Pakistanis Stuck in ASEAN Labor Trafficking Scams

Pakistan_MalaysiaIn current scenario, the cases of sex trafficking get a lot of global attention and media coverage, whereas labor trafficking gets sidelined. Needless to say, labor trafficking is a huge phenomenon faced by the world.  While labor trafficking is not exactly a secret, it is very difficult to identify the persons who become the victims of labor trafficking scams.

But if we look around, this is something we see “everywhere.”

Recently on a Dubai-Kuala Lumpur transit a group of closely attached young Pakistani men were seen at the airport lounge. The group constituted 12 men and it was apparent that it was their first ever time to sit on a plane. The most interesting thing to be noted was they were barely able to speak in Pakistan’s national language Urdu, and barely managed few liners in English. However they were all on their way to Malaysia holding valid work permits.

Local investigations  find that a quarter of all workers in Malaysia in forced labor include large number of young men from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. Most South Asian youth arrive to Malaysia via employment recruiting agencies. This trend has been criticized within Pakistan by several leading politicians who argue that Pakistani workers sign agreements with lucrative wages and wonderful terms in Pakistan, but when they actually land inside Malaysia, the outsourcing companies substitute those contracts for more exploitative ones.

Speaking with a Pakistani labor who has recently returned back into the country was an eye opener. For maintaining privacy, we will call this twenty-six year old man Zahir Murad originally from Faislabad district. Zahir spent five years in Johor, Malaysia where he worked as a window cleaner on the tourist Hotels.

In his own words, “I spend my days hundreds of feet high to work overtime all the time, day in day out, sickness or not. I don’t think I will ever think of going abroad again.” Zahir Murad was offered a lucrative contractual job by a recruiting agency of a construction company but upon arrival to Malaysia, he turned into cleaner overnight and spent almost all those years cleaning only despite his educational credentials. More ever, he lived in a small room with other four men.

Zahir watches me but his expression tells me he is reliving those times, and suddenly he blurts out, “I feel like such a failure, what I got after spending five years aboard to show it at home. On top of that, the recruiting agencies told such wonderful stories of Malaysia, a great destination for Muslim migrants.” 

The humiliation Zahir suffered won’t fade away so easily and like many others, this trauma has scarred him for life. After speaking with him, my mind immediately thought of those eager looking faces at the Dubai airport terminal. But I will probably never know what happened to them, one can just hope that their fate wasn’t like that of Zahir’s.

For past two years, another Pakistani Junaid Mohammad is working as a security guard in Kuala Lumpur with a Malaysian security company. He is one of the hundreds of young Pakistanis and Afghans who came to Malaysia seeking better career prospects and larger earnings. His recruiters provided documents that on paper seemed like a Golden Dream come true and even instigated that the company car would pick him at the airport. But upon arrival, Junaid spent four days at the departure terminal to understand that nobody was coming. Finally, the recruiting agency man came making excuses of a family emergency. He took Junaid to the new work premises, but went away with his passport citing official documentation motives.

Junaid’s contract stated his monthly salary at 3000 Malaysian Ringgits (approximately US$900).In reality, he’s actually only managed to less than half of the promised amount and cannot move freely to seek help due to his vulnerable status of being a foreigner without his passport. During this time, he fell sick and needed medical attention. As he braved the roads, he was arrested and labelled as an illegal immigrant. The local police let him go; it seems bribes work well in Malaysia just like Pakistan.

Junaid complains of being abused both by his recruiters and the authorities in Malaysia who don’t want to deal with the problems of migrants workers. But he knows, any open retaliation means he will be fired and without his passport he is stranded into nowhere.

Some of his colleagues were able to contact the embassy but that too didn’t help change their situation. Junaid says, “The embassy staff in Kuala Lumpur don’t help us at all, they are immoral and unkind. They are enjoying good salaries but when it comes for serving Pakistanis, they really do nothing.”

Junaid and his colleagues demand that Governments of Pakistan and Malaysia respectively look into the matter, because migrant labor rights are getting abused as we so speak. Such cases are a tip on the iceberg of the complexity that faces Asian migrant laborer rights and need immediate attention. The regional network CARAM Asia works on migration and health issues says that Pakistanis makes up the majority of  more than half of foreigner workers in Malaysia. The organization also says that over two-thirds of migrant workers don’t get their wages on time and many get physically and sexually harassed.

Its time to stand up against Labor trafficking which is a form of modern-day slavery in which individuals perform labor or services through the use of force, fraud, or coercion.

