Media policing
Face-off between journalists and policemen at crime scenes can be averted by adopting a defined code of working relationship
By Shahzada Irfan Ahmed
Media and police are considered adversaries all over the world and their working relations appear to be quite complex. Whenever there’s a crime incident, terrorist activity, arrest of a suspect or advancement in an ongoing investigation, they are automatically pitched against each other.
While the police try to collect evidence, make immediate arrests and perform other related duties, the media is on its toes to collect exclusive information without delay and disburse it to the general public. It has to do this against all odds as it serve public’s right to information.

Yeh Woh
Pride and prejudice
By Masud Alam
September 7 is a very important date. Many moons ago, on this day, I was born. Celebrating birthdays was not fashionable in those days — at least in my family — but mine was celebrated high in the skies, with fighter jets flying in spectacular close formations over Sargodha, spewing streaks of red and green clouds in their wake. For years I watched these aerial displays as a head of state accepts guard of honour. It was much later that I learnt the fly pasts were meant to mark the Air Force Day and not my arrival in this world.
Yes, it was disappointing to switch from a party-in-the-sky to the cake-and-candles routine but the bond with PAF endured. I have countless pictures of me as a child, taken with the out-of-service aircraft installed in Company Bagh. I spent my sports periods admiring the smartly turned out cadets of PAF College which had its parade square adjacent to my school ground. I even made up the inspiration for my name to be the 1965 Indo-Pak war hero, Squadron Leader M. M. Alam.

issue
Fertile in shortage
After hitting cotton, rice, sugarcane and maize crops, shortage of
fertilizers is now threatening the next wheat crop
By Aoun Sahi
Shabbir Hussain, a 65-year-old farmer in Mandranwala village in Sialkot district, has cultivated two types of paddy — Irri 9 and Super Basmati — on his 10-acre farmland. Irri will be ready to reap in a few days while Super Basmati is at a very crucial booting stage.
“I usually put two bags of urea per acre of Irri during the booting stage which was last month and the same amount of fertilizer is needed for Basmati to get good yield,” he tells TNS. But, this year he was able to spread only half bag of urea fertilizer to Irri crop and managed to get one bag for Basmati crop. “I could not get more than three bags of urea in the first week of August despite paying Rs650 (per bag) extra than the government rates. The situation is better now. I have been able to buy five bags of fertilizer, but only after paying Rs400 (per bag) extra and buying one bag of Di-Ammonium Phosphate (DAP) for every two bags of urea,” he says. He has bought DAP for Rs4,000 per bag. “Its price was Rs2200 last year. I do not need it now as DAP is used only for wheat crop, but I am forced to buy it as otherwise dealers would not sell urea fertilizers.”

Not everyone is welcome, anymore
Immigration laws for non-European nationals have been made even stricter by the UK government
By Arif Iqbal and Mark Bradshaw
A recent change in the law has potentially made it more difficult for foreign workers and students to come to the United Kingdom. On May 23, 2011, the UK government brought into force Section 19 of the UK Borders Act 2007. This section is designed to limit the evidence that may be admitted for the purpose of an appeal against the refusal of an application under the Points-Based System.
The Points-Based System has been phased in since 2008 to determine applications from non-European nationals seeking to work or study in the UK. Applicants are required to obtain points for proving they meet certain criteria relating to matters such as their qualifications, ability to maintain themselves and prospective earnings.

Soft target
The resilience of Hazara people in Quetta is wearing thin, but they are hoping that some day things will change for the better
By Ishtiaque Ahmed
“I was stunned when I saw the blood-stained body of my paternal uncle Ali Baba being removed to the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) for post-mortem,” says Ali Madad who was in hospital enquiring after the health of his close friend who was already admitted there.
The cause of death of Ali Baba and his two brothers was the powerful bomb explosion which occurred outside Eidgah at Gulistan Road Quetta soon after the Eid congregation. The blast had claimed the lives of over thirteen people, including four women.
“What is our offence and what are we being punished for,” asks Raza, who belongs to Hazara Shia community, while talking to TNS. His voice was worn out as he struggled to keep himself composed. The target killing of Hazara community in Balochistan has been going on since 1999.

