That Pakistan has been among the top few dangerous countries of the world for women is no more a secret. The unlawful and unethical behavioural practice is rampant in our part of the world in the shape of domestic abuse, rape, honour crimes, etc. Violence against women — mainly carried out by male members of family who consider it a right — is rather rising, even being practised as a custom in several parts of the country. And despite the growing focus by media and the civil society, the threat to women is mounting — even in their own homes and at the hands of their own family members.
We, as media representatives, have been consistently raising our voice and advocating why ending violence against women is vital for a peaceful society. Pressure groups and NGOs have also been doing their part for the cause. But a stronger voice has now emerged in a collective and organised manner against the abuse of women. Religious scholars from different schools of faith have called for ending all kinds of violence against women in order to build a peaceful society and maintain interfaith harmony. Part of a dialogue recently organised by the K-P Office of UN Women and the K-P’s EVAW Alliance, the scholars have signed a declaration condemning gender-based violence and vowing to spread awareness in their respective communities to put an end to the practice.
Since religious figures enjoy a good influence over people and have a good reach also, they can help a great deal in shaping the behaviour of local communities. An increased focus of religious sermons on ending violence against women can be a good teaching exercise and can make a notable difference over time. Prominent religious scholars can also use their influence with the official figures urging them to take meaningful steps to strengthen state-run social protection networks and ensure the provision of required support to vulnerable groups, especially women.
Railway fare hike
In the economic field, the element of privatisation is introduced to rationalise prices or fares but the Pakistan Railways has done the reverse. A private company has increased passenger fares for trains under its charge by a whopping 70% and has abolished half-tickets for children and concessional fares for the elderly. The hike in charges for goods trains is astronomical: a 1,300% increase. Passengers are charged an extra Rs200 to Rs300 if they carry a rooster or pigeon. The Pakistan Railways’ fares for passenger and freight trains stay unchanged. What the private firm has done or the Pakistan Railways has allowed it to do has its novelty value, of course. The passenger fare hike ranges from Rs350 to Rs480 and from Rs350 to Rs550 on different routes while children’s fare has been increased from Rs175 to Rs270.
Railway Minister Sheikh Rashid had announced on Oct 10 at Lahore that the company would not be allowed to run trains with their ‘arbitrary’ fare hike, and their permission would be withdrawn within 24 hours. A committee was set up to decide the amount of fine to be imposed on the ‘erring firm’. However, it was again confirmed on Nov 26 that the company had not reduced the increased fares for both passenger and goods trains. On Nov 26 at a meeting at Lahore, the minister declared that the company would be fined for its ‘arbitrary action’ and fare lists would be displayed at railway stations. But so far no fare lists have been displayed and the private company continues to torment passengers by charging the ‘arbitrarily’ increased fares.
If the firm has been given a monopoly on some routes, it would further harm the railways, passengers and those who transport their goods by the railways, and only benefit truckers and transporters. Monopoly is the rule-of-thumb. The minister himself has admitted that the Pakistan Railways now ferries a mere 2% of the total amount of goods. If mismanagement is what is on display, let us despair and pray.
Menace of drugs