Afridi Phobia – undue criticism

Afridi Phobia – undue criticism

Shahid Khan Afridi, now a retired cricketer still often makes headlines due to his flamboyant personality, huge fan following, charitable work and blunt views on various issues. He invited barrage of criticism, after he publicly criticized governance issues and political instability in the country, saying he would have taken opposition into confidence had he been the Prime Minister. Twitterites termed the statement as his aspirations for becoming next premier of the country. From then on, a selected faction of society looks at everything he does with a keen eye and mostly target and criticize his activities.

Recently, his critics took to Twitter and expressed displeasure over Afridi’s visit to the plane crash site in Karachi, with some even labelling the visit as publicity stunt. One of the major reason for severe criticism was the presence of Pakistan Army’s jawans who took selfies with Shahid Afridi. Certain politicians and critics claimed that powerful establishment is grooming Shahid Afridi, popularly known as “Lala” amongst his fans, to be the next Prime Minister of the country.

shahid afridi at PIA Plane crash site

Shahid Afridi has been doing charity work through his foundation for quite some time now; however, even his charity and welfare work is being criticized and observed with suspicion. Two pictures of him ─ one with a man laying on road and the second while he is presenting a pair of new shoes to a poor little boy ─ went viral on social media and his critics did not miss the opportunity to say, “Be prepared for another handsome cricketer as Prime Minister”. So, the question arises, who are these people who are constantly criticizing Shahid Afridi and are they justified?

SA charitable work through his foundation

It seems as if Afridi’s each and every step is observed keenly by these quarters and do not miss any opportunity to criticize him. Observations show that major portion of these critics are Pashtun nationalist and left-wing parties. Most of these critics are traditionally anti-military and is targeting Shahid Khan Afridi for his current close association with the Army. They are also wary of another cricketer popularity since the last one i.e Imran Khan has become the Prime minister of the country.

Afridi charitable work

Despite few shortcomings, his criticism is mostly unjust and based on personal preferences. Shahid Afridi has huge contribution in charity work and is bringing a real change in people lives using his popularity. His recent statement on Kashmir issue where he highlighted and condemned Indian atrocities in Indian Occupied Kashmir generated huge debate and was widely appreciated by Kashmiris and Pakistanis all over the world. He said that bigotry and religious intolerance have gripped Narendra Modi’s mind and he is using religion for its divisive politics in India. Shahid Afridi blasted the inactivity of United Nation as well, expressing that UN had failed to stop Indian forces targeting the civilian population in Azad and Jammu Kashmir. His stance on Kashmir issue confirms Shahid Afridi’s unparalleled patriotism and his compassion & love for Kashmiris. This also shows that despite huge fan following in India, he never hesitates sharing his feelings about different contentious issues between both countries. Moreover, he has so far vehemently denied any intentions to join politics and has expressed his desire to continue his charity work. Keeping in view his contribution for the country and his charity work, unwarranted criticism from a section of his fellow countrymen and certain political figures is unjustified and uncalled for. It is imperative to ensure that any national hero who is bringing a real change in people’s lives should be supported and any efforts to make his work controversial should be avoided at all cost. There is a fear that such criticism might affect the donations to his charity organization and in turn affect his charity work.


CPEC prospects and dividends for KP

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) has a lot of potential in various sectors to earn revenue and attract national / international investment. KP is part of northern route of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Various projects are currently in progress/ planned in KP under CPEC umbrella.

The ambitious CPEC project has entered the second phase, under which Special Economic Zones (SEZs) are being built in Pakistan. These SEZs will attract foreign investment and boost country’s economy, thus in turn contributing positively to improve locals’ life standard. The establishing of Rashakai Economic Zone also called Technology City in Nowshera adjacent to motorway will not only create job opportunities but will also help province in technical and industrial advancement. China has also planned to invest in building vocational and training centers as well as research in agriculture and livestock sectors. This investment will impact a larger portion of KP society and help in poverty alleviation.

Another important facet of CPEC is improvement in trade and commerce activities within both countries. This will enable KP locals to export domestic products to China and other international markets thus contribute in shrinking Balance of Payment. With the development of roads and railway network in the said project, transporting goods and local products have become more easier enabling local industries better, smoother and quicker access to local and international markets including Chinese market.

Under the bilateral cultural exchange schemes, the local KP students are benefitting from Chinese experience in various fields. This will be helpful in developing various agricultural and industrial sectors of KP.

Various energy projects under the shadow of CPEC will help energy-starved Pakistan to provide uninterrupted supply to industrial sectors and domestic users. Availability of cheap and uninterrupted power supply will help local industries in boosting their output at a lower cost. This in turn will help local companies to compete more easily in international market.

