Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A SAFE ALTERNATIVE TO FEMALE CIRCUMCISION

Female circumcision, also called female genital mutilation (FGM) is widely practiced in at least 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East. More than 125 million women have been subjected to different forms of genital mutilation across Africa and in areas of western and southern Asia, and 2 million women undergo the procedure annually.

It is also carried out in Australia, Canada, England, France, and the United States among immigrants from countries where it is performed as a ritual. Female genital mutilation is internationally recognized as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. FGM has no health benefits to women. On the contrary, by removing normal, healthy genital tissue the procedure interferes with the body’s natural functions. A new rite to replace this practice offers hope to change this situation.

An alternative –and safe- rite to traditional female genital mutilation has been used for many years in some African countries. If more extensively used, it can contribute to put an end to a practice that has caused considerable harm and suffering to millions of women worldwide.

This new rite was initiated in the Tharaka district in Kenya in 1996, and grew out of the collaboration between a women’s Kenyan group, called “Maendeleo Ya Wanawake Organization” (MYWO) and the Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH), a non-profit, international organization whose aim is to improve the health of women and children in developing countries.

The alternative rite initially practiced in Kenya is known as “ntanira na mugambo” or “circumcision through words.” Young women go through a week long program of counseling, training and education, capped by a day designated as the “coming of age day,” when members of the community join for a celebration with music, dances and feasting.

The rite consists of a week of seclusion. In it, the adolescents are taught basic concepts of anatomy and physiology, sexual and reproductive health and hygiene, and are counseled on gender issues, respect for adults, how to improve their self-esteem and how to deal with peer pressure.

The program recognizes the girls’ need for recognition, so they receive a certificate, presents, are granted special wishes and become the center of attention in the community during the final day of celebration. The mothers, many of whom act as peer educators, are then able to convert the fathers and the rest of the family.

A similar ritual, in which the girl is declared a woman without maiming her for life, is carried out in Uganda among the Sabiny tribe of farmers. What makes the Uganda case particularly interesting is that the clan elders, who formed the Elders Association in 1992, decided to outlaw FGM and promoted the new rite to replace it Because of their work they received the 1998 United Nations population award.

This new rite has hopes of success because it offers an attractive alternative rather than a blunt prohibition to a long-established cultural practice. It could thus become one of the most significant measures toward improving women’s health and quality of life on a large scale.

This alternative rite is similar to ceremonies practiced in other religions. In the Jewish faith, after years of training in religious principles, history and family matters, 12-year-old girls go through a ceremony (bat mitzvah) that signals their passage to womanhood. It also indicates that from then on they become full-fledged members of the Jewish community with all the responsibilities that come with it.

Among Hindu and Buddhist women living in regions of Nepal and in Southern India, girls are kept in the dark for 12 days immediately following menarche, during which they are not allowed to see a man’s face or to take a bath. Afterwards, they bathe and there is a ceremony with feasting and presents indicating their entrance into womanhood.

In many societies FGM is considered a cultural tradition, which has been used as an argument to continue its practice. In other societies, the prevalent view is that it is recommended in religious texts. There is no evidence, however, to support this last assertion.

FGM can provoke serious psychological and bodily harm to women who undergo the procedure. Research on this issue has shown that if communities decide to abandon FGM, the practice can be eliminated very rapidly. The use of this alternative and safer procedure can protect women from harm and help them lead healthier, more fulfilling lives.


Dr. Cesar Chelala is an international public health consultant and a co-winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

MH17 TRAGEDY AT 33,000 FEET

What was supposed to be a flight carrying happy holidayers to their destination turned into a tragedy of heartbreaking proportions. Malaysia Airlines flight MH 17 plummeted to the ground on Thursday, crashing 40 miles east of the Ukrainian town of Donetsk, killing all 298 people on board. It is here many of them still lay strewn on the smouldering fields in the large area over which the plane crashed — a mangled wreckage that has given rise to disputes. 

There have been some mad speculations and hurried conclusions over the downing of the flight, all of them without any concrete evidence. In the early moments after the plane went down, it was being reported that it had been shot down. Almost immediately attention turned to the fact that the plane was flying over a conflict zone, where pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine have been waging an insurgency against the government in Kiev that they regard as illegitimate and oppressive. In next to no time, the western media started pointing the finger of blame at Russian President Vladimir Putin, no doubt after prodding from Kiev, where President Petro Poroshenko has had it in for the Russian premier since Putin’s annexation of Crimea in March. 

Now the cacophony from all the western media is rising in a loud crescendo of how it was Russian-backed, pro-separatist militants who fired at the plane with sophisticated weaponry supplied to them by Russia. We have even heard President Obama and others in Washington echo these accusations, who are all warning Russia about the consequences.

