Mr. Mohsin Shah Nawaz Ranjhahas, the Parliamentary Secretary of Information & Broadcasting, recently made an all too popular  statement regarding social media, and problems that are common for users worldwide. Commenting on the misuse of social media by “online miscreants”, Mr. Ranjhahas said that the government would formulate a policy to deal with ‘false information’ spread online through ‘fake identifications.’ The name ascribed to those who pose such  a problem is an internet troll. It is important to understand that there is a difference between harmless, good-humored trolling and vicious, abusive trolling. Friends and acquaintances may tease each other or joke in good humor, but on the darker end of the spectrum, there are individuals whose sole intention is to create an environment of hostility and discrimination. This kind of troll is someone who will use a fake identity online to harass people, spread rumors as facts, or relentlessly criticize someone in order to provoke an emotional response. Trolls will often operate with multiple identities, so if you block one social media profile, another will take its place. It may sound like there is no way to thwart a troll, but in actuality, there are several.

Trolls always want an audience to witness their abuse and bullying, because they crave attention in one form or the other. That is why they will often congregate on social media websites, where many people can see them engaging people in their banalities. They either attempt to publicly humiliate others, or they believe a large audience should hear their opinions, which is why, especially on political issues, an online troll will say the same thing to different people, mostly opinion leaders such as talk show hosts and news anchors, seeking approval from authority figures.

In cases where trolls attack political or public figures, the intention is almost always to cast negative light upon the individual; the troll may dislike the person’s political affiliations, public opinions, or in some cases, even aspects of their personal life. However, as wrong and mentally distressing as the deeds of online trolls are, that cannot serve as an excuse to limit, censor, or ban social media in any way. There are many ways to deal with this particular nuisance, and we, the good folks at Bolo Bhi have enlisted a number of efficient ways that work much better than policing the internet.

Understand the difference between trolling and expressing opinions: This is especially important when you occupy a position that frequently places you in the public eye, such as working for a media group, the state, or a public sector organization. Even if the expression of the idea conveyed an aggressive tone, it is still covered under free speech, and unless there is an explicit threat to your personal safety, or of your friends and family, there is no cause for any action at all. You can either a) choose to ignore the criticism, or b) address it by engaging in civil, polite discussion, or c) if you do not wish to engage in a lengthy debate, only tell the person that you understand what they’re saying and that you can just agree to disagree.

Block & Report as spam: All social media platforms provide the option for users to block unsolicited commentators and report them as spam. This is not a permanent fix, you block one account and others may pop up. Despite the fact that this will act as a temporary deterrence, it is an important one, as we will go on to explain in step 4.

Do not feed the trolls: A common phrase on how to deal with online bullying is “do not feed the trolls.” When someone is harassing and/or threatening you, there is certainly a serious issue, but when an online troll is only trying to provoke a response out of you, it may  be better to simply ignore the troll. Online bullies and trolls feed on other people’s rage, discomfort, and unhappiness; by making jokes and comments to upset people. Reacting with discomfort and annoyance to trolling is giving trolls what they want. We are not asking you to make light of threats or to not deal with harassment, deal with it, but do not exhaust yourself by engaging with an aggressive troll.

Report abuse: Remember in step two when we asked you to report individual’s statements as spam? Well, this is precisely why. All social media platforms flaunt an abuse policy and a method to report abusers. We have made a list of email addresses to reach out to in case you are facing abuse on social media. When writing the email, remember to provide all necessary details, screenshots of the accounts’ tweets, the screenshots reporting spam and lastly, a list of all accounts that are involved in harassing/trolling should be included.

Investigate the troll’s identity: Sometimes, it is easy to understand a troll’s ideology by reading the content they share on social media, or the tweets or comments they may be making in public, or they might even write on a blog. By investigating public content that is not a violation of the troll’s privacy, you can understand their ideology, which may be against your own opinions, political affiliations, or beliefs. Armed with this knowledge, you can then inform the social media public about how you’re being harassed by someone because of your opinions and views, thereby exposing the troll to criticism, rather than becoming the target of criticism yourself by reacting poorly to trolling attempts.