 

life
A time of understanding

Life is going fine. You have been through the major milestones of life. You have reached a phase where you think you know it all. You have been through the uncertainty of teenage years and through the dilemmas and roller-coasters of youth. You have been through marriage and you have experienced the crescendo called motherhood. You know yourself and you know the world.

You are a woman. You are in the fifth decade of your life. And you have come of age.

But then the upheaval begins. You experience crankiness, mood swings and headaches. You forget things all too easily. You are easily irritable. Your periods are irregular. Physically, you are noticing changes in yourself. And out of nowhere, you notice your face flushed a beetroot red and you feel an uncomfortable surge of heat….hot flushes. Yes, you may be entering that dreaded phase of your life which you had been warned against. You might be close to your menopause.

While all our lives, we whine about the discomfort the monthly menstrual cycle brings with it, inwardly every woman likes being in that zone. Periods remind us every month that we are still young, fertile and not downhill. Till we hit menopause, we still jest with girlfriends over jokes related to possibly being pregnant when we skip a few days. We are in our prime years, we tell ourselves. But there is a very thin line between this side of the bridge, and that. And this thin line is called menopause.

Medically, most of us are aware of what menopause is. Menopause, in simple words, is the natural transition period in a woman's life when her ovaries stop producing eggs, her body produces less estrogen and progesterone, and menstruation becomes less frequent and finally tapers off to a full stop.

While the age varies from woman to woman, it can occur anywhere between the ages of 45 and 55.

Premenopause is the term used to describe the menopause transition years. This is before, during and after the process is complete. Premenopause means those years that lead up to the last period, when the levels of reproductive hormones are already becoming lower and more erratic, and the effects of hormone withdrawal are felt. Once menopause is complete, the stage is called postmenopause, and if you have not had a period for the last one year, you no longer need to use contraceptives. Simple as that.

As your body adjusts to this change and hormones fluctuate, your body reacts in the form of various physical and emotional changes. Estrogen generally decreases gradually, thus allowing your body to slowly adjust to the hormonal changes. Hot flashes and sweats are most severe for the first couple of years after the last period. Menopause symptoms may last 5 or more years.

The severity of the symptoms varies greatly from woman to woman. For some, it's a breeze. For others, not only are the symptoms severe but also last much longer. Many women complain of the Premenopause symptoms starting as early as in their thirties, and may be even as much as six years prior to the actual event.

But rest assured, it is a difficult time for most women. Sania Husain (name changed) shares her experience of her menopausal years. "My menopause started earlier than most women. Initially, for me, the effects were more emotional than physical. The hot flushes were horrible. I would get up in the middle of the night because of that. Insomnia naturally followed, which made it all worse. I gained weight more easily, partly because I would binge on food as that made me feel better. The physical changes also affect a woman as it affects her vanity, her self esteem. Your skin and hair get thinner for example," says Husain, baring her soul. Mood swings, depression and anxiety were traumatic new traits Husain developed.

"Some of my friends had already warned me about it which made me a bit prepared. But I made sure I don't succumb to menopause. A lot depends on having a positive attitude. Positivity can help you overcome anything. So yes, it does help if you don't keep thinking that every unusual symptom in your life is because of menopause," says Husain.

It can be an especially difficult time for the family and spouse of the woman going through this. Often, Husain shares, that her husband did not know how to handle her temperamental behaviour, her decrease in libido, and would get worried about symptoms like random bouts of anxiety and palpitation. But once they talked it over and he understood this was just a phase, they collectively handled the situation better.

Like any phase of transition, menopause is a time of understanding and adjustment. Minor lifestyle changes can help. A menopausal woman should continue to exercise and eat healthy, also to avoid weight gain, This will help her plummeting self-esteem come back to its normalcy.