There is no doubt that CPEC will bring various economic opportunities but there are associated challenges that need to be addressed timely and effectively. On the Eastern front, the intentions of India to sabotage the project has always been iterated by their leaders as it is considered a threat to Chabahar Port. The project is also facing criticism and opposition from United States due to its vested interests. Therefore, various projects under CPEC faces enhanced security challenges specially in KP. The same needs to be addressed in order to foil any aggressive attempt from our adversaries.

Governance issues pertaining to the implementation of projects is also a major challenge. Rising above the personal gains for a larger interest and wellbeing should be the goal of leaders. Interprovincial disharmony has also surfaced few time due to allocation of resources on both routes which should be dealt timely and a consensus-based approach should be adopted to avoid any future complications.

To conclude, CPEC is a huge economic initiative that will not only bring prosperity to Pakistan but to the whole region, only if it is implemented in true letter and spirit. Nationally, there should be focus on the internal matters and affairs but the much-needed focus on the international angle of CPEC should never be ignored.

Pashtun culture and traditions resides in the hearts of its people

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) is a cradle of ancient civilization, imbue with traditional attire, delicious cuisine and chords. Pashtun belongs to a large Eastern Iranian Ethnic group who uses Pashto as a native language and live their lives according to a code known as Pashtunwali. Pashtuns are divided into four major tribes i.e Sarbani, Bettani, Karlani and Gharghashti. They mostly reside in north and north eastern part of Pakistan.

Pashtunwali code is a collection of various principles which dictates the life of any Pashtun family. It mainly includes “Melmastia” (Hospitality), “Nanawatai” (Forgiveness or asylum), “Badal” (Revenge), “Turah” (Bravery), “Sabat” (loyalty) and “Nang” (honor). “Melmastia” is a key component of Pashtunwali which guarantees hospitality and protection to all visitors regardless of their race, religion and creed. Another principle of Pashtunwali is “Nanawatai” in which protection is offered to all those who seek or request it, irrespective of affiliation or enmity. Pashtunwali other elements such as “Turah”, “Sabat” and “Ghairat” assures loyalty to friends, family and community. Pashtunwali code relevance even in modern times is a true reflection of Pashtuns civilized nature and culture.

Pashtuns has a distinct system known as Hujra which serves as a state council for the tribe. The Hujra tradition not only ensures councils on different contentious issues but also serve as a grooming center for future generations. Hujra tradition ensures blending of youth with old generation where variety of issues including political, social and religious matters are discussed and deliberated upon. Male guests are normally entertained in Hujra thus also serving as guest house (Mehman Khana).

Pashtun traditional attire is a beautiful blend of Partoog-Korteh (Shalwar kameez), Pakul (Pashtun Hat) and long Pakhtun Frocks. Pashtun men wear Partoog-korteh with pakul on their heads and women wear long traditional embroidered frocks. Pashtun women loves to wear traditional shawls that highlights culture of different Pashtun regions.

Personification of Pashtun culture cannot be termed complete without “Pashtun music and dance”. Rubab a Pashtun musical instrument is a soul of Pashtun music and an important element of their festivals. Pashtun music mostly includes classical ghazals using Rubab, sitar, tabla and flute. Pashtun cultural dances are story tellers and are different for each tribe. Traditional dances like Attan, Khattak, Mahsud, Waziri express Pashtun cultural traditions or community history through metaphorical statements expressed in music and dance.

Food is another important part of Pashtun culture which displays the richness of its culture. Pashtun traditional food is all about relish of meat; Chapli kebab, Kabli pulao, Dumba karahi and lamb tikka are some of the famous dishes which are enjoyed not only in KP but also in other regions of Pakistan.

Despite introduction of modern laws and regulation, Pashtuns still rely on various traditional codes of conduct in their societal dealings. These codes not only dispense speedy justice but also ensures respect of various Pashtun values. However, these beautiful Pashtun traditions are losing its glare in modern generation of Pashtuns due to massive urbanization and introduction of modern education. Future Pashtun generation needs to embrace these traditions viz a viz embracing modernity in order to keep these traditions alive and stay connected to their ancestral roots.

Online Harassment and Cyber-sexism in KP

Internet has gradually taken over control of human’s life and has become an important facet of our daily life. It has emerged as an important platform for marginalized communities where they can raise their voices. It has played a central role in various modern uprisings and social movements such as Arab Spring. Social media platforms are now used to highlight various issues and increase pressure on governments to affect change in various policies. However, Social media spaces are also increasingly used for harassment where various tactics are used against victims.

