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Court terms govt report claiming no child beggars in Peshawar joke

by Akhtar Amin in the News, September 25, 2017
PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Child and Welfare Commission report has revealed that there is no child beggar in the provincial metropolis and many other districts of the province.

The Peshawar High Court (PHC) took serious notice of the report and summoned the Secretary Labour Department, Secretary Social Welfare Department and Chief Protection Officer of the commission on October 12 to explain their position on the child labour issue.

Everyone was astonished in the court room when the petitioner, Muhammad Khurshid Advocate pointed out before a division bench comprising Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth and Justice Ijaz Anwar that as per the Child and Welfare Commission, there is no child beggar in Peshawar and many other districts of the province.

“There are many child beggars sitting on the roads even before the high court,” the lawyer pointed out. The bench observed that the report is nothing but a joke and summoned the high-ups of the concerned departments in the court.

As per the report (copy available with The News) the Child and Welfare Commission in its report from May 1, 2011 to December 31, 2016 clearly mentioned that there was no male, female and transgender child beggar in Peshawar, Buner, Charsadda, Battagram, Lower Dir and Chitral.It was stated that there are only 15 child beggars in the province including one in Swabi, four in Mardan, six in Swat, one in Abbottabad, two in Kohat and one in Bannu district.

Interestingly, the report revealed that there are 14 child labourers, including 10 male and four female in Peshawar. The report stated that there were only two female domestic child labourers in the provincial metropolis.

Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth observed that child labour in homes was increasing day by day. He said people were hiring children to look after their own children and do the house chores.Additional Advocate General Waqar Ahmad submitted before the bench that the respondents in the case had submitted replies. However, he sought time for explaining the provincial government’s position about its policy on domestic child labour.

The court was hearing a writ petition filed by Peshawar lawyer, Muhammad Khursheed Khan, against child labour.During the hearing, he informed the bench that the government had been spending a huge amount on the Child Protection Commission, but the child labour situation was worsening in the province.

The lawyer submitted that child labour was a sensitive issue and the provincial government was not giving any attention to it.He pointed out the provincial government had enacted the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Child Protection and Welfare Act, 2010, and also established the Child Protection Commission, but the act hasn’t been implemented in the province.

He noted that the provincial government established Child Welfare and Protection Commission in 2010, but the issue remained unresolved.The petitioner, who in the past served as deputy attorney general, submitted that the alleged torture case of a minor maid, Tayyaba, working in the house of additional district and sessions judge, Islamabad, compelled him to take the child labour issue to the higher court and ensure implementation of the child labour laws.

The petitioner argued that Tayyaba was lucky that the Supreme Court took suo motu notice of the case and she got justice. “What would be the future of 25 million children in the country working as domestic labour in homes in miserable conditions?” he asked.

He submitted that the last survey on child labour conducted by the federal government in 1996 showed that there were 3.3 million child labourers in the country. He added that as per the United Nations Organisation survey conducted in 2012, there were 12.5 million child labourer in Pakistan and the total has now reached up to 25 million.

The petitioner said child labour is visible everywhere at homes, shops, hotels, motor workshops, brick-kilns and industries. He said the professional beggars were using children for begging on the footpaths in presence of law-enforcers and this needed to be stopped.https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/232343-Court-terms-govt-report-claiming-no-child-beggars-in-Peshawar-joke

September 25, 2017   No Comments

UN body assails Pak for sharing census data with Nadra, army

by Amin Ahmed in Dawn, September 24th, 2017
ISLAMABAD: An observation mission that monitored the recently-held population and housing census has described the sharing of census data with a ‘third-party institution’ as “a breach of confidentiality of the collected data” according to census practices and procedures.

The mission, deployed by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) at the request of the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, also observed that “the participation of the military in the census process is not at all a recommended international practice.”

In the case of Pakistan, though, observers noted that it was essential for two reasons: to ensure the security and to avoid any mishandling of the data. However, “data collection by the military… amounts to a parallel census and this is not internationally acceptable,” the mission report says.

Observer report says army men copied data from civilian enumerators

Age records were mainly obtained from CNIC data and most often verified by the accompanying army officer through SMS to the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra). This, the report said, “breached confidentiality”.

The UNFPA had developed the terms of reference of the mission and contracted national and international observers, in consultation with a sub-committee of the PBS governing council. The purpose of the mission was to ensure that the census conducted was in line with internationally-accepted practices.