Block IPs yourself when possible, or through external sources: If you’re being trolled on a website or blog such as WordPress, there are numerous options that allow you to block the IP Address of a troll, so they cannot make various fake identities and harass you. In cases where IPs are not identified such as social media, the websites in question cannot release information such as IP addresses to a civilian, and can only do so when an official request is made by authority figures. In such a case, you can take a screen capture of the content that is harassing or threatening you, and get in touch with CPLC  who can help you take steps to ensure your personal and online safety.

Protect your privacy online: The content we share through social media connects us to friends and family, but it can also be used against us. It is essential to familiarize yourself with whatever social media platform you are using, and know your privacy settings from status updates to your photos. Make sure that your close friends and family protect their privacy too, as trolls will often target what they perceive to be your weakness, such as your nearest and dearest. Bolo Bhi has a list of resources for maintaining your digital security, and ensuring that personal, sensitive information cannot fall in the hands of anyone who means you harm.

 

—————————————————————————————————–

 

How to report abuse on Facebook

Facebook Safety Center

Report a Violation of Facebook Terms

How to report harassment or abuse if you’re not on Facebook

Privacy rights: Photo removal request

Report a privacy rights infringement

Report a convicted sex offender

Report blackmail

Report suicidal content

Report abuse at: abuse@facebook.com

Twitter:

How to report an abusive user

Report account for impersonation

Report account for spam

Report a problem to the support team

G+:

Report a profile

Report spam or inappropriate content

Report abuse in public video hangouts

Report abuse on events

Contact a Gmail user abusing Google’s Terms of Service (TOS)

Compromised Gmail account

Learn about suspicious activity on your Google account

Gmail security checklist

How to delete your Google Plus profile

Yahoo:

Reporting spam, phishing, or scams to Yahoo

Report an inappropriate comment or abuse on Yahoo

What to do if your account is sending spam

What to do if you’re being harassed on Yahoo

Form for contacting Yahoo

 

The Sindh Assembly unanimously passed “The Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act, 2013,” into law, thereby repealing the 1929 Child Protection Act and becoming the first province to legislate on child marriages in Pakistan. Sharmila Faruqi (Pakistan’s People’s Party – PPP) presented the private Act in the Provincial Assembly. The Act fixes the age of marriage at a minimum of 18 for both males and females, along with increasing fines and imprisonment time levied upon those who violate the Act.

 The law states that, “the provisions of the Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929, relating to the Province of Sindh are hereby repealed”, continuing, “an offense punishable under this Act shall be cognizable, non-bailable and non-compoundable.”

 Sindh Minister for Social Development Rubina Qaimkhani (PPP) welcomed the passing of the Act and appreciated lawmakers for their support. She further identified that early marriage for females leads to the negative implications on their future.

 This move comes after the Council of Islamic Ideology declared the clause prohibiting child marriage in Pakistan’s marriage laws were un-Islamic, and children of any age could be married upon puberty. This created an uproar amongst civil society and was heavily criticized in the SenateSenate, where Senator Farhatullah Babar stated that the Council of Islamic Ideology was in fact strengthening the narrative of the Taliban by justifying child marriages. He cited that this move shows an increase in extremism in the country (See Bolo Bhi’s timeline on child marriage.)

This new law is an important success for civil liberties, however, the leniency of a three-year-imprisonment for parties involved in child marriage must be criticized, given that the sentence can be commuted to shorter imprisonment. More importantly, in many cases, laws passed for the protection of children are not implemented effectively, and crimes against children have continued to rise. The Sindh Child Protection Authority Act, 2011 is a law that, if implemented effectively, calls to establish child protection units across the province, where child protection officers can take children into protective custody until receiving appropriate orders by relevant authorities for protecting the child in question. Khyber Pukhtunkhwa passed the Child Protection and Welfare Act, 2010 into law which criminalized various offenses such as pornography and sexual exploitation and also addressed the privacy of “child at risk”, with a fine of PKR. 10,000 (USD$101) for violators of the provision. On the other hand, the Balochistan Child Protection and Welfare Bill has been pending since 2011, and Punjab is still in the process of formulating a child welfare policy.