Spiritual exercises, praying, namaz, meditation, and Yoga, all help. These help in avoiding tranquilizers and relaxants with an array of side-effects in themselves.

Staying busy in productive activities and engaging in creative outlets that nurture a sense of achievement are good ideas.

Loneliness in difficult times is a bad idea. So one should stay connected with one's family, friends and the community. This is a time to nurture your friendships, especially with women going through a similar phase.

Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is a good option, but if one can manage with lifestyle changes and a positive attitude, that is a better option. Although growing evidence suggests that hormonal therapy helps relieve emotional symptoms, HT alone cannot treat more severe depression. So in such cases, antidepressant drug therapy and/or psychotherapy may be necessary.

"Today, I have accepted this phase of my life. Acceptance helps, as does endurance," says Husain, voicing the feelings of many women.

Menopause should, then, be seen as a new beginning. A time when a woman can focus on herself, and enjoy her life as a vibrant, beautiful and active individual.

Media policing

Media and police are considered adversaries all over the world and their working relations appear to be quite complex. Whenever there’s a crime incident, terrorist activity, arrest of a suspect or advancement in an ongoing investigation, they are automatically pitched against each other.

While the police try to collect evidence, make immediate arrests and perform other related duties, the media is on its toes to collect exclusive information without delay and disburse it to the general public. It has to do this against all odds as it serve public’s right to information.

No doubt journalists are paid by their bosses for digging out maximum information and not withholding it as is expected by the law enforcing authorities (LEAs) investigating a case. Though information is periodically shared with the media through spokesmen or police officials related to a case, the latter is never satisfied with the feed and is always on the hunt for more.

The situation in Pakistan is even more challenging as the country is in a state of transition and facing terrorism for the last many years. Meanwhile, the media has grown exponentially and so have the challenges faced by the resource-constrained LEAs. Sometime they enter into unwanted confrontations that even lead to physical assaults. The charge they level against each other is that of creating hurdles during the performance of their duties.

“The said situation undoubtedly calls for a code on a workable relationship between the two and building confidence among them,” believes Michael Schutle-Schrepping, Senior Advisor for Police-Media Relations for the project Civilian Capacity Building for Law Enforcement (CCBLE) in Pakistan. The project is funded by the European Union (EU) and has a component on police-media relations. Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) on the subject have been drafted under the same project and submitted to the federal Interior Ministry.

Michael thinks though the issues faced by media and police here might differ from those in the developed world, many values are universal and applicable in every country. For example, he says, people may think German police has never faced resource constraints. “I remember there was a day in my service when we did not have money to buy fuel for our vehicles.”

Michael joined German police service in 1977 and specialises in forensics and basic investigation methods in serious crimes. That’s why he puts special emphasis on the preservation of crime scene and saving it from contamination caused by unwanted intrusions. Based on his interaction with Pakistani media and police at trainings conducted by him in collaboration with German aid agency GIZ, he sees media-police confrontation as a major issue in the country.

Another problem is that in a bid to outdo their competitors journalists go for exclusivity and depend on sources who, in one way or the other, are not fully qualified for the job. Quite often unverified facts are publicised by the media and conflicting statements issued by more than one policemen, whereas they should be coming from a well-informed spokesman appointed officially.

Imran Ahmed Khan, a district news correspondent based in Rahimyar Khan, agrees with the assertions and points to the reason why this happens. He says unlike in the developed world police here reach a crime scene very late. Their response time is so slow that it gives the locals from the adjoining communities and media personnel enough time to examine each and everything and spoil evidence inadvertently. He agrees this behaviour is unwanted but says how can people be stopped in the absence of police which is required to cordon off an area.

Imran Khan has no problem with the idea of seeking and getting information from official spokesmen “provided they perform their duty in the real sense.” Mostly, he says, they are not there and even if they are their interest is to get obliging matter published in newspapers. Explaining his point, he says spokesmen are reluctant to answer media queries in general, but are hyperactive when it comes to coverage of press conferences and visits of high-ups to police stations.