The army also administered a questionnaire, which had information on the total number of household members and the detailed nationality of the head of household. “This is very unusual and questionable especially given the fact that the main questionnaire had no provision for detailed nationality,” the report said.

The report also pointed out irregularities in the way enumerators and their army escorts collected information. For example, most observers noted that it was the civilian enumerator who provided the information about nationality to the army enumerator if the information was not seen on the identity card.

Apart from completing their own questionnaire, army enumerators were equipped with mobile phones through which they specifically verified the identity card numbers of respondents, either to be sure of their authenticity or to obtain information about the nationality and age of the identity card holders and other linked family members.

In most cases, the report said, army enumerators completed their own questionnaires by looking at the questionnaire of the civilian enumerator. In some cases, where he was not able to do so, it was done later in the evening at the end of the day’s work, by copying the information from the civilian questionnaire.

“It is of course very unusual for soldiers to not only collect information in a population census but also to embark upon verification of (the) respondent’s demographic information. In doing this, collected census data was shared with two other parties (the army and Nadra), which might further compromise the data quality, and which constitutes a breach of census data secrecy,” the report says.

“The exclusion of the residents (refugees or non-refugees) living in refugee villages from the census also breached the principle of universality. These issues need to be addressed urgently by the concerned offices if the census is to be considered in line with national legislation and basic census principles including international standards,” the mission report says.

It says the army provided much-needed logistics for the census, but noted that soldiers were also playing the role of enumerators, collecting information about respondents through the civilian enumerator, but not directly speaking to the respondents.

The army officers that accompanied the enumerators were considered cooperative and rather open regarding their participation in the census exercise. They were very willing to share their own census forms and explained why they sent CNIC numbers to Nadra.

Observers based in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa reported that they were not allowed to observe enumeration in refugee villages because no census was taking place there. According to their report, the district administrator of the area where refugee villages were located informed the team that no counting exercise would take place in any of the refugee villages because of a government directive.

However, if a refugee resided in the city, he/she would be counted or enumerated under the category “other nationality”.

This posture is however surprising because according to the United Nation Revised Census Principles and Recommendations, “population census is the total process of collecting, compiling, evaluating, analysing and publishing or otherwise disseminating demographic, economic and social data pertaining, at a specified time, to all persons in a country.”

Monitors in all provinces also reported problems with the enumeration of transgender individuals, and persons with disabilities.

The report recommended that enumerators should be better trained to interpret responses related to literacy. Many of them confused education with literacy, so that people who were literate but had not attended school were considered illiterate.

In all the provinces, observers reported that outdated maps constituted a major problem in the census.https://www.dawn.com/news/1359691/un-body-assails-census-data-sharing-with-nadra-army

September 24, 2017   No Comments

Pakistani-American preacher alleged to have inappropriate relations with women

Report in The Express Tribune, September 24, 2017
News Desk: Famous Pakistani-American preacher Nouman Ali Khan has been accused of having inappropriate relations with his female followers.

Omer M Mozaffar, who calls himself Khan’s friend of 20 years, revealed details of Khan’s impropriety in a Facebook post. Mozaffar said he had been working on Khan’s case, acting as a mediator between him and the local community of Dallas scholars.

“He confessed inappropriate interactions with various women, violating agreed-upon bounds of Islamic law. He also told lies to cover up those relationships, and filed threats of litigation against multiple parties to further hide his misconduct,” Mozaffar wrote.

Mozaffar further claimed that Khan had agreed to stop public speeches until further notice, to get professional and religious counseling, and to cease all contact with those women. “I had the responsibility to determine when he would be ready to speak again. I gave him an exception, allowing him to post previously recorded lectures, so long as they were not about marriage or gender matters.”

However, Mozaffar claimed that Khan has now broken his agreement with them. He has also been sending threats against them through his attorney. Khan has also hit back with claims that this was all a campaign to ruin him.

“This was obviously incorrect; there is no campaign and Nouman is not the victim here. The scholars were seeking to protect the community and to protect him from himself,” wrote Mozaffar.

Mozaffar’s claims have also been substantiated by Navaid Aziz, who is the Director of Religious Education and Social Services at the Islamic Information Society of Calgary. Aziz wrote that the accusations against Khan have been verified by multiple people, “and some of them have even been confessed by him.”

A day after the accusations became public, Khan took to Facebook to reject the allegations. Stating that he has never used his platform to take advantage of anyone, he stated the accusations against him are slander and a means to create a ripple effect to tarnish his reputation.