In Pakistan, online harassment and violence is more prevalent but it is mostly ignored. Women are daily subjected to online harassment, rape threats, cyberstalking, blackmailing, defamation and much more. Irrespective of a gender, the victim of online harassment can also be a male, though, females in our society are more vulnerable to online harassment. Cyber Harassment against women is also named as Cyber-sexism or Cyber-misogyny.

In this era of technology and quick access to the Internet, people can easily gain access to personal data. Most of the people in Pakistan have a misperception that stealing of personal data is not a Cyber Crime. However, according to the National Response Centre for Cyber Crime (FIA), “Any activity commissioned via computer, digital devices and networks used in the cyber realm, and facilitated through internet mediums is a punishable crime. It can include the distant theft of information belonging to an individual, government or corporate sector through criminal tress-passing into unauthorized remote systems around the world. It may include stealing millions of rupees from online bank to harassing and stalking cyber users”.

People in the region of KP are less aware of cybercrime and cybersecurity as many women do not report cases of online harassment due to cultural taboos and family honour. Living in a patriarchal society, women mostly avoid reporting such cases to the authorities and the abusers or harassers normally goes unpunished.

The basic motive of online harassment differs from case to case, but mostly the victims are targeted to humiliate, embarrass, threaten, extort, scare, silence and in extreme cases provoke mob attacks or malicious engagements.

Talking to an online harassment victim, Sarah Mukhtar who is a young mother of two and was an active proponent for women rights said that “I had no idea that my views will generate so much intolerance that not only men but women will also harass me.” She further added, “I used to get threats and abusive messages on Facebook and Instagram daily, few have even stolen my personal pictures from social media accounts, threatening to edit them in order to malign my image, simply because they do not agree with my views.

As per the recent report of Digital Rights Foundation (DRF), a Pakistani advocacy and research NGO, claims that 40% of females on the internet in Pakistan have faced online harassment via social media and 72% of women are not even aware of cyber harassment laws.

Many women in Pakistan opt for self-censorship as they are afraid of online harassment, 70% of women in KP are reportedly reluctant to use or post their pictures online. While talking to a human rights activist, Nadia Bangash, she said that “due to nature of my work, I get a lot of online trolls. I wanted to report the harassers but my family stopped me from doing so and advised to limit my friends list and avoid sharing my thoughts openly. The self-censorship is depressing, seeing the culprits live their lives freely”. She further added, “Owing to family and social pressure, I had to ignore the harassment”.

Pakistani women daily experience online harassment but mostly chooses to stay silent due to family restrictions and less chances of implication. Hira Khalil, a law student adds, “Without my consent, my few personal intimate images and videos including few doctored ones in compromising positions were spread on social media. I, initially thought to reach out for help, but I was hesitant as I did not trust the authorities”. Adding to this she said, “I gathered the courage and filed my complaint in cybercrime cell but then after a year I gave up since it was a time-consuming procedure and the harm was already done”.

There are venues in Pakistan to protect women online like the cyber harassment helpline or FIA cybercrime cell, but the cybercrime laws in Pakistan are mostly ineffective or weak, whereas Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016, binds to make strict equivalent punishment for online crimes. The state is responsible for guarding the honour of people as per the Constitution’s Article 14. Online crimes against women threaten their identities, put their prestige at stake and affect their repute.

Women like males have rights to live freely in the society without the fear of abuse, violence or assault including online harassment. Online harassment against women cannot be completely eliminated however, authorities can make the cyber space safer by effective implementation of cyber laws and strict punishment for harassers.

*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of victims.

Peshawar – The City of Flowers

Peshawar is known as the city of flowers, as many villages adjacent to the city including Bazid Khel, Shahab Khel, Masho Khel and Soliman Khel are the major producers and suppliers of flowers. The farmers in these villages grow variety of flowers as per the local industry demand which are normally used for marriages and other events. Carnations, marigold, jasmines and red roses are few of the species which are widely grown in these villages.

The villages are located near tribal areas boundary, which in past have remained a hub of terrorism. However, production and trading of flowers did not stop in these areas even when terrorism was on peak. The farmers used to earn a reasonable money from flower industry to support their families.

However, currently the flower market is passing through a worst situation as the government has imposed lockdown which has considerably affected flowers industry. According to the local farmers, the war on terror had failed to affect the trade and production of flowers but the lockdown has badly affected demand of flowers in local and national market thereby hitting hard local farmers.