He tells TNS that many police spokesmen are from the provincial information departments. “They know little about the working of the police department and are also not owned by the department. Seasoned police officials can definitely perform better.”

Babar Ali, Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), Badami Bagh Circle, says media can either disburse positive, informative and constructive information or go for the thrilling and sensational one. Sometimes, he says, dozens of camera crews from different channels arrive at a crime scene and trample it to have exclusive shots.

“I think it should be fine to record one video and distribute its copies among all the channels. The incidents of DSNGs obstructing paths of ambulances and police and rescue vehicles are also common. The race for exclusivity is such that no two channels are even ready to agree on the death toll,” Babar Ali says.

He recalls the day when a large number of policemen lost their lives or got injured in a suicide blast near the Lahore High Court. “Exactly when they were rushing the critically injured to ambulances, some cameramen stood in their way and did not even offer them a helping hand. What needs to be conveyed here is that saving a life is an act much superior to performance of professional duties. A life must be saved even if leads to loss of evidence.”

Michael asserts crime scene preservation is important as it provides forensic evidence that can lead to arrest of culprits. “If journalists tread too far they may leave their fingerprints, DNA print etc at the scene. Human beings are constantly losing hair strands and dead skin cells. Therefore, it is quite possible the crime scene gets contaminated and such residues left by journalists land them into trouble.” He says he once closed a market to everybody, other than investigators, for one week just to secure evidence.

Michael explains parameters of a crime scene have to be defined carefully and journalists must respect them. There is an inner crime scene as well as an outer crime scene. For example, he says, the room where a person is murdered is inner crime scene whereas the route the murderer used to escape and the immediate area surrounding the house can be the outer crime scene. Footprints of the person, impressions left by tyres or cigarette buts or chewing thrown by him may be found here, he adds. However, journalists should not be kept away from the scene needlessly.

A leading crime reporter based in Karachi tells TNS, on conditions of anonymity, that there cannot be free flow of information from the police side till it is free of irregularities, corruption, political influence and violation of rules. “How can a spokesman affirm detention of suspects without entry in registers or production in courts when these acts are done with the approval of the high-ups?” When the information coming from the designated officials is sketchy and confusing and the one from confidential sources highly credible the former becomes redundant, he adds.

Muhammad Ali Khan, a Peshawar-based journalist, finds the conventional media in a constant competition with the vibrant social media. The former, he says, may follow rules and observe constraint but the latter is free to do whatsoever it wants. “For example, when a gruesome video or picture appears on Youtube, the conventional media has to jump into the arena as it is expected to stay a step ahead of others.”

 

September 7 is a very important date. Many moons ago, on this day, I was born. Celebrating birthdays was not fashionable in those days — at least in my family — but mine was celebrated high in the skies, with fighter jets flying in spectacular close formations over Sargodha, spewing streaks of red and green clouds in their wake. For years I watched these aerial displays as a head of state accepts guard of honour. It was much later that I learnt the fly pasts were meant to mark the Air Force Day and not my arrival in this world.

Yes, it was disappointing to switch from a party-in-the-sky to the cake-and-candles routine but the bond with PAF endured. I have countless pictures of me as a child, taken with the out-of-service aircraft installed in Company Bagh. I spent my sports periods admiring the smartly turned out cadets of PAF College which had its parade square adjacent to my school ground. I even made up the inspiration for my name to be the 1965 Indo-Pak war hero, Squadron Leader M. M. Alam.

Other young men I knew had their own reasons to love, respect and emulate soldiers who were prepared to fight and die for us on the ground, in the air and in the water. I was part of perhaps the last generation that believed a soldier to be the embodiment of selflessness, courage and professionalism. And through them we saw these qualities as ours. It made us proud. Proud of legends like Asghar Khan and Noor Khan, and proud as a nation that produced them.