“I’d like to add that I’ve had female students at my own campus for years and no student ever has or ever will claim that I’ve been inappropriate in the least bit,” he wrote.

Khan stated that his accusers are “not interested in clarification nor in rectifying the matter,” and that he “was blackmailed, threatened, harassed and warned that if I was to give a single sermon, talk about a single ayah, post a single new video about the Quran or Islam, that they will go on a campaign to ensure I am painted as some sort of threat to the Muslim community.”

Khan claimed his accusers have held public gatherings to rip his character to shreds and allowed him no opportunity to defend himself. The preacher also spoke about Mozaffar who was the mediator and who claims to be his friend for 20 years. Saying that he was “anything but a mediator”, Khan wrote that while the two have cordial relations, he knows little to nothing about his family and he knows virtually nothing about Khan’s. “To claim he’s my friend of 20 years to insinuate that he knows my personal life is really far from the truth.”

After his detailed clarification, Khan posted another message on Facebook and said he would open himself up to scrutiny as he was concerned about the negative fallout of the accusations and thus the effect on the Muslim community. “Let’s allow for a theater free environment to examine all the evidence, cross examine it, discuss and debate it and then conclude. Let us get to the truth of this as I am weary of the way things have transpired.”

Khan who appealed to the younger generation with his frank manner of speaking currently resides in Dallas, Texas. He founded Bayyinah, the Institute for Arabic and Quranic Studies in 2006. He has also been named one of the 500 most influential Muslims in the world by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre of Jordan.

September 24, 2017   No Comments

DSP, SHO and SI caught on film committing burglary in Rawalpindi

Report in The express tribune, Sept `16, 2017
In a startling incident of crime by the guardians of the law, senior-most police officers were caught on tape committing a burglary in Rawalpindi.

Deputy superintendent police (DSP) Zaigham Abbas, Station House Officer (SHO) Nadeem Abbas and Sub-Inspector Risalat had led a contingent of police to the house of Waleed Khan, the cousin of a man accused of murder.

While they could not find the accused, they did take away at least 10 tolas of gold (around 125 grams) and Rs0.5 million from the house.

The whole incident was recorded on a close-circuit television (CCTV) camera, leading to registration of the case.

The resident was not served justice despite passage of two months, but finally succeeded in having a case registered against the officers under Section 342.

However, no officer or personnel involved in the raid has so far been arrested.https://tribune.com.pk/story/1508285/dsp-sho-si-caught-film-committing-burglary-rawalpindi/

September 16, 2017   No Comments

AGP report: Punjab accounts show irregularities at Rs 36bn

By Rana Yasif in the Express Tribune, September 15, 2017
LAHORE: The Auditor General of Pakistan has unearthed irregularities totalling over Rs36.94 billion in the accounts of the Government of the Punjab during the financial year 2015-16.

The AGP report, available with The Express Tribune, points out Rs.20.64 billion worth of reported cases of fraud, embezzlement, and theft, misuse of public resources amounting to Rs.1.04 billion, losses due to the weaknesses of internal controls to the tune of Rs1.82 billion, recoveries and overpayments representing cases of established overpayments or misappropriations of public money of Rs4.11 billion, losses due to non-production of records valued at Rs7.81 billion, and other cases such as accidents and negligence amounting to Rs1.52 billion.

Other tabulations in the AGP report show unsound asset management causing losses of Rs414.21 million, weak financial management hitting the exchequer for Rs11.92 billion, weak internal control relating to financial management causing Rs23.5 billion in losses, and ‘others’ being responsible for Rs1.11 billion in losses.

The key audit findings of the report included misappropriation of funds amounting to Rs1.04 billion, noticed in nine cases, recoveries pointed out in various sections amounting to Rs3.12 billion, unauthorised payments of Rs547.05 million, noticed in four cases, non-production of record amounting to Rs7.811 billion, noticed in 10 cases, 13 cases of irregular expenditure and violation of rules amounting to Rs1.12 billion, lack of internal controls noticed in twelve cases amounting to Rs1.55 billion, five cases pertaining to nonproduction of assets amounting to Rs405.45million, and one case of non-adjustment of advances causing losses of Rs122.84 million.

The AGP reports also found disregard towards prescribed frameworks, inappropriate use of funds, poor record management, lack of transparency in procurements, and mismanagement of receipts in different departments of the Government of the Punjab.


