Monday, December 10, 2012

Civil society makes a ‘human shield’ of female kite makers

The civil society on Thursday urged the Punjab government to arrange livelihood for female kite makers and acknowledge the industry as a potential source of income through exports. To raise the issues of women home-based kite makers, HomeNet Pakistan held an awareness-raising meeting with government officials, policy makers, media personnel and lawyers at a local hotel.

The objective of the meeting was to strengthen the kite making sector for creating their visibility, sensitising policy makers for legislation and raise their voices. The meeting was attended by social activist Mehnaz Rafi, SAP Pakistan Director Irfan Mufti, advocate Khalid Zafar, educationist Khalid Malik and Kite Flyers Association President Nadeem Wyne.

To highlight the issues of the kite makers, the speakers said that there was a need for imparting alternative skills to kite makers ensuring their better livelihood. The kite maker women on the occasion sought relaxation in the law regarding checks on twine makers. They said in the past they were earning handsome wages to support their families but now they do not have anything to eat. They also demanded for the provision of alternate skills and businesses.

Irfan Mufti said that these workers need to organise themselves in a group, an organisation or union to get their demands addressed. He further said that government should acknowledge this as an industry and potential for export. Absar Abdul Ali said, “Kite flying is our culture, but it must be safe to life. Human life is the most important thing. Yet these kite maker women should be provided alternate skills to earn their livelihood,” he added.

Civil society members also passed a resolution that government should do some legislation in favour of kite maker’s women workers livelihood and provide them alternate skills and earning opportunities.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Indigenous people direct victims of climate change

Speakers at a seminar on ‘Climate change: Impacts on Livelihood, Marine and Coastal Resources’ said on Saturday that indigenous people were direct victims of climate change and the state had failed to provide required protection to the people during calamities. 

The seminar was jointly organised by Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler) and National Council for Environment Journalists, which attracted a large number of fisherwomen and civil society activists. The event was the part of activities related to a Week of Action for Climate Justice. 

The speakers focused on the overall situation of the depleting natural resources and vulnerabilities of indigenous communities living in rural areas, forests, along lakes and the coasts of Pakistan. Syed Baloch, General Secretary of the PFF quoting the impacts of cyclones, tsunami, floods, droughts and hurricane in the world said these countries have learned lessons from effects and prepared more to avert the losses. But as compared to the world, “we do not have serious efforts to initiate adaptation measures with the involvement of communities.” 

Baloch said Pakistan had designed climate change policy draft, which was approved by the parliament but yet to be implemented.

Nadia Bajwa of WWF Pakistan, focal person on climate change adaptation programme, which is working in 1050-km-long coastal areas from Indus Delta, Keti Bunder, Kharo Chan in Sindh to Jewani, Balochistan province said they are conducting ‘coastal community vulnerability assessment’.  “We are working to have scientific and sociological feedback from various sectors, including indigenous people living in the target areas. We are also working on trans boundary issues related to Pakistan and India,” she said while sharing experiences related to climate change impacts.  Sharing findings of the study, she said they have designed strategy to initiate community level adaptation in two union councils of Thatta district coastal areas.

“We are learning from community experiences regarding visible changes related to climate.” She said Pakistan is on the number 16 of the world index of the impacts of climate change mapping.”

She said mangroves plantation on the priority of WFF because of its role to store carbon gases. Apart from this they offer alternative energy in the coastal areas. 

Majeed Motani, a community elder belonging to Ibrahim Hydri, talking about the status of marine life, said coastal communities are direct victims of sea level rise. Due to negligible approach of the government authorities, marine pollution is increasing, affecting source of livelihood of small scale fishermen. There is no more fish along the beaches and fishermen are losing their traditional sources of income.  He said fishermen are demanding the government to avoid releasing industrial waste into the sea without treatment, but neither the government has policies to challenge polluters nor is stronger voice by environmentalists and media to save natural resources.   Motani said due to depleting mangroves forests the lives and livelihoods might be affected. Karachi is vulnerable to face cyclones and tsunamis, emphasising the need to conserve mangroves to avert the threats of such disasters. He gave a background of mangroves forests, existing around 129-km long city coast. 