While talking to Voice of KP, a flower grower and businessman, Inam Khan said that all these villages were one of the biggest markets of flowers production in the country and have been playing its role in adding more beauty to the environment and social gatherings. The business also allowed farmers to earn comparatively more money due to higher demands and high prices. He further said that, March and April are peak season as large quantity of different varieties of flowers are produced in this period while people generally prefers to arrange gatherings or social events in this time period due to pleasant weather. However, imposition of ban on social gatherings and complete lockdown have affected the demand of flowers in local and national market. This in turn have badly affected the local flower growers of these villages, who have lost much needed revenue.

Another flower grower from Masho Khel village told us on phone that he liked to grow flowers instead of any other crop as they have been earning more in flower farming. He told us that flowers production cannot be stopped as flowers are in demand in all seasons and gatherings. However, currently the lockdown has badly affected flower demand as very less social gatherings are happening now a days.

Flower industry not only support local farmers but also contribute positively towards environment. The provincial government should pay attention to these neglected farmers and devise a proper strategy towards their protection and wellbeing. The government also needs to incentivize flower industry in order to encourage more production as it can become a major industry to earn a much-needed revenue through its exports to other countries.

KP government failed to utilize development budget

The failure of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) government to utilize even 50 percent of its developmental budget for the fiscal year 2019-20 have raised many eye brows over the attitude of the provincial government towards its commitments and promises regarding the development in KP.

In the budget for Fiscal Year 2019-20, the KP government had allocated Rs 319 billion for development projects in the province, including Rs237 billion for settled districts and over Rs 81 billion for newly formed tribal districts. However, until May, Rs 65 billion out of Rs 237 billion had been utilized in the settled districts and a small ratio of Rs 6 billion was utilized in the tribal districts as compared to the total budget allocated for the developmental projects of Rs 81 billion for the newly formed districts.

It is pertinent to mention that the provincial government had decided on heavy allocations for four key public sectors, including education, youth developments, communication and tourism, however, all four sectors were greatly ignored in term of developmental works and this is one of the reason that all opposition parties raised reservations over the progress of KP government in FY 2019-20.

Besides, there were many sectors including food department, mineral development, population welfare, science, information technologies and transport sector which did not use any funds allocated to them in the last eleven months. This is a clear indication of poor governance and incompetency.

Meanwhile, according to the sources, the Chief Minister has also showed his displeasure over the sluggish progress of the development in the province. It is believed that delays in the decision-making process, strict rules and regulations are some of the factors responsible for poor utilization of funds.

As per previous data regarding the budget lapse, the first PTI provincial government in 2013-14 had allocated Rs 83 billion, out of which the government utilized only Rs 66 billion leaving a fund of Rs 9 billion unspent. While the allocations in 2014-15 were increased by Rs 17 billion to Rs 100 billion, out of this, a total of Rs 90 billion were utilized. In the fiscal year 2015-16, allocations were increased 13 per cent to Rs 113 billion and the provincial government ended up releasing only Rs 108 billion, out of which, Rs 101 billion were utilized.

The trend did not stop in 2016-17 and Rs 125 billion were allocated, 11 per cent more from previous fiscal year. However, the government released Rs 123 billion and Rs 119 billion were used. The K-P government increased the allocation by 1 percent and allocated Rs 126 billion in the fiscal year 2017-18 for development. But the provincial government released only Rs 114 billion, nine billion rupees less than previous financial year and Rs 108 billion were spent.

Allocations were slashed by 14 per cent to Rs 108.9 billion in the fiscal year 2018-19 while the government claims to have released Rs 95.6 billion by May 31. Of this, it used Rs 76.1 billion while Rs 19.5 billion went unused.

Many experts blame the absence of an effective local government in the province for such huge amount of unutilized budget for years. This should be a concern for PTI led government in the province and the provincial government should take the issue more seriously. The issue of unused fund must be resolved in the upcoming FY in order to fulfil its promises with the masses.

Parachinar, a heaven on earth

Parachinar is the administrative headquarter of Kurram district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan. Kurram district was an agency of Federally Administered Tribal areas (FATA) until the year 2018, when it became a district after the merger of FATA with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Parachinar is situated on the western border of Pakistan that juts into Nangarhar province of Afghanistan. The main Thall-parachinar road, connects Parachinar with Peshawar and the same follow up towards Afghanistan from Gawaj. The other major road is Board-Road, which connects Parachinar City with the airport and then with Burgi.

The name Parachinar comes from ‘para’ (Paara), one of the tribes of valley and “chinar” is the maple trees which are found in abundance in the Parachinar region. Its name is derived as a result of social meetings conducted under a large chinar tree.

The debris of that tree are still present at a place now encompassed by the headquarters of Kurram district where the elders residing in para area used to conclude meetings under a chinar tree to resolve their social meetings.