The AGP’s report showed that during the audit of various formations of the agriculture department, records were not produced, nor was the vouched amount of Rs276.27 million provided for audit scrutiny.

Finance department

The AGP’s report showed that during the audit of the finance department for 2014-15, the auditable record of vouched accounts, financial statements, record related to commitment charges, sanctions authority letters and others amounting to Rs43.917 billion were not produced for audit. It also showed that during the audit for the year 2014-15, it was observed that the department provided loans to various companies at a uniform interest rate of 0.25 per cent per annum and repayment within five years along with a two-year grace period without executing any agreements between the government and the companies. The AGP was of the view that the grant of loans without executing agreements could result in complications in the payback of these loans.

Food Department

The AGP’s report showed that during the audit of the food department, it was observed that various contracts were awarded for the procurement of various items such as jute bags, PP bags and AP tablets amounting to Rs7.11 billion. The audit, however, did not find any proof that, at the time of evaluation of technical proposals, specifications of materials to be procured were tested by recognised government laboratories.


During the audit of the health department, it was observed that medical, surgical, and chemical items amounting to Rs2.02 billion were produced in violation of PPRA rules. The audit was of the view that weak supervisory and financial controls resulted in the stated two-plus billion rupees in irregular expenditure.

Higher education department

During the audit of the higher education department (HED), auditable records of Rs3.95 billion were not produced to audit and the AGP was of the view that due to non-production of these documents, it could not ascertain the authenticity of HED’s accounts.

The AGP report further disclosed that an amount of Rs3.996 billion was invested in different banks without fulfilling prevailing conditions. The audit was of the view that non-observance of rules and weak administrative controls resulted in unauthorised investments.

Home department

During the audit of the home department, the auditable record and the vouched account of the releases and payments amounting to Rs2.07 billion made to various organisations and personnel were not produced for scrutiny. The AGP was of the view that due to non-production of these records, audit could not ascertain the authenticity of the accounts.


September 15, 2017   No Comments

Planning ministry submits false record of development spending

By Shahbaz Rana in The Express Tribune, September 14th, 2017.
ISLAMABAD: The Public Accounts Committee threatened to hold top officials of the planning ministry responsible for a breach in the privilege of parliament after they submitted a false record of development spending, which put a spotlight on non-professionalism and intrigues in the ministry.

Due to ill-preparedness of the planning ministry, presentation of conflicting figures of development expenditures and a feeble defence, the PAC, which acts as parliament’s watchdog, had to defer the discussion on the agenda.

Ministry of Planning and Development Secretary Shoaib Siddiqui and Ministry’s consultant on Public Sector Development Programme Asif Sheikh had to apologise time and again. But their remorsefulness was not enough to pacify visibly perturbed members of the Parliament.

Even the members belonging to the treasury benches could not say a word in the defence of the planning ministry due to its extremely poor presentation. The PAC had called the planning ministry to get a detailed briefing on the status of the federally-funded projects, their budgetary allocations and delays in execution of the schemes.

As Sheikh began his presentation, PAC Chairman Syed Khursheed Shah objected over inclusion of 420 new projects in the PSDP despite pendency of 582 ongoing projects. Sheikh informed the PAC that the federally-funded PSDP was comprised of 1,022 projects and out of these 420 were new schemes.

Sheikh said that out of Rs866 billion allocation for total 1,022 projects for current fiscal year, a sum of Rs536 billion was allocated to ongoing schemes and Rs149 billion for new schemes. He did not mention the Rs4.3 trillion cost of these projects in his presentation, which he disclosed only after the PAC chairman asked.

He also did not mention the cost of Rs1.32 trillion new schemes, which again Khursheed Shah pointed out.

“The major flaw in the planning ministry’s working is that it starts new projects despite having very little budget for the ongoing schemes,” said Shah. He said that due to approval of new schemes, the ongoing projects face cost overruns, which is equal to wastage of public money and loans obtained for these projects.

The total resources required for completing ongoing and new projects were Rs5.7 trillion and at the current level of allocations the government would need about seven years to complete them, said Shah.

Things for the planning ministry started turning bad, as Sheikh started project-wise briefing. He picked Karachi Green line metro project for briefing but failed to move forward after the PAC found glaring flaws in project allocations and actual spending numbers.

The working of the planning ministry has brought a bad name for not only the government but also for the state, said Sheikh Rohail Asghar of the PML-N. Another PML-N legislator, Sardar Ashiq Hussain Gopang was also extremely unhappy with the planning ministry’s working.