First published on Sept.16 2015 

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The Shameful Chronicles of 1947 Partition

One of the greatest tragedies of the Indo-Pakistan relationship has significant roots into the people’s polarization during British controlled India. There is not enough ink to bleed for writing on the damage partition has done to our people. While the British held on to subcontinent called otherwise in history as “Jewel in the Crown” they only let it go until there was no choice left.

As a South Asian and Muhajir Pakistani who has her origins on other side of the border-India; despite taking deep pride in my country and its independence my emotions don’t over shed the negatives of subcontinent separation and how it happened. The violent way we were divided continues to overshadow both our nations’ future and that of its people. Permit me to say that millions still grieve, we could separate but minus the violence. Inside this great land; the Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims, Jains, Christians etc continue to suffer in some way or other due to our bitter legacy.

Today, 68 years post independence what do South Asian people think about this partition. This is a story bringing real life accounts and sentiments of people.

“The heartland for support for Pakistan Movement lay in Uttar Pardesh, which was not included within Pakistan. I cannot believe how my parents were driven out of UP to migrate towards Sindh where I was born. My childhood memories include my mother hiding herself in a teary state in the kitchen or pantry upon receiving some news from her homeland. During her life, she never realized that I knew how she hid her pain, but her pain lives in me.” – Hyderabad, Pakistan

Muslims came back to the Haveli but this time they did not wait for the night and attacked it, but couldn’t enter it still. Then they sent a representative to talk to the Sikhs holed up in the haveli. Sant Gulab Singh refused to accept their conditions that the Sikhs should disarm themselves hence the fight continued for 2 more days. Finally on the last day, Muslims made it clear they would bomb the whole structure if the Sikhs didn’t come out.  After the Sikhs came out, they got surrounded by the large crowd of Muslims. The Sikhs arrived at the sarovar of the local Gurdwara Sahib. The Muslim Pathaans armed with latest weapons surrounded the Sikhs sitting around the sarovar. The Sikhs were chanting “Satnam Siri Vaheguru”. By then about 10,000 Muslims came and had a dozen barbers lined up to cut the hair of Sikhs. The children cried for food and milk, as the young and old were helpless to do anything. The whole scene was a scene from hell.  – Jaipur, India  

“Dekhiye janab, yaa to Hindustan ko Pakistan mein milaa do, nahin to Pakistan ko Hindustan mein mila do. Is batwaare ne bahut nuksaan kiya hai. Waqt agya hai hum sab ko sabaq hasil karlena chahye.”  (Look, either merge India into Pakistan or merge Pakistan into India, this partition has caused us all great long-lasting damage. It’s high time we all need to learn from our mistakes). – Lahore, Pakistan

Hindu caste prejudices are self-explanatory as to why India messed up so badly in Kashmir (its only Muslim-majority state), despite receiving significant support from Kashmiri Muslims in the early days of Indian rule. So basically my people continue to suffer this tug of war between two egoistic countries hell-bent on not letting go of the partition saga? Come to Indian controlled Kashmir to see for real the pitiful lives we live. – Srinagar, India

I don’t have any memory of those sad days being 6 months old when my parents along with my 2 elder brothers were forced to leave our home and hearth from near Rawalpindi. But today am 66 years old and still haunted by the description I overheard of how the train left Rawalpindi for Amritar was stopped at a station called Lala Musa. The driver absconded with the engine leaving the angry mob to unleash on my brethren. Three nights passed with no food nor water. Thankfully a small number of armed army men THE Gurkhas kept the day and night vigil and saved us from the mob’s fury. Till this date I am unable to fathom what was our fault? – West Bengal, India 

“So what choice had we left when they came to drive us out of our homes and burn the buildings, desecrated the graveyard of my seven generations right in front of our eyes. That night was our hell and 67 years have not wiped my mental trauma.  As we fled towards Pakistan amidst the chanting slogans growing louder and louder, I still remember the Hindus repeatedly chanted “Musalmanon ke do hi sthan, Pakistan ya qabristan” (Only two places for Muslims: Pakistan or graveyard). This partition tore my family apart and broke us, completely. –  Karachi, Pakistan

There is still hope for us, there is still an opportunity for us to tend those wounds that we ended up giving ourselves and there is always a tomorrow. I have chosen my road and what about you?