NCEJ President Amar Guriro said Pakistan is facing the loss of $365 billion due to depleting ecology over all in the country. Apart from this, he said Pakistan does not have policy to mitigate the effects of natural calamities. 

He said majority of people in hospitals are facing water-related diseases because they do not have access to potable water. Due to change in rain pattern Pakistan is experiencing flood disasters since the last three consecutive years and have lost infrastructure and sources of livelihoods.  Zulfiqar Shah, Joint Director of Piler said Sindh was more vulnerable to disasters. Provincial population is said to be around 50 million, out of which 30 million people live in rural areas, which are more vulnerable to face effects of disasters, depletion of resources and poverty. 

He said about 18 million people in Sindh province live below poverty line and were the direct victims of poverty, food shortage. They do not have access to potable water.

Monsoon pattern change is also impacting on the poor segments of the society, mostly indigenous communities, herders, farmers and fishermen. Majority of people do not have their own piece of land. Farmers and fishermen are vulnerable to face shortening sources of livelihoods. 

He said three million fishermen depend on fishing, deriving their sources of income from marine and inland waters. Similarly, majority of rural communities depend on cultivation but due to the soil infertility they are facing food insecurity. Among the rural people women and children are more victims of the impacts of these changes, he said. 

Earlier, Jamil Junejo in his introductory speech said due to increasing warming temperature the world communities are facing impacts on their lives and natural resources, as these people are natural custodians of natural resources. Mustafa Gurgaiz also spoke on the occasion.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Pope's butler says he's innocent of theft, but guilty of betraying pope he loved like a father

Pope Benedict XVI's onetime butler declared Tuesday he was innocent of a charge of aggravated theft of the pope's private correspondence, but acknowledged he photocopied the papers and said he feels guilty that he betrayed the trust of the pontiff he loves like a father.

Paolo Gabriele took the stand Tuesday in a Vatican courtroom to defend himself against accusations of his role in one of the most damaging scandals of Benedict's pontificate. Prosecutors say Gabriele stole papal letters and documents alleging power struggles and corruption inside the Vatican and leaked them to a journalist in an unprecedented papal security breach.

Gabriele faces four years in prison if he is found guilty, although most Vatican watchers expect he will receive a papal pardon if he is convicted.

Prosecutors have said Gabriele, 46, has confessed to leaking copies of the documents to Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi, because he wanted to expose the "evil and corruption" in the church. They quoted him as saying in a June 5 interrogation that even though he knew taking the documents was wrong, he felt inspired by the Holy Spirit "to bring the church back on the right track."

Judge Giuseppe Dalla Torre asked Gabriele on Tuesday if he stood by his confession. Gabriele responded: "Yes."

Asked, though, by his attorney Cristiana Arru how he responded to the charge of aggravated theft, Gabriele said: "I declare myself innocent concerning the charge of aggravated theft. I feel guilty of having betrayed the trust of the Holy Father, whom I love as a son would."

He insisted he had no accomplices, though he acknowledged that many people inside the Vatican, including cardinals, trusted him and would come to him with their problems and concerns. He said he felt inspired by his faith to always give them a listen.

He acknowledged he photocopied papal documentation, but insisted he did so in plain view of others and during daylight office hours, using the photocopier in the office he shared with the pope's two private secretaries.

The trial opened over the weekend inside the intimate ground-floor tribunal in the Vatican's courthouse tucked behind St. Peter's Basilica. Dalla Torre has said he expects it to be over within three more hearings.
In addition to Gabriele, the court heard Tuesday from four witnesses, including the pope's main private secretary, Monsignor Georg Gaenswein, who along with Gabriele was the closest assistant to the pontiff.
Gaenswein testified that he began having suspicions about Gabriele after he realized three documents that appeared in Nuzzi's book could only have come from the office he shared with Gabriele and Benedict's other private secretary.

"This was the moment when I started to have my doubts," Gaenswein said.

The book, "His Holiness: Pope Benedict XVI's private papers," became an immediate blockbuster when it was published May 20, detailing intrigue and scandals inside the Apostolic Palace. The leaked documents seemed primarily aimed at discrediting Benedict's No. 2, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, often criticized for perceived shortcomings in running the Vatican administration.