In a desperate attempt to defend his bad performance, Sheikh claimed that the difference between the development spending figures was because of budgetary estimates presented to parliament and the actual work on ground.

This created more problems for him, as Khursheed Shah said that presenting documents to the parliament on assumptions for approval is tantamount to misleading.

Finance Secretary Shahid Mehmood also took an exception to the statement given by Sheikh. “The budget is not made on assumption and mismatch between the planning ministry’s statistics was because the ministry did not put hard work in preparation of the presentation,” said Mehmood who was sitting next to planning secretary.

How did the planning ministry reach here?

Over the years, the planning ministry is run in project-mode due to personal likes and dislikes, which compromised the quality of work done by various wings of the ministry.

For the past 11 years, the work of Public Investment Programming – the core function of the Planning Division, is being performed by a project, Institutional Strengthening and Efficiency Enhancement project, headed by Sheikh himself. This severely compromised the working of the PIP section, as everything in planning ministry rests in Sheikh.

Sheikh is now above 70 years old and cannot be employed under any government rule due to maximum employment age of 65. Technically, his project has ended since July but still the secretary planning is not completing procedural formalities.

September 14, 2017   No Comments

ANF recovers drugs worth Rs 1.38 billion: report in The News, Sept 14, 2017

Islamabad :Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) recovered 827.5 kg drugs amounting Rs 1.38 billion in international market, arrested 15 drug offenders and seized 6 vehicles in 13 counternarcotics strikes conducted across the country.

The recovered drugs comprised 445 kg hashish, 355 kg opium, 14.5 kg heroin, 3 kg amphetamine and 50 Ltrs of acetic anhydride, a spokesman of ANF Headquarters said Wednesday.

ANF Quetta, in two different intelligence based operations conducted at General Area Killi Norak, Tehsil Gulistan, District Qilla Abdullah and Killi Noshisar, Tehsil & District, Quetta has seized 293 kg hashish, 10 kg opium & 30 kg hashish.

Moreover, ANF Quetta recovered 10 kg hashish & 3 kg amphetamine from personal possession of accused identified as Karim Khan residents of Quetta near Kako Zai Town Bosa Mandi Tehsil & District, Quetta.

In fourth operation ANF Quetta intercepted a Toyota Corolla Car near Ziarat cross Tehsil & District Ziarat during the search 48 kg hashish was recovered from secret cavities of the car. A person identified as Nazeer Ahmed residents of Naseerabad was apprehended during the operation.

In other 3 operation at Saindak Road, Taftan Border general Area Rud, Tehsil Dalbandin and Chagai Road near Ghuncha Dori Tehsil & District Mastung, 50 ltrs acetic anhydride, 345 kg opium from D/Cabin 4.5 kg heroin, 10 kg heroin powder and 900 grams hashish were seized. Three persons were apprehended during the operations.

ANF Rawalpindi intercepted a Suzuki FX Car opposite Rawal Hospital, main Lehtrar Road, Islamabad and arrested two persons identified as Muhammad Sarwar resident of Attock and Wajid Hussain resident of Rawalpindi along with 2.4 kg hashish concealed in right side door of the vehicle.

In another operation ANF Rawalpindi intercepted a Toyota Corolla Car and recovered 50.4 kg hashish near Chungi no. 26, Bus Stop, Islamabad and arrested an accused identified as Aman Ullah. The drug was concealed in secret cavities of the car.

ANF Peshawar recovered 7.2 kg hashish from personal possession of two accused identified as Iran Jehanzeb, resident of Khyber Agency and Peshawar respectively. They were arrested near Zkori Bridge, Ring Road, Peshawar.

ANF Karachi intercepted a Toyota Hilux D/Cabin at Safora Gooth Chowrangi, Karachi and recovered 2.4 kg hashish from personal possession of the accused identified as Shahid Ali and Ejaz Ali both resident of Karachi. In another operation ANF Karachi recovered 510 grams hashish by arresting an accused identified as Ali Gul residents of Khairpur. Operation was conducted near Drug den situated at Village Chairman Ghous Bux Jamro, Tehsil Kote Dijee & District Khairpur.