First published on August 20.2015

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‘ The Online Series on FM Mulla’s & Taliban Insurgency – Part One ‘

Illegal FM radio stations, illiteracy, religion and the governance system introduced in 2001 have aided the growth of Islamic militancy in the Swat Valley, according to the 2010 research report “A Survey of Perceptions about the Drivers of Conflict in Swat” by a Peshawar based Regional Institute of Policy Research and Training (RIPORT).

Khalid Aziz, heads the institute that is looking into certain grave areas of concern that arose after a decades old privatization of media and the “communication boom.” Suddenly number of new media outlets started to grow on a rapid scale across the country, in particular I will talk today about the FM radio stations that have been a strong tool used by the Taliban and militant groups in their anti State agendas. Please see this graph 1.

1_19

Television and Radio Popularity in Pakistan

Over all, radio is the most popular medium in both urban and rural based Pakistan, since its birth in 1947 with state-run Radio Pakistan announcement of the independence of Pakistan on Aug 13, 1947 at 11:59 pm in Urdu, followed by a similar announcement in English. It is considered a running school for media and journalism industry and the love of radio listenership continues till date.

Other crucial reasons include:

  1. Millions of illiterate Pakistanis in rural, impoverished or hard-to-access areas – continue to have very limited news media options therefore radio is a huge source for information dissemination and keeping village based people updated with the current happenings.
  2. Pakistan suffers from acute shortage of power, with 10 – 12 hours power shut down, therefore despite its economic progress, television and print media are still not doable options due to their dependency on electric power. Also in many areas, there are no or very few television cable operators.
  3. The north-west regions and its tribal agencies continue to stay under military conflict, including proxy warfare under Pakistan-US-Afghanistan NATO led agreements, with the TTP, LeT etc groups.
  4. Severe damage of infrastructure, displacement and instability in daily lives have created vulnerable, isolated and challenging odds for populations.
  5. There aren’t many sources of entertainment and information in this region. FM radio is an easy and in some cases the only – option people have.

This is where the Taliban stepped in, to cater this niche of population with their creative imagination bordering on the evil. In Taliban and other militant groups strong presence regions, its is easy to cater to the information starved people by putting a mic in the hands of a radical mullah broadcasting the message of hate and Taliban’s version of entertainment. See graph II for the locations deemed to have been under/ continued strong presence of the Taliban groups.

Taliban Strong Hold Areas in North West Pakistan, source BBC

A poor person just needs a small radio set to reduce his boredom by listening on.

The research report’s in-depth analysis of the Swat Valley’s case with its FM radio stations run by TTP groups, were a timely warning to the government to improve security and provide reforms to deal with the situation in Swat but due to lack of political will, external interference and pro-Taliban sentiment the cycle of death and destruction continues till date.

Taliban Run Radio Stations Propaganda’s

Things continued to go downhill in Swat Valley and soon this menace of illegal radio stations spread across other tribal location including Buner, Waziristan, Charsaddah, Mingora, and so on.

The militants use air waves to broadcast propaganda against their opponents and Western governments. These clerics popularly known as “FM mullahs” condemn everyone and everything that goes against their interpretation of religion.

Illiterate women and men sitting inside their homes in far-flung villages listen on a daily level to conservative sermons on women-related issues and other day-to-day affairs on air. The sermons also promote that discussing women issues like rape and domestic violence etc are not to be discussed because it goes against their imaginations of cultural and Islamic values. Other shows advise men on following a strict code of conduct with their women and to prohibit women from stepping outside homes. These suppressing of women messages are well received by patriarchal and male oriented Pushtun men hailing from village backgrounds.

Another damaging effect of these transmissions is the indoctrination against the anti-polio campaign that led to the failure of national polio campaign. Taliban’s offensive against the polio immunization program highlights the success of TTP and other sectarian militant groups against the involved health workers and security personnel working on giving health care to children. The Taliban run radio stations have time and again issued fatwa against female health workers in Swat and Malakand.

I will highlight two fatwas in particular: 1…. One called the presence of women in public spaces a form of indecency, and instructed that it “was a Muslim man’s duty to kidnap the woman’s health workers when they paid home visits, to marry them forcibly even if they were already married women, or to use them as sexual slaves.” Another similar Taliban decree declared that it was morally illegal for Muslim women to work for wages.

Pakistan Electronic Media and Regulatory Authority

It is not possible that illegal stations can continue to run unchecked without any governing bodies. Established in 2002, Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority is independent federal institution responsible for regulating and issuing channel licenses for establishment of the mass-media culture, print and electronic media.