Today the same army, the same air force, and the same navy is ridiculed in private for its inability to protect itself let alone protecting us, and severely criticised in public for its addiction to politics and money. And the military responds by arresting, harassing, coercing or coaxing civilians into respectful serfs. It’s sad because young people everywhere in the world need to have heroes. Every nation feels the need to take pride in its military, and every military needs to have the nation on its side to be able to fight the enemy. We are left with no pride and no heroes and our military is left with little if any public love and respect. Every Defence Day and Air Force Day is a reminder of this sad state of affairs.

Last week we saw both the occasions celebrated with ‘traditional enthusiasm and patriotism’ as the PTV script goes. But only on PTV, and the special programme produced only by the public relations arm of the military which wants us to remember 1965 alone and forget even what happened just four months ago.

A friend of mine made a Facebook page in the memory of the martyrs of 65 war and sent an email to more than 50 people, including me, with a request to ‘like’ it. By late that night five people had liked it. Another Facebook contact joined the celebrations by posting a parody of the Melody Queen’s song dedicating her melodies to the ‘dashing countrymen’. Yet another one posted a picture of a soldier peering into the dhoti of a (purportedly an East Pakistani) man to confirm if he is circumcised and so deserves to live.

It is sad that the ‘sacrifices’ made by the armed forces are remembered only on one day a year, and only by the armed forces and the state-owned media. What we remember of the military men 24/7 is their arrogance and a sense of superiority over us bloody civilians. They live in secure, clean compounds and often are the only ones in the city to have access to sporting facilities, and in some cases municipal services too. When they do venture out of their well-functioning garrisons they struggle to understand how millions of us go on living in squalor and deprivation, and finally reach the conclusion that we deserve it. So whether they are offering a daughter’s hand in marriage or selling a car, they are always careful to mention their rank in the advertisement, demanding a better deal than a civilian counterpart would have got.

That is the foundation of ‘us’ and ‘them’ and we are never allowed to forget the division. Save one day in a year when they put up a fancy show on PTV titled ‘We Are One’. Who are they kidding! If ISPR wants an honest feedback on the show: it didn’t give me back my lost pride.

[email protected]

 

issue
Fertile in shortage

Shabbir Hussain, a 65-year-old farmer in Mandranwala village in Sialkot district, has cultivated two types of paddy — Irri 9 and Super Basmati — on his 10-acre farmland. Irri will be ready to reap in a few days while Super Basmati is at a very crucial booting stage.

“I usually put two bags of urea per acre of Irri during the booting stage which was last month and the same amount of fertilizer is needed for Basmati to get good yield,” he tells TNS. But, this year he was able to spread only half bag of urea fertilizer to Irri crop and managed to get one bag for Basmati crop. “I could not get more than three bags of urea in the first week of August despite paying Rs650 (per bag) extra than the government rates. The situation is better now. I have been able to buy five bags of fertilizer, but only after paying Rs400 (per bag) extra and buying one bag of Di-Ammonium Phosphate (DAP) for every two bags of urea,” he says. He has bought DAP for Rs4,000 per bag. “Its price was Rs2200 last year. I do not need it now as DAP is used only for wheat crop, but I am forced to buy it as otherwise dealers would not sell urea fertilizers.”

The situation is almost same for cotton farmers hundreds of kilometres away from Sialkot in Bahawalnagar district. “Official rate of urea is Rs1375 per bag, but no dealer is ready to sell it for less than Rs1800 per bag,” says 38-year-old farmer Tanvir Kahloon who lives in Chak 169-7R in Fort Abbas Tehsil of Bahawalnagr district.

Agriculture experts say fertilizers play a major role in crop production. “Up to 50 per cent of yield of all crops depends on timely usage of fertilizers. Timely application of it can increase 15-20 per cent of yield of any crop. Once booting stage is over, there is no use of fertilizer,” says Dr Muhammad Yaseen, Associate Professor at Institute of Soil and Environment Sciences in University of Agriculture, Faisalabad.