Wait a minute — it has not even been 72 hours since the tragedy occurred and no official investigation has been launched yet. Whilst media reports are alleging that the plane’s black box has been retrieved by the separatists, no one knows for sure. The area where the plane crashed is conflict-afflicted territory and no proper investigative teams have so far made it in to uncover fully what really happened. Sketchy media reports making the rounds on how somebody called “Major” shot down the plane and then boasted about it on social media have not been independently verified. How can the whole western world, the media included, just jump the gun like that? One must also question why the aviation industry allows its commercial jetliners to fly over conflict zones where anything can happen, as this latest incident has so horribly illustrated.
 

What happened is an undeniable tragedy with entire families and the loved ones of many wiped out within seconds, but that does not mean that retribution must be exacted where it is politically convenient. It is well known the dislike Kiev has for Putin and the current tense relations between Moscow and Washington. This tragedy must not serve as a means to play out that rivalry. 

What must be carried out is a complete official investigation as recommended by the UN Security Council, Russia included. The victims of this horrific ordeal deserve nothing less than the truth. If someone did shoot down that plane, the whole force of the law and justice system must come down on the perpetrators. 

However, it is not correct to point fingers before the true facts are established. Malaysia Airlines is going to find it impossible to come out of this episode after another one of its planes went ‘missing’ in March this year, with nobody truly knowing even now what became of it and its passengers. There are many victims of this devastation at 33, 000 feet; it is prayed that their souls find peace and justice.

International outrage has been building over the way bodies were being left to rot in the sun amid claims official observers were not being allowed to access the site, and that evidence had been tampered with by rebels in control of the site.

Ukraine's emergency officials said today that 196 bodies have been recovered in an operation involving nearly 300 volunteers and rebels.

Ukraine and the separatists accuse each other of firing a surface-to-air missile at Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 on Thursday as it flew from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur some 33,000ft above the battlefields of eastern Ukraine. Both deny the charge.

The US has pointed blame at the separatists, saying Washington believes the jet was probably downed by an SA-11 missile from rebel-held territory and 'we cannot rule out technical assistance from Russian personnel'.

The latest US intelligence assessment suggests that more than one missile system was given to the separatists by the Russians in the last week or so. But both Russia and the rebels vehemently deny any role in downing the plane.

Despite calls by world leaders for an independent, international investigation into the incident,
armed separatists limited observers' access to the crash site on Friday and Saturday.

'We have to be very careful,' said a spokesman for the 24 international monitors. We are unarmed civilians so we are not in a position to argue with people with heavy arms.'

‘We encountered armed personnel who acted in a very impolite and unprofessional manner. Some of them even looked slightly intoxicated,’ a spokesman said.

'Some of the body bags are open and the damage to the corpses is very, very bad. It is very difficult to look at.'

Courtesy AGENCIES & DAILY TIMES

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A QUICK DIVE HISTORY OF THE ISRAEL-PALESTINE CRISIS

The huge amount of aid that the US grants Israel is worrisome since most of it is directly used for the development of the Israeli military and weaponry, which is directly used against the Palestinian people

The region formerly known as the ‘Palestine region’ had not seen any conflict or bloodshed until the 19th century when a group of European colonisers known as the Zionists came to the region and started to colonise it. At that time, Muslims were 86 percent, Christians were 10 percent and Jews just four percent of the total population of the Palestine region. Colonisation started and so did the migration of a huge number of Jews into the region. The migration of Jews ignited the conflict between the Muslims and the Jews. However, when the group of colonisers later decided to leave, they wanted to create and leave a separate state for the Jews in the oil-rich Middle East.

Due to the intense conflicts between the Muslim and Jewish populations, the UN intervened in 1947 but, rather than sticking to the principle of self-determination, the UN decided to divide the region by itself as did the colonisers of the subcontinent divide the subcontinent unjustly between India and Pakistan. So, in 1947, the UN, under the immense pressure of the Zionist lobby, decided to give 55 percent of the Palestine region to the Jewish population, which at that time constituted only 30 percent of the total population of the region and occupied only seven percent of the total region. The Jewish land was named Israel. The rest of the region was thrown to the Palestinian people as if the UN had done them a great favour.

As a consequence, war erupted in the region from 1947 to 1949 and the Jewish population committed 16 massacres of the Muslims when the Arab armies decided to join their Muslim brothers and sisters and help them in the war. However, in the end, Palestine lost the war and the Zionist-led Jewish army got hold of additional parts of the region, i.e. 78 percent of the Palestine region, leaving the West Bank and Gaza Strip for the Palestinians. However, the expansionist ambitions of the Zionists of Israel did not stop here and another war started in 1967, in which the Zionists were again successful and gained control of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Since then, the Palestinian population is being subjected to intense humiliation, their basic human rights are violated and a large number of the population is in jail, including children and women.