 Despite legal improvements, children’s rights continue to be violated. According to Sahil, a child-rights NGO, an astounding number of 3002 cases of sexual abuse were reported in 2013, which is a 7.6% increase from the previous year. The Movement for Solidarity and Peace (MSP) reported that in 2013, an estimated 300-700 Christian and Hindu women became victims of forced conversions to Islam, and were subjected to abuse, with some of them forced into prostitution. Child marriage is only one aspect of abuse and the exploitation of children, which young girls are particularly subjected to. In fact, according to Sahil’s 2013 report on Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) child marriage saw an increase of 21% last year.

As laudable as the passing of The Sindh Child Marriages Restraint Act, 2013 is, the implementation of this law still remains to be seen. The provincial government must focus on launching awareness-building campaigns on child marriages and child sexual abuse and encourage community members to protect children by contacting the relevant authorities if they suspect that a child is being abused. Existing laws need to be implemented in order to truly counter child sexual abuse. Similarly, other provinces need to follow Sindh’s example by enacting laws protecting children from child marriages, sexual abuse, and commercial exploitation, and dedicate far more resources to implement said laws.

day1 sam21 1024x455 Taarna Band Karo   Mard Bano   Challenging Gender Stereotypes

The idea behind the series of pictures, starting today, is to question social issues and perception relating to gender rights issues in Pakistan. The  topic of the post”Tarna Band Karo – Mard Bano” or (non-literal translation) “Real Men Don’t Stare” is intended to start a debate on the whole notion of being “real men”. The picture in itself questions “Kya yehi hai teri mardangi..”   raising questions at gender stereotypes.

It is a jab at the notion itself, that we hear, across cultures,the idea of “being a real man..” which usually entails certain characteristic most of which have to do with a show of power and strength. Not only are these ideas a false sense of gender identity but they perpetuate emotional and (sometimes) physical violence and gender discrimination.

The idea doesn’t only impact women but primarily men, where society sets standards on ways in which they should behave and interact. The whole concept of “men will be men..” and that “men stare because that’s what they do..”  only reinforces harassment and objectification of both men and women.

Social perceptions and traditional character attributions need to be challenged. The perceptions around gender roles are striking similar across different cultures. These need to be questioned, sometimes reclaimed and definitely debated.

 Letter to the German Embassy

                                                                                                                                                                       Petra Speyrer

               Consular and Legal Section

German Embassy Islamabad

Ramna 5, Diplomatic Enclave, Islamabad, PAKISTAN

P.O. Box 1027, Islamabad, PAKISTAN

Tel:  (0092-51) 227 9430 – 35

Subject: Letter to The Federal Republic of Germany’s Embassy in Pakistan: Call for Transparency, Accountability & Action Following Reports On FinFisher’s Presence in Pakistan.

Madam Petra Speyrer

As a civil society organisation that works on upholding & securing citizen’s right to open and secure access to information, we write to you to raise the issue regarding the presence of FinFisher, sold by a GERMAN/UK company, Gamma International. This was brought to public attention through a report published by Citizen Lab, a research group based at the Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto.The lab is independent from government and corporate interests, and publishes research based on evidence.

FinFisher has the ability to affect all forms of software (Mac/Apple, Windows, Android), including but not limited to all smartphones. It works as an espionage surveillance equipment, obtaining passwords for your hardware and social networks, has the ability to read an individual’s chats,listen in to  Skype calls, the capability of listening to private in-room conversations as well as stealing & emailing personal files from an individual’s device. This kind of technology has the potential to be abused & is in clear violation of international human rights laws.

Human right to privacy and free access is a universal right as made evident by the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. We quote Article 12 and Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

Article 12: “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks”.

Article 19: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”.

By reportedly exporting it’s equipment to countries with a questionable human rights record, Gamma is in violation of United Nation’s Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which identifies “a global standard for preventing and addressing the risk of adverse impacts on human rights linked to business activity”.

The reported presence and use of FinFisher is not only a violation of the multiple UN Declarations, but a grave violation of Constitutional Provisions of Human Rights of both Germany & Pakistan. Germany provides data protection through “Bundesdatenschutzgesetz or BDSG,”and the European Convention of Human Rights. According to German law, “personally identifiable information without express permission from an individual” cannot be collected or obtained without permission of individual in question; when asking for permission, it must be specified why, for how and what information is being obtained and where is the information coming from. An individual has the right to revoke the permission and all businesses and organisation must have laws that protect private data transmission that falls under BDSG laws.