PEMRA’s monitoring reports on illegal radio stations have shed light on extremely grave concerns for human rights issues within the country. Its says that further growing trend of extremism in parts of the NWFP is negating the government’s efforts to portray a soft image of Pakistan abroad. The governing body noted that some 62 illegal FM stations in settled areas while 49 others are being operated from the Federally- Administered Tribal Areas and Provincially-Administered Tribal Areas (Fata and Pata). Almost all are under the control of radical clergymen from Madressahs and mosques.

An under staffed Pemra, has been taking actions against illegal FM operators with the help of the provincial governments. But there are many challenges.. It is impossible to close down illegal FM radio stations because local technicians re-manufacture the equipment for only Rs10,000 or Rs15,000. ($150 – $200)

Last year, the regulatory body’s counter measures include : stopping the illegal up-linking by three channels. PEMRA raided more than 21,000 cable TV operators and 2,803 systems were seized. It also issued penalties worth millions were imposed on TV, radio and cable operators. Nearly 10 illegal FM radio stations preaching hate and extremism were shut down.

To know about the nefarious personalities behind these illegal radio stations and the content analysis of their Broadcasting Content, please keep a lookout for The Human Lens’s part II of the series “Taliban Insurgency|Fiascoes of the FM Mullahs.”

South East Asia News:

Disclaimer: This article is not written by ACE NEWS GROUP. The original source of this article can be found here:

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‘Trafficking of South Asian Women Migrants Workers ‘

Every year millions of women from poor communities across South Asia migrate to find employment so they can send money home to support their families. But many end-up being deceived and trafficked into jobs with extremely low wages or don’t get paid at all.

Their movements get restricted, their living and working conditions are very poor and they often suffer threats and all sorts of abuse.

Last year,UK Department for International Development (DFID), the International Labor Organization (ILO) & the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) launched the newWork in Freedom” programme to fight trafficking of women and girls from South-Asia. This programme is tackling the issue through its multifaceted approaches that work on addressing the pertinent reasons behind the continued exploitative trafficking of South Asian women.

It is my humble opinion that south asian women’s status in global-sphere is somewhat very limited, dehumanized and degrading.

This feeds into the heinous system that allows for the continued lowly status and manipulation of women from this region. This project is like a breath of fresh air because it is aiming to make migration safe for girls and women, travelling to work in the domestic labor and garment sectors in the Middle East and within South Asia.

It has also introduced a unique measure of using “mobile phones” and capacity building of language skills to assist migrant women in getting the much-needed help they would be requiring to get out of a nightmare.

The project is concentrating on three key departure countriesBangladesh, India and Nepal — and major destination countries – India, Jordan, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates. Please watch this heart wrenching video to hear a glimpse of what some migrant women workers went through.

Say no to Trafficking & Illegal Labour Manipulations!

Source: Work in Freedom Report

Writer  

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‘ South Asian Women’s Football 2014 ‘

The SAFF Women’s Championship, also called the South Asian Football Federation Women’s Cup, is the main association football competition of the women’s national football teams governed by the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF). The teams from 8 member countries include: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

So far, Indian women have retained all three cups, each time beating Nepal in the Cup finals. While women in Asia are often treated as second class citizens and denied the opportunities given to men, here’s one place where they have come out on their own — the football pitch.

Pakistan hosted this year’s championship and here are some glimpses of glory and glitches on the pitch.

Pakistan being demolished by Sri Lankan  team

792624-SAFFWEB-1416242183-744-640x480

Pakistan Women Spectators Turned into Big and Small Groups Alike

India retain SAFF Women's Championship 2014

Pakistan's Hajra Khan goes for the goal

Bhutan Struggling Under Nepali Onslaught

Nepal and India - Finalist Clash On

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Gender Disparity: ‘ South Asian Women Fight On ‘

In recent years, the South Asia region has made some progress towards gender equality. The ratio of female-to-male life expectancy in South Asia, while behind East Asia, is now ahead of sub-Saharan Africa.

Indian Women Paving Paths

There is still a long way to go in about bringing the much-needed positive change towards the existing patterns of patriarchy that afford men privileges over women’s minds, souls and bodies. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that millions are still stuck in the dinosaur age, suffering acute Neanderthal syndromes.

A development organization, IFAD through its Gender and Development Division has decades spanning contribution in making head-ways to counter patriarchy and gender gaps.

Through their work, IFAD reports following noteworthy progresses and areas of concern: 

1.South Asia has also seen women’s increased political involvement, with their parliamentary participation rates higher than those in East Asia.