A few attempts have been made to find a solution to the conflict such as the Oslo Accord in 1993 and the Camp David talks in 2000, which were both held under Clinton’s administration. The single biggest reason behind the failure of the talks was that the ‘mother-state’ of Israel — the US — dominated the talks and wanted to reach an unreasonable solution in favour of Israel, though the failure of both the talks are attributed to the leadership of Palestine because it is claimed that it did not agree to the accord — which accord? The one unreasonably in favour of Israel? And then they wonder why the sane world at large is confused at all this!
 
Moreover, the mother-state of Israel has great cultural and religious affiliation with Israel whilst Israel has also adopted western democratic traditions, at least for its own citizens. The huge amount of aid that the US grants Israel is worrisome since most of it is directly used for the development of the Israeli military and weaponry, which is directly used against the Palestinian people — not sparing women and even children. Palestine receives no aid currently and what it has received in the past can never match the aid given to Israel.

Despite the wiping out of big chunks of factual history, one should be crystal clear about who has the right to the Palestinian land. The Zionist army is considered legitimate in the eyes of the world. On the other hand, the Palestinian army, which is fighting for its rights — Hamas — is labelled a terrorist organisation. Regarding Hamas and its role, I remember a quote by Gerald Seymour in 1975: “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.” This fits pretty well here.

The Israeli military is looking for reasons to attack innocent Palestinians. It is also important to mention that they even lure and provoke Hamas to take the first step so that they have a justification for their cruelty. There is a popular quote making the rounds on social media these days: one does not have to be a Muslim to sympathise with the innocent Palestinian population and ask Israel to stop its cruelty; one just has to be human.

This is a plea to all those humanitarians out there around the globe to unite on one platform against the injustice being perpetrated against the innocent people of Palestine. If this matter is left to international actors such as the UN or the US, I bet we will not reach a conclusion any time soon, and in the meantime more Palestinians will continue to suffer. Massacres like the current one will become routine, in which more families will be killed, more mothers will lose their sons and daughters, more children will be orphaned, more old people will be killed and no innocent person will be spared — not even an 11-month old child, like we have seen in the latest bloodshed.

I strongly believe that we individuals are the biggest superpower but only if we unite on a single platform. The Muslim world must break out of its hypocritical silence and pressurise the international community to do something before more fatalities ensue.


Courtesy: Daily Times  

Saturday, July 12, 2014

IT’S NOT ‘Mad’ IN BRASIL, (BRAZUCA) - IT’S MADE IN PAKISTAN

Pakistan ranks 164 on Fifa ranking table in football game. Although, unqualified for the Football World Cup Tournament, Pakistan is still present as a central part of every footbaall match, because of Brazuca The Adidas Brazuca is the official match ball of the Brazil 2014 FIFA World Cup. It is made by the company Adidas, a FIFA Partner and FIFA World Cup Official Match Ball supplier since 1970. 

When Adidas needed extra manufacturing help - due to a Chinese supplier's lack of capacity to produce the optimal amount of stock , they looked an alternate supply source. A Pakistani ball manufacturing company, Forward Sports Private Limited in Sialkot, who has made balls for the German Bundesliga, French league and the Champions League, stepped in and won the contract. 

Characteristics of Brazuca: The ball has a multi-color design to represent Brazil. Skilled labour have made Brazuka the world's best high tech, and error free football. It is different from balls used in previous world cup tournaments. It is formed from six identical panels. These Six polyurethane panels are bonded to keep the ball the same weight and shape in all conditions. 

Adidas have come up with a design where they've got a deeper and longer seam between the panels. It develops a rougher surface which is covered in little nubs and seams that have been deepened to help avoid "knuckling" (unreliable flight) and provide improved touch and accuracy. 

There is a latex bladder to provide the desired bounce and rebound. The Brazuca devoid of pitches of air, areas of turbulent, or smooth flow, and that will lead to its flight being more conventional, more like a normal football. 

It has an Increased weight (The Brazuca is half an ounce heavier) to enable faster flight speed. 

Critics declared the Brazuca as the most tested ball Adidas has ever produced. It took the company two years to design and test the ball. It was examined in 10 countries, across three continents by more than 600 players and 30 teams. The Brazuca was tested by teams including Argentina and Spain, Bayern Munich and Chelsea and current players such as Messi and Casillas. The ball tried on dry, slightly damp and very wet pitches, and in windy conditions, gusts and heavy rain. Brazuca has received positive reviews from many of the players who hope to kick and curl it to World Cup glory. Four-time world player of the year Messi said: "My first impression of the ball is that it's really good." It is estimated that over 42 million soccer balls have been distributed all over the world ahead of the FIFA Football World Cup 2014. 

