On Poverty Eradication

Poverty affects human beings in a variety of ways and is a stumbling block for those badly trapped in it to lead a normal and productive life. Its severity can be gauged from the fact that poverty has always been the top priority of experts while devising any development programme. To reduce poverty by half by 2105 was the number one of the overall eight of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and now ending poverty in all its manifestations and forms by 2030 is again the top priority of the United Nations Organisation (UNO) and its members in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted in 2015.

According to the UNO, 836 million people worldwide still live in extreme poverty. The overwhelming majority of the people living on less than $1.25 a day belongs to two regions: South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. Almost 70 percent of the world’s poor live in these regions according to the World Bank. According to the UNO, there are 30 million children growing poor in the world’s richest countries. The state of poverty in Pakistan is equally pathetic. According to the multidimensional poverty index, 39 percent people are poor in the country, and it was only in 2016 that Pakistan gave its first official figure on poverty since 2005-06. It is interesting to note here that Pakistan has not set a poverty line of its own since 2001.

Eradicating poverty in all its manifestations and forms by 2030 seems to be an ambitious target. It would not be difficult for the developed world to do the same. The third world countries, however, cannot achieve this without active support of the world community. The gigantic task of eradication of poverty worldwide requires collective efforts. The noted economist, Jeffrey Sachs, estimated that the total cost $175 billion per year would be required to bring an end to poverty in the next 20 years, and this is less than one percent of the combined income of the rich countries of the world.

Pakistan failed to achieve the most important goal of the MDGs of reducing poverty by half by 2015. Had we achieved it, the poverty rate would have been less than 20 percent. The first half of the last decade witnessed positive signs of reducing poverty. However, the same could not be retained, and the later developments reversed the process. Now 39 percent of the people, as indicated above, are poor and 20 percent slightly above the poverty line are in constant danger of being slipped back to extreme poverty. It implies that almost 60 percent of the population is badly trapped in a vicious circle of trying to have their both ends meet with constrained access to health and educational facilities. When it comes to eradicating poverty in Pakistan, the following issues must be addressed.

Firstly, our economic growth is one of the lowest in the region. Though there is a little stability according to international institutions, it is cosmetic and the plight of the poor and the under-privileged is getting worse with each passing day. Experts have maintained that poverty starts to decline when the growth rate exceeds six percent. China’s example of reduction of poverty reflects that there is a strong correlation between economic growth and poverty reduction. Pakistan has to cover a long distance to attain the stability that can play an instrumental role in bringing an end to this menace.

Secondly, majority of our population live in villages and is connected with agriculture in one way or the other. Framers have been badly hit during the last four years due to indifference of the government to the most important sector of the economy. The government has recently announced a relief package for the farmers, but it is politically motivated and insufficient to address the problems of farmers and the agriculture sector on the whole. Without bringing revolutionary changes in agriculture and boosting rural income, poverty cannot be reduced. Rather, if the current trends of agriculture-deterioration continue, there is likelihood that we may witness manifold increase in poverty in the near future.

Thirdly, we are the sixth most populous country in the world, and majority of the population is composed of the youth. This huge human resource can either be a blessing or a curse for us. It can be a blessing if we impart technical and scientific education to them. But if they remain uneducated and unskilled, the burgeoning youth population can explode like a bomb with dire consequences for us. Illiteracy and unemployment will make them vulnerable to be exploited by the fundamental elements in the country. Government must devise policies to engage youth in a constructive manner by unleashing their potential to be used for the development of the country.

Fourthly, there is erosion of key institutions — civil service, police and judiciary — in the country. These institutions provide basic services to the people. The erosion and decay of these institutions have made the basic service inaccessible for the under-privileged and the poor segments of society. Without efficient service delivery, eradication of poverty would only be a pipe dream. Social and political milieu is anti-poor. If these institutions are not improved, the poor segments of society will be further alienated. We unfortunately are far away from making the institutions responsive and efficient.

Lastly, micro finance initiatives both by the public sector and individual philanthropists can be of valuable help in our fight against poverty. The Benazir Income Support Programme and institutions in private philanthropy like Akhuwat are rendering valuable services to the poorest of the poor. A study in private philanthropy in Pakistan shows that individuals and organisations contribute more than around two billion dollars annually for various causes. The public sector social safety nets like Zakat and Bait-ul-Mal are not effective, but if managed properly, they can play a significant role. Government needs to improve and facilitate these institutions to achieve the SDGs by 2030.