Gaenswein said as soon as he read the book, he immediately asked the pope's permission to convene a meeting of the small papal family to ask each member if he or she had taken the documentation.
One member, Cristina Cernetti, one of the pope's four housekeepers, told the court she knew immediately that Gabriele was to blame because she could exclude without a doubt any other member of the family.
In an indication of the respect Gabriele still feels for Gaenswein, he stood up from his bench when Gaenswein entered the courtroom and then again when he exited. Gaenswein didn't acknowledge him.
The trial resumes Wednesday with the testimony of four members of the Vatican police force who conducted the search of Gabriele's Vatican City apartment on May 23. In testimony Tuesday, two police officers said they discovered thousands of papers in Gabriele's studio, some of them originals.

During the testimony, the lawyer Arru complained about the conditions under which Gabriele spent his first 20 days in detention, saying the cell was so small he couldn't stretch out his arms and that lights were kept on 24 hours a day.

Gabriele said those conditions contributed to his "psychological depression."

Dalla Torre invited the prosecutor to launch an investigation, which he did. Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said the size of the cell conformed to international standards and that, anyway, Gabriele was moved to a bigger cell.

The Vatican police responded quickly with a lengthy statement insisting that Gabriele's rights had been respected, citing the food, free time, socializing, spiritual assistance and health care that Gabriele enjoyed during his nearly two months of detention. They said the lights were kept on for security reasons and to ensure Gabriele didn't harm himself, and that he had a mask he could use to block out the light.
The police warned that they may file a counter complaint against Arru if the investigation shows no wrongdoing on their part.

The trial is being conducted according to the Vatican's criminal code, which is adapted from the 19th-century Italian code. The court reporter doesn't take down verbatim quotes, but rather records reconstructed summaries dictated to her by the court president, Dalla Torre.

On several occasions, Dalla Torre truncated the responses or, with the help of the notary and the prosecutor, reconstrued them, occasionally attributing to Gabriele and other witnesses words they didn't necessarily utter, or leaving out parts of their testimony altogether. For example, the recorded summary of Gabriele's plea didn't include that he loved the pope as a son would.

The recorded testimony was read aloud to each witness for any corrections at the end. Gabriele was able to make corrections as each summary was recorded, but his full testimony was not read back to him at the end.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Elections have never been free, fair, transparent: CEC

General elections in the 65-year-long checkered history of Pakistan have never been fair, free and transparent. This startling disclosure was made by the Chief Election Commissioner, former justice Fakharuddin G Ebrahim while talking to a Transparency International Pakistan delegation at his camp office here on Friday. "It is my last wish to hold fair and free elections in the country," he suggested TI Pakistan to assist him in achieving his target.

He was all praise for the services being rendered by Transparency International Pakistan, a civil society organisation, in fighting corruption in the country. He said that he held Transparency International Pakistan in high esteem because it was the only international body which has picked up cudgels against the scourage of corruption in Pakistan.

The CEC said he was surrounded by a well entrenched bureaucracy which had to be tamed to ensure holding of elections which could be remembered as role model and serve as a beacon light for future generations. The Transparency International Pakistan delegation comprised Transparency International Pakistan's Chairman Sohail Muzaffar, Executive Director Saad Rashid, and Transparency International Pakistan Adviser Syed Adil Gilani. The focus of discussion between CEC and Transparency International Pakistan delegation was on the six reform proposals forwarded to him on July 21 this year.

The CEC appreciated the reforms suggested by Transparency International Pakistan. Former Justice Fakharuddin discussed the proposed reforms one by one. He agreed with the suggestion on installing of Web Camera System (WCS) at every polling booth for 24 hours for real-time internet monitoring of elections. He asked for estimated cost of the system and means to finance it. On the proposal that the assets and taxation details of parliamentarians available with the CEC for 2012, and recent electoral rolls be posted on the website of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). The CEC agreed and promised to implement it.

On the use of paperless Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) voting machines, the CEC said he would consider using it on selected polling booths to start with the new system. The CEC also agreed that army should be deployed both inside and outside the polling station to control law and order.