Germany takes privacy laws very seriously, and is far stricter in its laws than the United Kingdom. Germany has even gone so far as to claiming a fine for Facebook for storing biometric data through a facial recognition software they use. The Independent Centre for Privacy Protection (ULD) is an active organisation that ensures privacy measures are taken and privacy laws are upheld in the nation.

In Pakistan, an individual is protected from breach of privacy by Article 14 of the Constitution, establishing that privacy is an “inviolable right” of a citizen, something that cannot be breached under any circumstance. The right to information has been established under Article 19 and 19A of the constitution, bearing that an individual should have freedom of access, expression and information.

Recently, Bolo Bhi joined a Global Coalition that endorses 13 International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance. These principles create a framework to limit surveillance, provided legitimate reasons, legitimate transparent actions are taken in proportion to the situation at hand. It gives protection to the individual from being prosecuted or violated for no reason, while giving a legal pathway for governments and individuals to follow. It forms a compromise between the individual and the state. The principles uphold the fundamental right to privacy.

We have a reason to believe that FinFisher has been used to aid in human rights violations. The very first evidence, as per research, of the presence and use of FinFisher was in Bahrain, 2012, against pro-democratic activists. Cyber attacks were launched against journalists and activists in Bahrain that gravely compromised their security and privacy; many of the activists were sent pictures and news of tortured victims as a means to intimidate them.

Thus, the presence of such equipment in Pakistan where Journalists have been targeted throughout the years is quite frightful. Reporters Without Borders has classified Pakistan to be one of the most dangerous places to be a reporter, and the reported presence of such espionage surveillance equipment is an added threat to an already hostile environment.

More than just a violation of the constitution, FinFisher enables private information to be obtained and used illegally against the respective individual, being a possible threat to their life and liberty.

We request the German Government to assist us in seeking answers from FinFisher, that has reportedly sold technology to Pakistan with full awareness that it would be abused. We ask for assistance to hold FinFisher accountable for unethical business practice and for greater transparency and accountability in the trade. We seek assistance in disabling FinFisher command and control centres in Pakistan & call for strict action and tougher laws to hold British companies accountable as and when they are in violation of domestic, national and international laws.

We hope the German Government and all other governments around the world follow their commitment to free speech and freedom of expression and take action against western companies that sell surveillance and filtering equipment to repressive governments. Put an end to the trade that aids repression.

Yours Sincerely,

Sana Saleem

Director- Bolo Bhi

A popular trend in Provincial policy, banning mediums of exchange communication, has been seen and noted. It is being used to combat the ever increasing security threat in the nation. By banning means of communication, the government feels that they can control the exchange of information and planning of groups accused of terrorist activities, seeing that they are the only ones that use them. Foregoing the millions that use it to conduct businesses, to gain education and simply communicate with family members worldwide, the government has taken this decision solely based on, you guessed it, national security.

Let’s reflect a little on our constitutional provisions first. Article 18 of our constitution mandates that businesses and organisations are free to conduct legal business; e-commerce and all communications via any client used on the internet is protected by the Electronic Transaction Ordinance 2002 that legitimises, accepts and protect businesses online. What this mean is that if a business uses the internet to conduct business, formulate contract, transfer or receive any information and so on, it is protected.  It cannot be compromised, it should be comprised and definitely not encroached upon. Not sure who writes these laws, but there is indication that the ban comes from the very system that played a role in enacting them. Detailing the magnitude of the loss these businesses will face is too widespread to get into, and impossible to process by a simpleton such as myself, but rest assured, it will hit our ever declining economy.

Leaning away from businesses and economics, lets reflect on the impact it may have on  citizens who have family and loved ones all around the world. Increase in gas prices has made it too expensive to travel; work/school commitments don’t give one enough time to do so either. Phone bills are higher each day and communication just becomes more expensive by the minute. To combat the cost of communication and maintaining relationships, we use Skype, Viber, WhatsApp etc that provide us with cost effective modes to be able to keep in touch and feel connected. Its as simple as that. We want to stay in touch, and we have the resources to do so. But now, the government has decided to have a say in how we do that as well? What next will the government regulate?  Who we can or cannot talk to? It comes back to the same argument posed once before, has the government really become nannies for the citizens? (If so, Im still waiting on that college funding that was promised).