Moreover, ANF Karachi raided a drug den near an educational institution, Qasimabad, Hyderabad and recovered 200 grams hashish by arresting Sajjad Sehto residents of Karachi. All cases have been registered at respective ANF Police Stations and further investigation is underway.https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/229740-ANF-recovers-drugs-worth-Rs138-billion

September 14, 2017   No Comments

Police officer dismissed for leaking information to terrorists : Report in Dawn, September 13th, 2017

KARACHI: The Sindh police authorities have dismissed a senior officer of the anti-terrorism wing for sharing “sensitive information with terrorists” while holding a key position in the law-enforcement agency, said a notification on Tuesday.

The notification issued by Additional IG Counter-Terrorism Department Sanaullah Abbasi announced the dismissal of Inspector Syed Ali Raza, who was heading the CTD Sectarian Terrorists Intelligence Group (STIG) with immediate effect.

Raza was accused of sharing “sensitive information” with “sector in-charge” of a political party named Umair Hassan Siddiqui, according to the notification, which referred to a history of the episode.

Siddiqui, it said, confessed before a joint investigation team that Raza was the man who had shared some key information with him while heading the CTD’s wing.

Following his allegations, Raza was served a show-cause notice and asked to explain his position, it added.https://www.dawn.com/news/1357251/police-officer-dismissed-for-leaking-information-to-terrorists

September 13, 2017   No Comments

Debt drives kidney harvesting in Punjab’s citrus orchards

Reuters report in The Express Tribune, Sept 12, 2017
KOT MOMIN: The decision to sell her kidney was easy for Ismat Bibi, a housewife in Punjab. With four children to feed, a husband suffering from tuberculosis to look after, and a debt of Rs100,000 to repay, she quickly offered herself up.

The deal seemed simple enough. She would go to a hospital in a nearby city, the organ would be removed and she would get Rs110,000. No one needs two kidneys, Bibi was told by the middle man, her neighbour in the town of Kot Momin, Sargodha district.

Twelve years on, not only have the debts mounted, she is grappling with her husband’s worsening health, a mentally disabled young daughter, and often insufferable abdominal pain due to the removal of her right kidney. Worse still, her son, 15, plans to sell his kidney too.

“I am begging my son not to do this, but he is adamant,” said Bibi, 40, as she sat in her one-roomed mud home in a slum on the outskirts of Kot Momin. “I committed a mistake by selling the kidney, but I had no other option to feed my family.”

Punjab is the country’s most prosperous region, but alongside thriving sectors from farming to textiles, another business is booming – the illegal trade in human organs, say police, activists and victims.

Fuelled by a cycle of poverty and debt, this black market has flourished for years with traffickers preying on the poorest – many of them labourers who have helped the region prosper but have been paid a pittance in return.

And with a shortage of organ donors globally, “transplant tourism” has taken off here with criminal networks, often influential people like doctors and businessmen, using their agents overseas to fly in foreigners needing organs.

There is no official data on the number of people who have sold their kidneys in the country, but some officials estimate that there could be at least 1,000 victims every year. Babar Nawaz Khan, chairman of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Human Rights, says Pakistan is a hot spot for organ trafficking, but adds authorities are now cracking down.

“Until last year, Pakistan was the main hub of this trade,” Khan added. “According to some estimates, 85% of all organ trafficking cases were reported in Pakistan a few years back, but thank God, we are no longer in the top 10.”

Oranges, lemons and kidneys

Punjab is home to over 110 million people, around half of the country’s population. Not only is it the country’s breadbasket – producing almost 60% of all agricultural output – it is also the most industrialised. Fertile fields of green rice paddy, golden wheat and white cotton blooms are commonplace, alongside factories producing everything from textiles and cement to cricket bats and surgical equipment.

Punjab’s economy made up over 50% of the country’s gross domestic product in 2016 and the poverty rate here is just over 20% – the lowest among all its provinces. But much of this prosperity is built off the backs of thousands of workers, who have for decades been exploited by feudal landlords, building contractors, brick kiln and factory owners who pay them as little as Rs500 daily, say campaigners. Many borrow from their employers at interest rates as high as 60%. Before long, they are trapped in a cycle of debt.

In Kot Momin – known as the country’s ‘citrus region’ due to its lush orchards of juicy oranges, mandarins, lemons and limes – hundreds have sold their kidneys. “I have applications from around 250 people, who have sold their kidneys and who are now seeking government help,” said Zafar Iqbal, a social activist and victim of organ trafficking.

