The veil face-off

By Zubeida Mustafa

TO veil or not to veil, that is the question. And that continues to be asked in Europe where France, Belgium, Spain and Italy have imposed a ban on the niqab in public places. The niqab shrouds the entire face and leaves small slits for the eyes. The ban does not apply to the more ubiquitous hijab, a head scarf that leaves the face fully exposed. No country has so far restricted the hijab.

The latest to pronounce a verdict on this controversial item of the female apparel is the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg where a French woman SAS (identity not disclosed) of Pakistani origin filed a case against the French law forbidding the use of the full-face veil in public places. SAS claimed that the law violated her “freedom of religion and expression”. Continue reading “The veil face-off”

Our own insecurity

By Zubeida Mustafa

THE 2014 global attitudes project of the Washington-based Pew Research Centre has been widely cited to show that a majority of people in Pakistan do not look upon the Taliban favourably. According to Pew’s finding, 59pc of those questioned felt negatively vis-à-vis the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

Last year, when a similar survey was held this number was slightly lower, with 56pc expressing disapproval of the militants who have no qualms about blowing up people, including women and children, in brutal acts of terrorism. Yet 66pc said they were concerned about religious extremism. It seems many of the respondents did not regard the TTP to be extremists, which speaks volumes for public perceptions in Pakistan. Continue reading “Our own insecurity”

No standards set

By Zubeida Mustafa

THE health sector should be of concern to all — even to those who go to the best private medical practitioners. Disease transcends borders, and strikes the rich and poor alike, though the latter are more vulnerable. Besides, health issues affect the country’s international status as was demonstrated by the polio emergency that led to the imposition of new conditions on Pakistanis embarking on foreign travel.

Hence should not the concerned citizens be involved in what can be termed the regulation of the medical system as they are reaching out in the education sector? Not just altruism or civic responsibility but also narrow self-interest should prompt the intelligentsia to take more interest in the healthcare delivery system. Continue reading “No standards set”

A cry for help

By Zubeida Mustafa

WITH the Pakistan Army’s attack on the militants in North Waziristan, a human tragedy of gargantuan proportions has been unfolded. Unsurprisingly, the government failed to anticipate the consequences of this move and did not act in time to avert a catastrophe. It has only compounded the crisis the country faces.

The latest avoidable disaster to visit us is that of the internally displaced people or IDPs — the hapless victims of Operation Zarb-i-Azb — who have been forced to leave their homes in North Waziristan. This was inevitable if Pakistan is to be saved from our self-created Frankenstein that was intended to provide the country with the questionable advantage of strategic depth. The crackdown has come, belatedly though, with no preparations for the aftermath.

As a result we have the suffering of nearly 450,000 IDPs on our conscience. This phenomenon could have been anticipated. It just required greater sensitivity from those whose responsibility it is under international humanitarian law — specifically the Geneva Convention IV, 1949 — to protect the rights of civilians displaced by hostilities in war-affected areas. Under this convention one doesn’t even have to cross an international boundary to become an IDP. And 75pc of those who have fled their homes are women and children. Continue reading “A cry for help”