Article 9 on the constitution gives Pakistanis their liberty, and mandates thats laws cannot deprive one of their liberty. Liberty is defined as “The state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one’s way of life” ; how am I free if I cannot use simple means of communication? How am I free if I am limited in my ability to communicate effectively with my family or friends that live abroad? How am I free if I continue to sit back and allow my government, the ones my fellow citizens and I came together and voted in (well, at least attempted to), continue to oppress my ways of life? As little as it may seem, Skype, Viber, WhatsApp and all such mediums have become a way of us to keep connected with the world beyond our borders. Its effective, efficient and immediate, just the way its needed. How is that threatening?

Now that we are talking about threats, I have my fair share,  I am threatened by policemen on the road that stop me without justifiable cause, because they want “a little extra”; I am threatened by the fact that I cannot be sure if I will have electricity all night, thereby making my day at work less productive; I am threatened by most strangers while taking a walk on the beach, because I don’t know if I’ll be protected incase I’m mugged. These are my threats;  not communication.

A general sense of security is a fundamental right, and what is to be protected by the state. That is their job; they were elected to keep me safe and uphold my rights. They are responsible to ensure that the law and order of the nation is maintained. If they fail to do their job, the only responsibility I have is to resist.  It is not the citizen’s responsibility to bear the brunt of the government’s failure. Yet, for the past decade (or possibly more) it is us citizens that have evidently taken up the roles to be our own protectors, to be our security and to bear the brunt of the incompetence the government has displayed in performing.

It is not the citizens who should be held accountable, it is the government. It is time we held our government accountable for what has happened to our cities; it is time we point fingers in the right direction. Incompetence isn’t an excuse anymore, and neither can it be tolerated. We should be the ones banning, protesting, eliminating or devolving the abuses of the government. They are the ones that have failed, not us; why are we the ones suffering?

Stop remaining silent; they have already taken away our modes of communication. If our voices are what they want to suppress, lets show them how loud we can be, shall we?

 

 A CEOs Message to the Minister

 

Ms. Anusha Rahman
Minister of State For Information Technology & Telecom
Ministry of Information Technology and Telecom,
4th Floor, Evacuee Trust Complex, Aga Khan Road,F-5/1,
Islamabad, Pakistan.
Phone #: 051-9201990

 

Esteemed Minister,

We do hope you’re receiving our messages and are looking in to resolving the issue at hand. As you’ll see in today’s letter, the impact of YouTube has most businesses worried too.

Shakir Husain is the CEO of Creative Chaos, as well as a loving father. He writes to you, reemphasizing the benefits of YouTube, especially to a developing country like ours. The resources and facilities that cannot be provided by the state, are provided by  mediums such as YouTube, which helps bridge the educational gap. In today’s rapidly developing world, quality education is of utmost importance and YouTube aids in the enhancement of academic and vocational education.

Mr. Husain also mentions how alternatives to YouTube are not good alternatives because Google’s platform is incomparable; its vast audience and reach also makes it a means for Pakistanis to showcase their talents, their innovation and creativity to millions of people worldwide, painting a more positive image of Pakistan.

He also mentions YouTube’s capacity to behave as a digital campaign medium, which is beneficial to many organisations, especially NGOs/IGOs as ourselves; having limited funds but requiring wider reach, YouTube caters to all needs and aids in the promotion and awareness of campaigns.

We hope you can empathise with us Minister. YouTube has become an integral part of business functioning and citizen lives and it is almost an injustice to deprive the nation of such an important forum.

The letter is attached, please do have a look. Thank you.

Until next letter,
Bolo Bhi

Shakir Husain A CEOs Message to the Minister

The need for a clear state policy for the internet is greater today more than ever before due to the increased frequency the state has been exercising its self-appointed blanket authority in regards to the internet. Though in an ideal world a state would realise and understand the vast and dynamic nature of the internet whereby any attempt of control is redundant; a state bent on controls has to be negotiated with to at least agree to a transparent policy that leaves little room for abuse by the state and does not override the rights and interests of the citizens it seeks to govern.