“If farmers could not use fertilizers in proper quantity during one crop, it could have many after effects as well on the soil fertility for the next crop. It unbalances the nutrient level of soil and it can take three years to overcome this disturbance,” he explains. “Many factors are responsible for shortage of fertilizers in Pakistan these days. Bad government policies, gas loadshedding, smuggling to Afghanistan and black marketing are the major reasons for its shortage.”

Punjab is the worst-hit province as currently 8 million acres of land is under cotton cultivation, 6 million acre of land under rice cultivation while 2.2 million acre of land is under sugarcane cultivation which makes around 80 per cent of the total under cultivation land of the country. “Punjab has faced up to 40 per cent shortage of urea for Khareef season. It can cut production of cotton by around 10 per cent and rice by around 7 per cent,” Ibrahim Mughal, President Agriforum Pakistan tells TNS. He says farmers are forced to pay billions of rupees to the fertilizer companies and dealers.

To put the urea price in regional context, Mughal says, India provides it to farmers at price of Rs434 per bag. “By those calculations, the Pakistani farmers are paying Rs72 billion extra to urea manufacturers. The federal government provides Rs70 billion subsidy to urea manufacturers on the gas head alone while the manufacturers are returning only Rs19 billion to farmers.”

Data about urea sales released by National Fertilizer Development Company (NFDC) shows that urea sales have dropped by 12 per cent during the first half of 2011 as compared to the same period last year. “The production of urea in the first half of 2011 has declined by 7 per cent while import of urea has seen 60 per cent reduction,” the data reveals.

Pakistan is the sixth largest producer of urea in the world with a total installed capacity of 6.9 million tonnes while the total requirement of the country is 6.4 million tonnes. But due to shortage of gas supplies to fertilizer companies, Pakistan is producing between 70-80 per cent of the total capacity of urea. Thus, the government is forced to import around 1.5 million tonnes of urea every year, besides giving subsidy of around Rs2 billion to farmers on every 100,000 tonnes of imported urea.

National Fertilizer Corporation (NFC), a subsidiary of the Ministry of Industries which is responsible for maintaining urea stocks in the country, had warned the government on May 31, 2011 that the country would become absolutely dry with hardly any fertilizer available for Khareef.

Punjab Minister for Agriculture, Malik Ahmad Ali Aulakh, says the Punjab government had urged the federal government many times to either revisit its gas curtailment policy for the fertilizer manufacturing units or make arrangements on war footing for import of urea fertilizer to meet the requirement. “The shortage of urea in Khareef season has already hit cotton, rice, sugarcane, maize and fodder crops. If the situation remains the same, it is going to hit the wheat crop as well,” he tells TNS. Total Urea requirement of the country for coming Rabi season is almost 3.3 million tonnes.

“With the present gas allocation policy for the fertilizer manufacturing units, total domestic production will be around 2.3 million tonnes, showing a shortfall of 1 million tonnes. The federal government has to take immediate steps to import urea as it takes 50 days from floating of tender to the arrival of shipment. We need to get maximum fertilizers for wheat crop as it needs maximum intake from October 15 to end of November. In Punjab alone wheat is sown on an average of 1.5 million acres of land every year. Wheat and other crops of Rabi require about 2.4 million tonnes of Urea in Punjab alone.”

According to an estimate of the Directorate of Agriculture Extension, Punjab Agriculture Department, the output of coming wheat crop will be reduced by over a million tonnes due to less or no use of urea fertilizer. An official of Agriculture Department says farmers will not be able to provide required urea to their crops if fertilizer shortage continues and spiraling prices and black market remain unchecked. “We need bulk of urea during October 2011 to February 2012 to facilitate wheat cultivation,” says the official.

Advisor to Prime Minister on Industries and Production Raja Basharat admits that there is shortage of urea in the country. “It is because of unavoidable circumstances nationally and internationally. Factories are not running to their capacity because of gas shortage. The government is working to overcome this shortage and has already floated tenders to import it. We hope that shortage will be overcome before the wheat crop.”