Former Justice Fakharuddin G Ebrahim, requested media and civil society to play their full role towards holding free and transparent elections in the country. Sohail Muzaffar Advocate Chairman Transparency International Pakistan thanked the Chief Elections Commissioner and assured him that Transparency International Pakistan would be always available to contribute and play its role and assist ECP in whatever way it desired in holding free and fair elections. He assured that Transparency International Pakistan would consult experts to prepare estimated cost for internet real-time monitoring. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

Pakistan rejects charge of state role in Mumbai attacks

Pakistan rejected Thursday renewed Indian charges that Pakistani "state actors" were involved in planning and coordinating the 2008 Mumbai attacks and offered a joint probe.

"I would very strongly reject any insinuation of any involvement of any state agency in acts of terrorism in India," Pakistani Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani told reporters after talks with his Indian counterpart Ranjan Mathai.

The two top civil servants in their respective ministries held two days of talks in New Delhi to bolster a peace dialogue. The two sides also discussed way to promote relations in the fields of sports particularly cricket. Jalil Abbas Jilani said he has brought a message of peace and prosperity to the people of India. He said Pakistani leadership is sincere in resolving all disputes with India peacefully.

Speaking after his talks with Jilani, which focused on ways of reducing mutual distrust between the nuclear-armed South Asian rivals, Mathai stressed that bringing those guilty for the Mumbai carnage to justice "would be the biggest confidence-building measure of all". He said India has handed over information to Pakistan side about Abu Jandal. He said the two sides discussed ways to strengthen peace and stability in the region. The Indian Foreign Secretary said he also agreed to continue talks on resolving Kashmir issue. In Thursday's joint-statement, the diplomats said that a meeting between the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan was now scheduled for September.

Text of the joint statement
 During the second-round of the resumed dialogue process, the Foreign Secretaries of India and Pakistan met in New Delhi on July 4-5, 2012 for bilateral talks on Peace and Security including CBMs, Jammu & Kashmir and Promotion of Friendly Exchanges.

The talks were held in a frank and constructive atmosphere. Both sides reiterated their desire to carry forward the dialogue process in a purposeful and result-oriented manner.

The issue of Peace and Security, including CBMs, was discussed in a comprehensive manner. Both sides emphasized the need to promote greater trust and mutual understanding through constructive dialogue.
The Foreign Secretaries reviewed the ongoing implementation of the already adopted Nuclear and Conventional CBMs. It was decided that separate meetings of the Expert Level Groups on Nuclear and Conventional CBMs will be held to discuss implementation and strengthening of the existing CBMs and suggest additional mutually acceptable steps that could build greater trust and confidence between the two countries, thereby contributing to peace and security. The dates for the meetings of Expert Level Groups will be determined through diplomatic channels.

The Foreign Secretaries noted that both countries recognize that terrorism poses a continuing threat to peace and security. They reaffirmed the strong commitment of the two countries to fight and eliminate terrorism in an effective and comprehensive manner so as to eliminate the scourge in all its forms and manifestations.
The Foreign Secretaries had a comprehensive exchange of views on the issue of Jammu & Kashmir and agreed to continue discussions in a purposeful and forward looking manner with the view to finding a peaceful solution by narrowing divergences and building convergences.

Both sides recognized the need to strengthen the existing Cross-LoC CBMs for streamlining the arrangements to facilitate travel and trade across LOC. They decided to convene a meeting of the Working Group on Cross-LoC CBMs on July 19, 2012 in Islamabad to recommend steps for strengthening and streamlining and effectively implementing the existing trade and travel arrangements and propose modalities for introducing additional cross LoC CBMs.

Both sides underlined the importance of greater people to people contacts and friendly exchanges in building a relationship of trust and friendship between the two countries. They noted that the text of a revised bilateral Visa Agreement has already been finalized and decided to work for its early signing. They emphasized the importance of greater parliamentary exchanges; promotion of cooperation in various fields including facilitating visits to Religious Shrines and cessation of hostile propaganda against each other.
The Foreign Secretaries also emphasized the need to promote media and sports contacts.

During his visit the Foreign Secretary of Pakistan will be calling on Minister of External Affairs of India, H.E. Mr. S.M. Krishna and National Security Adviser HE Mr. Shivshankar Menon.

The Foreign Secretaries will meet again in Islamabad, on a date to be decided through diplomatic channels, to prepare for the meeting of the External Affairs/Foreign Ministers in September 2012.