2.The 2012 Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI) shows that South Asia raised its position from the lowest ranked region in 2009 to the fourth ranked region in 2012 in overall discrimination against women.

3. However, the report also notes that the changes in ranking between 2009 and 2012 should be interpreted with caution and that better quality data − rather than an improvement in discriminatory social institutions − could also contribute to an improved score.

4. This culturally diverse region has typically lagged behind on gender equality issues. Boys still outnumber girls in primary school enrollment in Afghanistan, India, Nepal and Pakistan. Furthermore, across the region, girls are more likely than boys to drop out of school and almost half of all adult women are illiterate. In 2005, 48 per cent of young women were married before the age of 18.

5. Out of the nine countries in South Asia, only Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka have laws that prohibit domestic violence.

Pakistan's Benazir Bhutto record on women rights, debatable

6. The region is confronted by skewed gender ratios owing to the continued preference for boys in society, at least in part because of the dowry system. In Afghanistan and Pakistan, patriarchal norms isolate women in their homes by placing restrictions on their mobility and prohibiting contact with the opposite sex, especially in rural areas. This has significant implications for their employment, voice and representation in public life.

Despite challenging circumstances, IFAD and its many partners working in South Asia have made significant strides in improving the lives of women and girls in the region, as shown in the stories that follow.

Economic empowerment: South Asia has one of the lowest rates in the world of women’s participation in the labour force. Women earn less than men and have limited economic opportunities, often toiling as self-employed labourers across all sectors.

 Voice and participation: Inequities cannot be addressed until there are more women in decision-making roles in the public and private domains. It is true that some countries such as Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have had women heads of government. Others have used affirmative action, such as quotas, to boost women’s participation in decision-making bodies and change the focus of development agendas. However, there is often a large gap between representation and voice.

In Pakistan, for example, women are virtually absent from water user associations even though they own some agricultural land. And if they do attend meetings, they have little influence over decisions.

Women’s decision-making power in the household is also low compared with other Asian regions, but it does increase with wealth and economic empowerment.

Workloads and benefits: In South Asia, the widespread disparities can be observed from the most insignificant to most significant important issues, women work longer hours on domestic chores in comparison to men. Their work overall is benefited by men, most agricultural laborers and workers are women but they earn less and have no decision-making power over their limited incomes and its uses.

Srilankan women in workforce

South Asian patriarchy continues to feed into the cycle of keeping women poor and in vulnerable conditions, so that they can be controlled within the heinous societal roles set out for them.

IFAD’s on-ground work has also resulted into many outcomes that can help to continue addressing women’s inclusion and empowerment within the region.

LESSONS LEARNED AND GOOD PRACTICES

IFAD’s Asia and Pacific Division has implemented projects that address gender equality and women’s empowerment in different ways. Some of the lessons learned and good practices implemented in South Asia include:

  • Self-help groups. Self-help groups are an effective way to strengthen the decision-making and economic power of women in South Asia’s patriarchal societies.
  • Women-specific value chains. Supporting women-specific value chains by providing micro-credit coupled with technical and social training has improved household-level gender relations. It has helped increase women’s mobility and their participation in family decision-making, and brought them greater control over their profits.

-National gender coordinators. Country-level gender coordinators, such as in India, have improved gender outcomes by providing direct support to project design and supervision.

The region is known world-wide for its non-friendly attitudes and traditions that continue to threaten women’s lives. At the center of the rotting core — South Asian women themselves and  have taken it to task to work on improving their lives and continue to display their positive interest and enthusiasm  progressing towards their rightful places in the societies. 

Posted in Gender and Women Issues

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Agents of Change |My Dream For Every Little Girl

The Girls’education progress has remained marginalized in the political and general discourse of Pakistan. There is no denying the very fact that there are parts of the country that have the lowest literacy rates in the world, this fact constantly pinches me with passing times.

As a nation, we are falling and failing behind due to two main issues POVERTY and EDUCATION.  

The time has come to stop denying the very fact that education lifts whole communities out of poverty forever. Inside turbulent Pakistan, Oxfam is doing whatever it takes to get more children into class by lobbying with governments, training teachers and also building schools in rural areas, which will provide little children and girls opportunity to attend school. Watch this sensitive video on girl’s education, this is my dream for every little girl and let’s work towards making it a reality.

After-all, educated women are agents of change and Pakistan is in dire need of a social change that empowers its women.

Posted in Gender and Women Issues

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