For achieving the SDGs on poverty, the government needs to be responsive by setting priorities afresh. An indigenous anti-poverty campaign should be launched by taking all stakeholders on board. The government would have to raise itself above self-centered policies of gaining short-term benefits of investing heavily in projects for political gains. It is high time that government improved the plight of people by taking steps in line with SDGs.

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Gender Equality in Pakistan

Gender equality is one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be achieved by 2030. Earlier, Pakistan ratified the Convention on the Elimination of all the forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 1996. Two decades down the road CEDAW has not been implemented, and it shows our commitment to international conventions and covenants. Keeping in view the gender inequality prevalent in our country it is not difficult to ascertain as to why we lag behind the other nations in terms of socioeconomic development.

The Gender Gap Index 2015 ranked Pakistan second from the last among 145 countries in terms of prevalence of gender based disparities. Published by the World Economic Forum, the index measures national gender gaps in economy, politics, education and health. Second last position of Pakistan on the index reflects as to how women lag behind men in the country.

There are glaring patterns of inequality between women and men in our society. For example, women are more vulnerable and tend to suffer violence at the hands of their intimate partners more often than men. Women lag behind men when it comes to political participation and representation in decision-making bodies. Women and men have different economic opportunities. Women and girls constitute majority of the people being trafficked and involved in sex trade. These issues, among others, continue to hinder development of women and society on the whole.

Gender has become an issue these days because of the fundamental inequalities between women and men. These inequalities manifest themselves in a variety of ways. Let us have a look at some glaring inequalities women generally experience in their daily lives. Women are under-represented in political process across the globe. Thanks to quota system, women in Pakistan have fair representation. But, unfortunately, the beneficiaries of the quota system are women of political elite because our political institutions are not inclusive. Women from other segments of society are still under-represented and far from taking active part in politics. For majority of the women in the country, politics is no-go area. Resultantly, national, regional and even specific needs of community are often defined without seeking meaningful contribution from women who constitute half of the population. How can the policies yield the desired results when interests of half of the population are set aside?

Despite the constitution and other international instruments that proclaim equal rights for women and men there exist many gaps either by law or practice where equal rights to personal status, land, inheritance and employment are denied to women. For example, women in Pakistan have a legal right to inherit property but, practically, in most of the cases they are denied the same.

In our society it is women who shoulder the responsibility of nurturing the family. Women also extend assistance to male members of family in economic activities.

Women in villages make an important contribution to food and other agriculture production. Working women in both rural and urban areas are doing the same by adding to their family income. These tasks add to women’s workload and are an obstacle to engagement in political and social activities. This contribution of women often goes unnoticed. They are not even encouraged, not to speak of reward for women working in unpaid sector. Government must come up with policies to encourage and facilitate women so that they can play the above-mentioned roles along with taking active part in social and political activities.

Gender-based violence is also a manifestation of gender inequality. Almost every woman faces violence in one form or the other during her lifetime. Despite the existence of various laws, violence is on increase in our society. Gender-based violence is one of the main hindrances in the way of women to lead a normal life, not to speak of their socio-economic and political roles.

Gender inequalities are not confined to economic and political spheres but are reflected almost in every area of life and often in ways that are difficult to measure. The discriminatory behaviour women have to face is often grounded in gender stereotypes and patriarchal nature of society. These ideas and practices further complicate gender inequalities.

Achieving greater equality between women and men require changes at many levels including changes in attitudes and relationships, changes in institutions and legal frameworks, changes in economic institutions, and changes in political decision making structures. Without bringing these changes plight of women cannot be changed and they will be suffering, like ever, unheard and unseen.

For achieving gender equality and socio-economic development, it is important to incorporate gender perspectives in all areas of societal development. Sustainable development is possible only when gender perspectives are identified and addressed. If we are interested in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals priority should be given to gender equality as an important means of attaining them.

 

Gender and politics in Pakistan

In the 2002 general elections, a female lawyer from my hometown having no political background was nominated by a small political party against a reserved seat. The party knew it fully well that it would not qualify for the seat. However, by stroke of good luck the party earned the seat, and the lawyer became a member of the Punjab Assembly. After 14 years down the road and completing her respective tenure in the assembly, she is back to her chamber as a lawyer having nothing to do with political activities and leaving no mark either as a lawmaker or as a political worker in the area. This is how gender quotas are being squandered.

