper documents, such as a valid visa and passport, said the police.

Sources said Mr. Maidam told them that he was in love with a woman in Turkey and was going there through Pakistan and Afghanistan. Mr. Lal wanted to see the border and crossed over by mistake.

Bahawalpur Judicial Magistrate Yazman asked the local police to travel to Multan and hand over the two Indians to the Federal Inve…