Dawn Editorial 24th May 2024

App for GBV survivors

GENDER-based violence is caught between two worlds: one sees it as a crime, the other as ‘convention’. The latter world has accepted lethal forms of GBV: sexual exploitation, ‘honour’ killings, intimate partner violence and domestic abuse. Last year, research by Pakistan’s Demographic and Health Survey and the UNFPA showed that 39pc of women in Pakistan, between 15 and 49 years, faced abuse, and 80pc of married females endure domestic violence.Statistics show that shouting is most prevalent at 76pc, with slapping at 52pc, pushing 47pc, and kicking 40pc in physical abuse. In this dire scenario, the launch of a mobile application to assist survivors of gender-based brutality can prove invaluable. Humqadam, developed by Shirkat Gah — Women’s Resource Centre in partnership with the National Commission on the Status of Women, will help women who cannot turn to their families, and bolster the capacity building of law enforcers and health departments. In addition, national and provincial resources and operational services in 16 districts are also listed for victims, alongside data for policymaking.

But the high volume of incidents — over 63,000 reported GBV cases in the past three years — reflects that the app will struggle to succeed if it functions in isolation. As all provinces are equipped with laws for domestic violence, far-reaching structural reforms, which focus on a societal shift through comprehensive training, sensitisation, recruitment of female police, and resources for law enforcement and officers of the court, are essential. Moreover, awareness drives must evolve so that people can challenge customs. It is only then that Humqadam can help battle the curse of GBV and actually make a difference. Ithas the potential to facilitate a timely response and build deterrence and security measures through vigilant execution. The state must make good on its promise to Pakistan’s women — a life of protection and dignity, where girls and women have nothing to fear.

Published in Dawn, May 24th, 2024

Belated recognition

WITH Wednesday’s announcement by three European states that they intend to recognise Palestine as a state later this month, the Palestinian people have achieved another symbolic, moral victory. Though Norway, Ireland and Spain may have made the move a bit late in the day — Palestine is already recognised by 143 states, the global majority in fact — it is welcome nonetheless, particularly in the midst of the Israeli campaign of extermination in Gaza. It shows that even those states that may have had reservations previously about supporting the Palestinian struggle for recognition and dignity are today clear in their minds that this is what justice demands. Yet there remains a powerful US-led minority in the international community that is doing all it can to prevent Palestinian statehood. But the comity of nations overall has spoken: Palestinians have a right to a sovereign state as per the pre-1967 border status. Of course, it is a matter of debate whether the long-dead two-state solution can still be revived, as Israel has, over the decades, dealt it several mortal blows, with its savage forays inside the occupied territories, and the building of settlements on stolen land. Tel Aviv has feigned great outrage at the fact that three more states have endorsed the idea that Palestine has a right to exist.

The move indicates that there are those in the Western bloc that have broken from the pack, by daring to criticise Israel’s atrocious behaviour. Most of the Global South had accorded recognition to Palestine when Yasser Arafat proclaimed Palestinian statehood in 1988, with the numbers growing over the years. Today, only the US, Canada, Australia, and a few others, have yet to recognise Palestine. It is strange that these states, many of which claim to be champions of fundamental rights, do not believe these rights should be given to the Palestinians. It is hoped that those in the Western bloc that have extended recognition now apply pressure on their allies to ensure that the remaining obstacles standing in the way of universal recognition of Palestinian statehood, and Palestine’s admission to the UN, are permanently removed. The sacrifices of the Palestinian people cannot be allowed to be wasted, while Israel must realise that its attempts to erase the Palestinian people and their centuries-old identity is bound to fail.

Published in Dawn, May 24th, 2024

IMF’s unease

THE first round of ‘engagement’ between Pakistan and the IMF over the former’s request for a larger and longer programme appears to have concluded — with some bumps still visible. Both sides are believed to have reached an understanding on the reform measures that Islamabad must include in the budget for the next financial year and get approved by parliament before an agreement on a new bailout facility is signed.

A report in this paper has quoted a government official as saying that the IMF mission is leaving the country without announcing a formal staff-level agreement, because the “Fund wants a stamp of approval from parliament for the reforms and policy actions [to be implemented as ‘prior actions’ for the new programme] given the unpredictable political environment”.

This is not a new condition in Pakistan’s context, nor is it surprising, considering the endless political instability roiling the country. The IMF had recently noted that high political uncertainty and the resurgence of social tensions could undermine economic stabilisation.

“Downside risks remain exceptionally high. While the new government has indicated its intention to continue the [Stand-by Arrangement’s] policies, political uncertainty remains significant,” the IMF had said in its staff report on the conclusion of the second and final review of the $3bn SBA. It added that “the resurgence in social tensions reflecting the complex political scene and high cost of living could weigh on policy and reform implementation”.

Despite its concerns that the political situation might create obstacles in the way of parliamentary approval of the new budget, the IMF has also expressed its confidence in the present political administration.

“The return of the outgoing government to power after the elections means continued commitment to the reform agenda agreed at the time of the SBA. This not only means a higher likelihood for the continuity of reforms but also political stability for the next five years. The current coalition government consists of almost the same political parties, which despite heavy political cost implemented all the actions committed under the [Extended Fund Facility] programme and approved all the prior actions under the SBA,” it said.

It is thus anticipated that the Fund will conclude a new loan latest by early July. However, a new arrangement is the least of the common man’s problems. The real issue for most is the additional financial burden in the shape of new levies — such as a hike in the petroleum levy, an increase in indirect taxes, more taxes on salaries — and enhanced energy prices that they will have to bear as the cost of the new loan. Going by the just-concluded engagement with the IMF mission, it is clear that the next phase of economic stabilisation will be very tough for most of the population.

Published in Dawn, May 24th, 2024

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