In an interview to the media The factory owner, Malik Khwaja Masood Akhtar admitted that making Brazuca was a challenge. We normally make hand-made footballs. Manufacturing machine-made balls was a tough task. We had to use various computer programmes and modern equipment to produce the footballs. We didn't have experts who could do this job, but we worked hard and did not compromise on quality." 

Brazilian Ambassador Alfredo Leoni said: "It was a matter of great pride that the World Cup footballs were provided by a Pakistani company, giving Pakistan a connection with the global contest." 

It is an honour for Pakistan to play a major role in the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. 

Courtesy: ZARINA PATEL

NO FOREIGN AID FOR IDP'S

When Operation Zarb-e-Azb was declared against militant strongholds in North Waziristan last month, the federal government made a very surprising announcement: it said that it does not wish to receive any international foreign aid from donor agencies, the UN and other non-governmental organisations (NGOs) for the management and care of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) who were fleeing from their homes in North Waziristan. With the number of IDPs rising fast — latest estimates put them at close to one million — the government has once again reiterated its position on the subject of international aid with the Foreign Office announcing that no appeal had been made to the international community for help in meeting expenditures concerning the IDPs. One wonders why the PML-N government is so adamant about this point seeing that we can ill-afford to pass up any chance in which we are helped in the IDP crisis. We need money, rations, food items, clothing, shelter and all sorts of rehabilitation tools to aid in the timely relief of the many hundreds of thousands who are homeless and resourceless in the wake of the ongoing operation where their homes used to be. 
This is a mindboggling decision of the government. Operation Zarb-e-Azb is an ongoing war against the militants without any specific timeline or schedule. It is a full-scale operation for which the army has brought out its big guns: air strikes and ground offensives. When the battle is as big as this, the trauma being faced by the IDPs is bound to go on for an indefinite amount of time. Where are all these people supposed to go? How are they supposed to survive? The government’s track record really does not provide any solace to the people when it comes to taking care of their welfare. We still have IDPs from the army’s offensives in South Waziristan and Swat who are suffering without homes and relief. We even have flood-affected IDPs from the catastrophic floods of 2010 stuck without a hope in the world. How on earth is the government going to cater to this new influx without welcoming all the help it can get with open arms?


The Nawaz government has to come clean on why it is snubbing potential international efforts to help the IDPs. They are our people who have sacrificed their homes and peace of mind for the security of the nation. How is the government planning on doing them justice? While it is being reported that the UAE is donating to the IDP cause, we need to make a concerted effort to appeal to the international community to help the IDPs. It is the least we can do. 

Courtesy Daily Times 

Monday, July 7, 2014

PAKISTAN PROTECTION ORDINANCE (BILL)- GRADE 15 OFFICER & VICTIMIZATION

Now that the Protection of Pakistan Bill has been passed, a few points need to be considered very seriously. True, the security situation warrants extra ordinary measures, but just what extent should security agencies be allowed to go, and for how long, is important.

First of all, the Bill did not command complete unanimity among political parties. PTI stayed on the sidelines, and the Jamat and JUI-F were against it. MQM, too, agreed, but not without controversy. The chief, it turns out, was not in the loop when the decision was made. And he eventually agreed because the party had taken a position, but only grudgingly.

There is little doubt that the Bill incorporates some truly draconian measures. It is not very often, after all, that grade 15 officers are given the authority to kill. And anybody even vaguely familiar with the way our security agencies are used to operating will realise just what manner of political victimisation can be facilitated when such laws are put in place. Therefore, oversight will be very important, and high offices will need to be held to account in case of excesses.

It is also important to note that while Zarb-e-Azb is central to national survival, and government offices must facilitate the drive against insurgents in whichever way possible – and there will be blowback in cities – this law is not specifically for the operation. It is meant to deal with overall security breakdown which, actually, led to the operation.

Altaf Hussain has asked to law to be scraped immediately after the North Waziristan sweep, even though it is given an official lifeline of two years. Ironically, sections within law enforcement agencies are also skeptical about certain features incorporated in the Bill; they might not be able to walk away scot free from disputed incidents like the old days.

Surely the government would not want to be put in an awkward position because of initiatives meant to restore law and order. Two years might be too long, it should be rolled back sooner.

TALIBAN’S ‘SECRET LOVE’ FOR USA

A store owner from Miranshah confirmed that Taliban likes American soap and ladies perfume more than Pakistani products.

Rasheed-ur-Rehman who has migrated to Bannu with his family amid military action against TTP added that Taliban always paid high prices for US commodities.

Talking to a private news channel here, he said the daily sale at his shop was worth Rs 1.25 lakh and that the North Waziristan operation badly affected his business.

The vendor revealed that the Taliban who claim to be anti-America admire branded western products including Secret Love, Blue Lady, Rasasi perfumes among others. He added that Taliban did not like products manufactured in Pakistan.

Agencies