Not everyone is welcome, anymore

A recent change in the law has potentially made it more difficult for foreign workers and students to come to the United Kingdom. On May 23, 2011, the UK government brought into force Section 19 of the UK Borders Act 2007. This section is designed to limit the evidence that may be admitted for the purpose of an appeal against the refusal of an application under the Points-Based System.

The Points-Based System has been phased in since 2008 to determine applications from non-European nationals seeking to work or study in the UK. Applicants are required to obtain points for proving they meet certain criteria relating to matters such as their qualifications, ability to maintain themselves and prospective earnings.

Majority of those refused by Entry Clearance Officers at British posts abroad or by the Secretary of State in the UK are entitled to appeal to the First-tier Tribunal of the Immigration and Asylum Chamber. Whilst the Tribunal is, in general, concerned with circumstances at the date of the appeal, prior to the commencement of the new section those appealing could introduce further evidence for that appeal which addressed the reasons why their application was refused initially.

However, the new provisions mean that no such evidence may be admitted where it relates to the accruing of points. For example, where the Home Office has refused an application on the basis that the money shown in a bank statement is not at the required level for a sufficient period of time, an appellant might previously have been able to submit evidence for the appeal of a further savings account containing the shortfall. This new section has the effect of requiring a fresh application to be made, with payment of the attendant fee once again, as the new evidence would not be admitted at the appeal.

There are certain exceptions to this general rule, in that new evidence can be adduced to prove a document is genuine or valid, or in connection with a refusal on grounds not related to the acquisition of points under the Points-Based System. For example, some refusals are given on the basis of previously overstaying a period of leave or entering for a purpose not covered by the rules. In such circumstances, fresh evidence can be submitted to rebut that type of refusal.

In addition, the new provisions do not apply to appeals relying on grounds of race discrimination, human rights or asylum.

Many appeals rely upon Article 8 of the Human Rights Convention, in that removal or refusal of entry is said to breach the right to family or private life (typically applicable more so to those seeking to extend existing leave rather than applying for entry clearance from abroad) as well as arguing that the decision is not in accordance with the Immigration Rules which enforce the Points-Based System. New evidence could, therefore, be admitted for one purpose in an appeal but not another, which seems bizarre to say the least.

The UK government’s Immigration Minister, Damien Green, said, “Reforming the immigration system and reducing the level of immigration to a sustainable number is one of the big tasks of this government. Our goal is an improved system that commands the confidence of the public and serves our economic interests. We have made clear that we will take a robust approach, that we will tighten up our system, stop abuse and welcome only the most economically beneficial migrants. This government has already delivered a new annual limit on non-EU economic migrants and has announced reforms to the student visa system to be implemented over the course of the next year. These measures are aimed at attracting the brightest and the best, whilst reducing the level of net migration and tackling abuse.”

“People wishing to remain in the UK under the Points Based System are required to submit all relevant evidence in support of their application at the time that application is made. This enables caseworkers to make the right decision in the first instance, often avoiding unnecessary and expensive publicly funded appeals. It also protects the integrity of the immigration system, ensuring all necessary checks can be made and any deception identified.”

Whilst the stated aim may seem laudable, an improvement in the quality and consistency of decision-making by caseworkers should go hand-in-hand with these reforms in order to ensure confidence that many of the sub-standard refusals, particularly those made at posts abroad, are eliminated. In addition, the Policy Guidance provided by the UK Border Agency should be simplified as it is currently overly complex and difficult to interpret, leading to refusals which can no longer be rectified with further evidence at appeal.

Those with appeals pending with the Tribunal should note that these changes apply to all appeals heard for the first time from May 23, 2011 onwards, regardless of when the appeal was lodged, so the changes will affect people who may not have known about them when they submitted their original application or notice of appeal.

As a result of these changes, it is essential, in order to avoid the need to make an expensive repeat application, to pay very close attention to the Immigration Rules and Policy Guidance available on the UK Border Agency website. The Policy Guidance explains the precise nature of the evidence which should be included with an application and is the only first-hand source of this key information. It is also highly advisable to seek advice from a legal practitioner experienced in UK immigration law when making an application under the Points-Based System, in order to ensure that all legal and procedural requirements are fully complied with.