According to the recent estimates, the total population of Kurram has crossed 6 million. Around 6% of the population lives in urban centres of Sadda and Parachinar, while the remaining 94% in rural areas. The population consists largely Pashto speaking Syed, Turi, Bangash, Orakazai, Mangal, Para, Malakhel, Hazara, Khoshi Christian and as well as a Sikh community.

Kurram agency population is ahead of all agencies in the field of education. However, due to governments lack of attention, the whole agency, including Parachinar, is deprived of quality education facilities. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto approved a medical college at Parachinar during 70s, which General Ziaul Haq later moved to Abbottabad. The area has generally remained ignored in the subsequent governments. After merger, FATA university has plans to open a sub campus at Parachinar, however, the same is yet to be announced.

The climate conditions in the whole agency are generally favourable during the summer; however, in winters the minimum temperature is usually underneath freezing point and occasionally, can drop below – 10 degree Celsius. Northern and western heights of the valley receive snowfalls in winters and snow can be seen even in the month of June on the peak of mountains making Parachinar one of the coldest cities across Pakistan.

The Sufaid Koh mountain forms the territorial boundary between Kurram Agency and Afghanistan. The other famous mountains are Sur-Ghar and Spin-Ghar mountains, which used to be surrounded by forests but now has limited forests cover due to deforestation. Notable valleys and streams in Kurram District include: Peiwar, Shalozan, Shian, Zeran, and Daradar.

Parachinar is surrounded by dozens of tourist points, some of the natural wonders among these points includes Mast Baba located in Zeran, Shalozan Garden, Malana Dam, Maikay and a Chapri Bangla located 16000 feet above sea level. These beautiful places have not received any attention from government. The matters are made worst for tourist due to perception of the valley and poor road infrastructure. The government needs to provide variety of facilities to improve tourism infrastructure in the areas and attract national and international tourists. This will not only help KP government to earn more revenue but also project the softer image of the valley to the entire world.

PIA Plane Crash Controversies

The ill-fated PIA Airbus A320, that crashed a couple of days before Eid ul fittar in a dense populated area adjacent to Jinnah International Airport at Karachi has raised many serious questions which needs to be answered as it has resulted in a loss of almost 100 precious lives. The nation is waiting for answers regarding actual reasons behind this fatal incident which has left the entire nation in mourning.

The plane crash is a huge tragedy for the entire nation at a time when the country is passing through a difficult situation due to Covid19 pandemic. Important questions such as, were safety regulations followed? what was the role of Control tower amid emergency situation? how did sudden jamming of landing gears occurred and what was the role of technical engineers who gave clearance to the plane? needs to be answered without any delay.

Local media and public have raised many important questions as to why the plane crashed. The first and foremost question raised is, why the landing gears were jammed and what led to the failure of both engines of the plane just before landing on the runway?

Meanwhile, many reports also claim that there were many technical issues in the plane and despite knowing, the technical engineer cleared the plane for takeoff. Other reports also revealed that PIA engineering department had frequently requested the concerned authorities for provision of spare parts and rectification of technical issues, however, the management did not pay any heed towards these issues.

Besides, doubts about fitness of plane and role of concerned authorities, the four members investigation team formed by the government is also being widely criticized as it is lacking any expert pilot of commercial plane. The team comprises of three officials from Aircraft Accident Investigation Board (two of them are Air Force officers) and fourth member has been taken from Pakistan Airforce Safety Board.

The Pakistan Airlines Pilot Association (PALPA) has also showed their reservations over the status of the investigation team and has demanded the government to include a commercial plane pilot in the team in order to conduct a transparent inquiry.

On the other hand, the primary report prepared by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said that the engines of the crashed plane had touched the runway twice or thrice while the pilot was trying to land. As per the report, after the third attempt to land, the pilot once again took flight which was an unusual move.

Meanwhile, many experts have also raised questions over authenticity of the primary report as they believe that the report was an attempt to blame the pilot for the incident while exonerating rest of the concerned quarters. The experts termed the report as incomplete, fabricated and partial on such a serious issue.

In order to restore the lost confidence and pride of the national airline, the government should include a commercial pilot in the investigation team in order to ensure transparency of investigation process and maintain neutrality. PTI government should release the investigation report with all facts and figures without any delay to ensure transparency and also satisfy the bereaved families.

Besides, the government should also work seriously on the management of PIA, as the institution has long been suffering from allegations of corruption, incompetence and unprofessionalism. The national airline has been ailing for decades and has currently liabilities of over Rupees 350 billion. Therefore, there is a need to make serious efforts to improve the flight quality and operating mechanism of PIA.