With several websites blocked in Pakistan over the years (see: Content filtration over the years timeline), most notably YouTube for over a year now (see: YouTube ban timeline), and a plan by the State to put in place a URL filtration system, it is important for us as citizens to hold the State accountable for the democratic rights of the citizens it is supposed to safeguard.

For this reason, Bolo Bhi is working to archive the stance of relevant policymakers and public figures within and outside the parliament on issues relating to internet freedom, privacy, censorship, and internet governance in Pakistan. These interviews will serve three fundamental purposes.

Firstly, the video interviews will be publicly available on the internet to inform the citizens on where policymakers, public figures, and experts stand on the issue of internet freedom in Pakistan.

Secondly, these will be used to draft a policy paper that will seek to encourage dialogue and build consensus among the stakeholders on the limits to internet governance.

Lastly, the ultimate goal is three-pronged whereby the aim is to highlight the current procedure that is deployed to block content; to push for an end to ad hoc blocking; and to constitute safeguards that uphold constitutional rights of freedom of speech and expression, and the right to privacy as a baseline for any future regulations.

Ideally, this framework should include:

1. Clear specifications on what criteria will be employed to determine the kind of content against which action is to be taken;

2. What the process of warning and penalisation would entail;

3. A transparent record of any steps the government has taken in regards to the internet, along with the reasons for it, available publicly.

[Also see: Internet censorship in Pakistan: need for dialogue, framework, and transparency. Bolo Bhi press release. May 21, 2013)]

“144. Power to issue order absolute at once in urgent cases of nuisance or apprehended danger. in cases where, in the opinion of a District Magistrate, Sub-Divisional Magistrate, (or of any other Executive Magistrate] specially empowered by the Provincial Government or the District Magistrate to act under this section, there is sufficient ground for proceeding under this section and immediate prevention or speedy remedy is desirable, such Magistrate may, by a written order stating the material facts of the case and served in manner provided by section 134, direct any person to abstain from a certain act or to take certain order with certain property in his possession or under his management, if such Magistrate considers that such direction Is likely to prevent, or tends to prevent, obstruction, annoyance or injury, or risk of obstruction, annoyance or injury to any person lawfully employed, or danger to human life, health or safety, or a disturbance of the public tranquility, or a riot, or an affray.”

 

Bolo Bhi recently created a timeline to determine how many times, between 2000-2013 Section 144 was imposed in the great nation of Pakistan. It is a living timeline and will continually be updated upon research and findings. The reason for conducting the research was to determine whether the state has been within its powers to impose section 144. It is available under Timelines in the Resources category on Bolo Bhi’s website.

Section 144 confers power to magistrates to restrict assembly in a certain place, in an attempt to preemptively counter any potential disturbances of peace. The authorities can also, under this section, restrict any action or possession if it is the cause of the nuisance that the authorities are trying to prevent. As per subsection 6, such an imposition may only last 2 2 months, unless lifting the ban may lead to threats to security and lives of citizens. The law here is providing an immediate solution to the state when faced with an urgent situation, and does mandate a written order (Section 134). If a written order cannot be directed to the individual(s) in question, then it must be written and published in a manner that is readily accessible and can be effectively communicated.

[A magistrate is defined as: “Any individual who has the power of a public civil officer or inferior judicial officer, such as a Justice of the Peace.” Online Legal Dictionary]

Generally being a nation notorious for violent rioting, protests and lawlessness, one can draw the conclusion that most of the time, these magistrates/ministers and public authorities seem to have made justifiable decisions.

The imposition of section 144 has generally interfered with the freedom to assemble and has some implications on the right to bear arms.

The freedom to assemble and protest is one ingrained in world laws: Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 20), International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Article 21)

European Convention on Human Rights (Article 11) American Convention on Human Rights (Article 15). Domestic laws also protect one’s right to assembly, for example, Article 16 of the Pakistani Constitution categorizes the right to assembly as a fundamental human right, with reasonable restrictions.