 

The writers are barristers based in UK

 

Soft target

“I was stunned when I saw the blood-stained body of my paternal uncle Ali Baba being removed to the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) for post-mortem,” says Ali Madad who was in hospital enquiring after the health of his close friend who was already admitted there.

The cause of death of Ali Baba and his two brothers was the powerful bomb explosion which occurred outside Eidgah at Gulistan Road Quetta soon after the Eid congregation. The blast had claimed the lives of over thirteen people, including four women.

“What is our offence and what are we being punished for,” asks Raza, who belongs to Hazara Shia community, while talking to TNS. His voice was worn out as he struggled to keep himself composed. The target killing of Hazara community in Balochistan has been going on since 1999.

Apparently, there are two types of target killings — one is sectarian and other is backed by separatist groups. Not only the religious congregations, but the caravans of pilgrims intending to go to Iran are attacked. Dozens of people have lost their lives in ambushes on pilgrims’ caravans. Banned outfit Lashkar-e-Jhangvi had claimed responsibility for the attacks.

“During the last one decade, hundreds of people belonging to Hazara community have been killed,” says Ahmed Khozad, secretary general of Hazara Democratic Party (HDP), regretting that the government is oblivious to the gravity of the situation. “Those killed include teachers, doctors, students, politicians, women and children. HDP’s chairman Hussain Ali Yousufi also became victim of the target killing in 2009,” Khozad tells TNS.

Reports say that over 400 people belonging to Hazara community have been killed systematically in different parts of Quetta during the last several years. In all these incidents, people belonging to different shades of life — educationists and professionals — are targeted by highly professional and trained shooters. After each assassination, the Balochistan government and police come out with hollow assurances of arresting the culprits ‘very soon’, but no killer has been arrested so far. Thus, the killings continue.

“It is a pity that our people cannot even go to markets to get groceries. These days, attending funerals of those killed is a common practice of Hazara community. We are tired of burying of our dear ones and its time now that the killing should be stopped,” says another Hazara leader while talking to TNS.

“We have tried our best to get our protest against the target killings registered with the provincial government and move it for action, but all in vain. Now, we are left with no other option but to stage a sit-in in front of Parliament House, Islamabad. The federal government shall come out of political hibernation to protect us,” says Ahmed Khozad.

The Hazara people started migrating from Afghanistan to Quetta, Iran and central Asia in 1893 when Ameer Abdul Rehman reigned as Ameer of Kabul. The Hazaras defied him and consequently a large number of them had to migrate to Quetta and other countries. “Some of the migrating Hazara people chose to labour in Mach coalmines, while others joined the British army,” says Ahmed Khozad while detailing the historical mass migration of Hazara tribe to Pakistan.

“There are many families in Quetta that had lost their earners of bread and butter to target killers. Unbiased administrative action is the only solution to the rising target killings in Quetta,” says Khozad.

“A number of Hazara youngsters are leaving the country to settle in Australia and other European countries. Legally or illegally, everybody wants to flee from here. I am here to collect my passport as an immigration agent has promised to send me abroad if I pay him Rs500,000,” says 19-year-old Haider Ali while talking to TNS outside the Quetta Passport Office.

Pashtuns, Balochs, Punjabis and Hazaras had been living in Quetta peacefully for years, but now an unknown fear is hovering over the city.

“The economy is lurching from one crisis to another and business activities have slumped in the capital of Pakistan’s largest province. Our business has collapsed due to lawlessness in Quetta,” complains businessman Haji Ashiq Achakzai. Psychiatrists also report an alarming increase in patients suffering post-traumatic stress disorders.

Pashtun and Baloch nationalist groups hold the government responsible for the chaos. The resilience of Hazara people is wearing thin, but they are carrying on as best as they can, hoping against all odds that someday, some time, things will change for the better.

 

 

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