It does not mean at that all women in parliament through gender quotas are playing the same role, but it is true in majority of the cases. They take it as a windfall as a result of the services rendered to the party, and they do not make use of this opportunity to take steps aimed at political advancement and women empowerment thereof.

Governance systems worldwide are male-dominated. Women occupy only 22.8 percent of parliamentary seats around the world. According to UN Women, 10 women are serving as head of state and nine are serving as head of government. Rwanda, surprisingly, has the highest number — 63.8 percent — of women in parliament worldwide. In Pakistan, 60 of the 342 seats in the National Assembly, 17.5 percent, are allocated to women. These seats are allocated to political parties according to the proportion of their general seats in the assembly. The same quota is applied for the seats of women for the four provinces.

Women face enormous difficulties all over the world when it comes to political participation. Socio-economic and existing structures are stumbling blocks to their political role. Women therefore are far from achieving parity in the political arena. Gender parity cannot be achieved without active participation of women in policy formulation. Participation of women is increasingly being ensured through gender quotas across the globe.

Gender quotas are effective channels of boosting women’s participation in decision-making bodies. It is pertinent to remark here that quotas are temporary measures and give women a breathing space politically. This gives them an opportunity to remove the socioeconomic and structural barriers hindering their way to political advancement.

Seen in this perspective, quotas themselves do not ensure empowerment. It is the political role of women that is crucial and that can remove barriers and increase their political participation in the long run. Sadly, this is not happening in Pakistan, and most women in parliament through gender quotas have not acted strongly and coherently. They, on the other hand, are motivated by parochial interests and stay loyal to the party line. This is largely because of the reason that women selected on gender quotas by their respective political parties are not their actual workers. They are selected, barring a few ones, as a part of political favors granted to women of well-placed families for their allegiance to their parties. That is why we have not seen any collective effort by women parliamentarians to empower women and ensure their maximum participation, neither within the parties nor in parliament.

This state of affairs is also because of lack of democratic culture within the political parties. Promotion of democratic culture will enable the genuine political workers to rise, and eventually be selected for the gender quotas keeping in view their contribution. Inclusivity of political institutions will make gender quotas a meaningful exercise. Political parties and women parliamentarians should make joint efforts to make this happen so that the talent of half of the population can be made best use of in putting the country on the path to development.

Climate Blues

Need to price tag on carbon emission,eliminate government subsidies for all Gas,Coal and oil companies,we need to end free weather industrial polluter given in the name of free market economy,they do not deserve our tax money,they deserve our scrutiny,the economy it self will die if our Eco system collapsed.

A void in your Soul

Bountiful is your life,Full and complete.

Or so you think ,Until some one comes and make you realize what you have been missing all this time.Like a mirror that reflects what is absent rather than present.

He shows you the void in your soul,the void you resisted seeing.That person can be a lover,a friend or a spiritual master ,Find the one who will be your soul mirror.

Rumi

From inside out

You have to priorities what you love over your success. That is happiness. I have no problem with pleasures, provided the pleasures can be reconciled with happiness. What you need to live with is happiness. Pleasure is an item, and happiness is the architecture. If you can integrate pleasures with happiness, that is wonderful. If not, you have to let go of some pleasures. My life is a journey in pursuit of happiness.

Rituals ,A new perspective

“I’m sure people will get mad at me for saying this, but the sheer mass of lamb, goat, and sheep slaughter for Eid is extremely cruel. The way these poor animals are transported, handled, terrorized and slaughtered (because Abraham killed a sheep a few thousand years ago!!) is barbaric.
The absurdity of the logic is matched only by the lack of mercy and compassion for the creatures sacrificed so humans can gorge. And please spare me the argument that the meat is distributed to “the poor.” There are better ways to help people in need. This is all about engaging in outdated rituals that make no sense in our time; about making oneself feel righteous; and about displaying wealth and privilege. Binding the legs of lambs, throwing them in the trunk of a car, then slaughtering them to the gawks of crowds “for god” is not righteous. I wish people would just donate the cost of these cruel spectacles to charitable organizations.”
(Palestinian poet Susan Abulhawa )