“They want authorities to provide jobs to them or their kids, as they can no longer do jobs like construction work.” Iqbal, 45, sold his kidney in 2003. His brother had died and he needed the money to look after his brother’s wife and children as well as fund for the weddings of his two sisters. “We are small fries. We can’t confront these powerful people,” he said, as he served tea to customers at his run-down stall in Kot Momin’s main market.

The dusty town is surrounded by rows of citrus trees, interspersed with state-of-the-art fruit processing factories which export the world-famous orange, known as kinnow, to Europe and the United States. Mohammad Zaheer, a worker at a sprawling orchard on the outskirts of Kot Momin, said he earns a daily wage of Rs500. But he receives less than half after deductions made for a Rs95,000 loan he took from his employer.

“I sold my kidney five years ago to pay for my younger sister’s marriage,” said 43-year-old Zaheer. “She got married, but my ordeal did not end and I had to borrow money from my employer to feed my six children.”

‘Transplant tourism’

Pakistan outlawed the commercial trade in human organs in 2010, imposing a jail term of up to 10 years and a maximum fine of Rs1 million for doctors, middlemen, recipients and donors. The law permits donors to give their organs to recipients who are relatives and for altruistic purposes, but bans the sale of human organs to foreigners. But low wages and poor implementation of the law has hampered efforts to curb rising cases of organ trafficking.

Recipients from countries such as Britain, Saudi Arabia and South Africa travel to Lahore or Karachi where they are operated on in private clinics in residential areas or houses with makeshift operating theatres in basements.

A kidney is sold to foreigners for between Rs4 million to Rs10 million, but the donor gets less than 10% of that, say police officials. In July, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) raided a private clinic in an upscale neighbourhood of Lahore, and arrested 14 people, including two Omani nationals suspected to be potential recipients.

Police admit the trafficking networks are difficult to break. They involve several players – from doctors, nurses and paramedics to hospital owners and businessmen – and many are influential and with political connections. But authorities say they plan to strengthen the law by giving more power to the regulatory authority in charge of transplantations, upping surveillance at hospitals, and imposing stricter punishments.

“We are determined to clamp down this illegal trade,” Health Minister Saira Afzal Tarar told Reuters. “We are consulting all stakeholders to tighten laws to curb this inhumane business,” she added. These words however mean little to the victims who are left often still in debt and with health problems due to a lack of healthcare after their organs were removed.

“I have the option of either feeding my children or buying medicine for myself,” said brick kiln worker Sarfraz Ahmed, 30, pulling up his shirt to show a thin brown scar on the left side of his abdomen. “I have opted to feed my kids.” https://tribune.com.pk/story/1503479/debt-drives-kidney-harvesting-punjabs-citrus-orchards/

September 12, 2017   No Comments

Cronyism, lawyers and big money : edit in The Express Tribune, Sept 10th, 2017.

There is something more than usually offensive about reports that the government of Khyber-Paktunkhwa (K-P) is willing to spend Rs10 million on lawyers’ fees in pursuit of the reinstatement of Akhtar Ayub, previously of the Pakhtunkhwa Energy Development Organisation (Pedo). Ayub was removed from his post on the orders of the Peshawar High Court (PHC) which found that his appointment was not based on merit and that whoever came into the post subsequently had to earn their position — a decision that this newspaper supports. It now transpires that the K-P government is unwilling to accept the ruling of the court and needs an expensive lawyer to plead its case. The case was filed on 19th August by K-P Advocate General, Abdul Latif Yousafzai, an indication of the support there is for the move in the highest level of K-P government.

There is no shortage of highly priced lawyers anywhere and in a meeting of the PEDO board on June 9th 2017 there was approval of a budget of Rs8-10 million to hire a lawyer to plead the PEDO case. Why the matter is so odious is that this is yet another example of cronyism. The man ousted by the court is a close associate of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) central leader Asad Umar and the party, currently in power in K-P, is willing to go to considerable lengths to ensure that their placeman in an important entity is reinstated. Thus far it is understood that none of the monies approved have been paid, but it is reported that ‘large sums’ have already been given to counsel preparatory to pleading the case.

There are plans to amend the PEDO Act by loosening the expertise requirements for the person appointed to be the CEO of the organisation — an attempt to institutionalise cronyism and allow political appointments to be made with greater ease — and an official imprimatur. Not all members of the PEDO board were happy about the decision regarding expensive lawyers but they did not carry the day and the decision is in the official minutes of the meeting. Without putting too fine a point on it — this stinks.

September 10, 2017   No Comments