The right to bear/possess arms, however, is not one that can be considered a universal right. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights does not provide for it, and countries have their own laws that govern possession. The Pakistan Arms Ordinance (1965) governs licensing and possession of arms in the nation; however it must be noted that the right to possession is NOT guaranteed by law. Private arms are also strictly prohibited in “educational institutions, hostels or boarding and lodging houses, fairs, gatherings or processions of a political, religious, ceremonial or sectarian character, and on the premises of Courts of law or public offices” [http://www.gunpolicy.org/firearms/region/pakistan]

Freedom of assembly comes with stipulations; this freedom may be revoked when the authorities may presume that such a gathering may lead to riots and violent protesting, or may endanger life and security of individuals. As made clear by the law, citizens’ right to assembly must be without arms, and should be peaceful and for just cause. Unlicensed weapons are illegal, and licenses may also be revoked at any time, even if legal.

Looking over the research, its hard to argue with the reasoning behind the impositions. As a nation accustomed and, perhaps, desensitised to violence and chaos, the state may have to take extreme countermeasures, which they should not be criticised for. It is their duty to uphold law and order in the nation, and protect their citizens, even if doing so may sometimes lead to a violation of citizen rights. The state, however, may only impose this section for up to 2 months usually, and thus should have the foresight to look into long term solutions to curb violence and terrorism.

Difficult to digest that for once, the state and I agree on something, I must, thus, highlight the times when the state has acted ultra vires. A few instances in 2006, of Lowar Sharif, and Women Rights Rally led by Mai (each different instances), or the imposition during the LLB exams in Rawalpindi. The aforementioned instances are generally non violent assemblies, for justified reason, and the “injury” or “danger” in these events cannot be clearly identified. Another instance that should be mentioned here is the post election protests of 2013. Being denied our constitutional and democratic right to vote, the people of the nation, peacefully, marched out on the street to demand things to be made right; a Section 144 being imposed on this event can be seen as a negative step taken by the state. It would be miraculous if the government had managed to do something flawlessly, and may have even given a cynical individual as myself some hope. But that is just wishful thinking.

 An activist, in the hopes of finding yet another instance of an abuse of power, embarked on this research, which ended up in being without controversy; the media headlines, the written text and reporting, however, delivered the news in a way that on first glance, one immediately assumed overstepping of mandates. But after reviews and follow ups on the media text, the government’s decision and imposition can be understood.

The law does give them the power to limit the mentioned rights in order to prevent damage and injury, and protect its citizens from instances of harm and danger. On the other hand an argument can be made instead of the ban, the government should look into long term solutions to avoid these events all together. For instance, the government could designate an area for those who choose to fly kites and provide certain rules and regulations to limit injury, or develop small water parks for people to relieve themselves from the heat. Certain activities of citizens can be identified as annual, and/or regular, at a certain time of the year and thus, the patterns can be established and alternate solutions can be found.

However, what is significant that the research has helped identify a potential distrust and lawlessness of the nation. Despite bans/restrictions being placed, citizens continued to carry out the banned actions; it could be the distrust of intentions of their government, or frankly, a lack of concern to uphold the law. Case in point, the ban of kite flying; year after year people die as a result of carelessness, yet the society continues to participate in this activity. Or the ban on swimming in the sea; high tides causing drowning, spread of waterborne diseases (indicated by health reports) didn’t deter citizens from escaping to the beach in search of relief from the heat. This blatant disregard for authority and law is evident in the behaviour of citizens Yet, we complain if the government takes unreasonable and aggressive stances in order to compel the citizens to abide by the law.

Its important for citizens to recognise the role they place in implementing the law. Policing and punishment can only do so much; it is the job of every citizen to uphold the law and respect it, and inspire others to do the same. We shouldn’t complain about the law if we don’t follow it; what good are written laws if one doesn’t understand the importance of them? So today, if you get pulled over (for a justified reason hopefully), make sure to not bribe the policeman to get away with it, take that ticket/fine, and abide by the traffic laws. You can’t complain about the corrupted if you are the corrupter now, can you?

This article was originally published on the Newsline blog on January 6, 2011

uks gender group 1 Agents of Change: Youth Tackle Gender based ViolenceYouth participants pose with their mentors at the December 2010 launch of Through the Gender Lens, a handbook to help combat violence against women.

 

Through the Gender Lens, a handbook – and also the culmination of a yearlong collaborative effort between Uks and UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund) and 39 youth selected from around the country – was launched in Islamabad on Human Rights Day, December 10.

Says Tasneem Ahmar the director of Uks, a research, resource and publication centre on women and media: “UNFPA approached us [Uks] in January this year in search of a partner who could train youth to create gender-sensitive media content on gender-based violence.”

Advertised through flyers in newspapers and at educational institutes, the response was overwhelming, says project coordinator Saadia Haq, who is also a radio producer. “We thought girls would not apply from a lot of the areas, but we were surprised when we received entries from areas of Balochistan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) – in fact small agencies of KPK – and Sukkur, etc.”

Aged between 15 and 25, the group of 39, which included an equal number of male and female members, hailed from both the urban centres and rural districts of the country: Chakwal, Jacobabad, Quetta, Peshawar, Waziristan, Mansehra, AJK (Azad Jammu and Kashmir), Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad. In March, the group met for the first time for a one-day orientation session in which they were introduced to the project, the aims of which were to create awareness regarding gender-based violence, promote gender equity and equality, and advance the view that women’s rights are human rights.

The participants went through a rigorous training process over the passage of the year. Divided into three groups according to their areas of interest (print, radio or TV), they were educated on what gender-based violence was, trained to deconstruct media messages (projections and stereotyping of women in the media as well as the manner in which gender-based crimes are reported) by monitoring a selected number of TV and radio programmes and print matter, and tasked to eventually produce gender-sensitive media content of their own. Once equipped with the gender lens and the technical skills, the youth returned to their respective hometowns to begin peer training – it was expected of them to pass on what they had learned to at least 35 people in their communities – and complete their media productions that they were required to turn in by the end of the year.

The peer-training sessions ranged from workshops, seminars and press conferences to rallies and processions. “In extremely difficult circumstances, amidst deteriorating law-and-order situations, despite cancellations, the participants continued their trainings,” says Haq. “They even sat people down at roadside hotels to pass on the message. Some of our youth members were even displaced by the floods, they were living in tents – in fact some still are – but still they turned in productions that swept me off my feet. They have exceeded all expectations.”

A panel comprising some of the members of the core group, including Dr Salman Asif (UNFPA), Amir Mateen (Senior Correspondent, The News, Islamabad), Rana Jawad (Bureau Chief of Geo TV, Islamabad), Tasneem Ahmar, as well as guest speakers Sherry Rehman and the director of the HRCP, I. A. Rehman, worked closely with the participants and addressed the audience.

Ms. Ahmar informed the audience how initially the participants couldn’t really communicate with one another. “Some couldn’t understand English, others couldn’t converse in Urdu – or didn’t want to,” she said. “There was hesitation. We saw a huge communication gap. That has been bridged now, and that is another success of the project. They have overcome whatever inhibitions they had as a group. They’ve all worked together and there has been no discrimination on the basis of anything.”

 

uks gender lens panel Agents of Change: Youth Tackle Gender based ViolenceThe panel lead a discussion in Islamabad on December 10.

 

Deliberating on gender-based violence, I.A. Rehman stated: “Gender violence is part of the Pakistani mindset; it is a part of the collective. We tried to get rid of this, but Zia-ul-Haq came along, and after that every man made it his duty to beat the woman – and women accepted their lot in life. I feel that there is an increase in gender violence today; it [the concept] is even embedded in the minds of those who call themselves progressive. The youth need to rid themselves of this inheritance.”

These 39 youth who, according to Rana Jawad, have already reached out to people in their areas and beyond to spread awareness, were to him “passionate and inquisitive, like a new lease of life.” Amir Mateen stressed the need to strike a balance in newsrooms as far as a female presence was concerned, without which, he stated, reporting could not become gender sensitive. However, gender-based violence needed to be highlighted more in the mainstream media, he added.

“When nobody viewed media as a construct, as something that shapes reality,” said Sherry Rehman, “Tasneem started this project: how the media covers gender-based violence and how it projects stereotypes. This is a grassroots project.” Addressing the participants, she said that Uks had equipped them with a revolutionary tool and they should ensure that the initiative is taken forward, that it remains an ongoing process and they become the ‘agents of change’ everybody sees them as.

The handbook, which was provided to all the guests at the event, details the different activities the participants were involved in as part of their training. It is available in both Urdu and in English. It also serves as a training manual for those who want to conduct peer training of their own.