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Interviews

Nazia Naz calls for sharing resources, expertise to safeguard human rights

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KARACHI: The human rights authorities at government should focus on to strengthen partnership with local and international organisations, share resources and expertise, implement robust data collection and monitoring system to respond effectively.

These views were shared by Nazia Naz who works with the Human Rights Department of the Sindh Government while talking to Naushaba Siddiqui who interviewed her after his return from Europe.

Q – Can you tell us about yourself, Nazia?

I am Nazia, and I work as a researcher at the Human Rights Department in the Government of Sindh. My role involves conducting research on human rights issues, compiling reports, and providing recommendations to improve human rights practices in the region. I am passionate about advocating for justice and equality, and my work allows me to make a meaningful impact on society.

Q – How was your trip to Europe? What did you learn, and could you share your experiences with us?

My trip to Europe was incredible. I had the opportunity to visit the European Parliament, the United Nations Office in Geneva, and several other international institutions. It was enlightening to learn about their operations and policies, especially concerning human rights. I gained a broader perspective on how different countries approach these issues and came back with new ideas and strategies that I could apply in my work at home.

Q – Could you provide a brief introduction to the Generalized System of Preferences Plus (GSP+)?

The Generalized System of Preferences Plus (GSP+) is a trade program designed to promote sustainable development and good governance in developing countries. It allows eligible countries to export certain products to the European Union (EU) with reduced or zero tariffs. To qualify for GSP+, countries must meet specific criteria, including ratifying and implementing international conventions on human rights, labor rights, environmental protection, and good governance.

Q – What exactly is GSP+? Please explain it to our readers.

GSP+ is a preferential trade arrangement granted by the EU to promote economic growth and sustainable development in developing countries. It provides reduced tariffs or duty-free access to the EU market for specific products. However, this arrangement is conditional on the beneficiary country demonstrating compliance with international standards related to human rights, labor laws, environmental protection, and governance. This way, GSP+ serves as an incentive for countries to improve their practices in these critical areas.

Q – How is Pakistan connected to GSP+?

Pakistan is a beneficiary of the GSP+ program, which has significantly contributed to the country’s economic growth by providing preferential access to the EU market. This status has encouraged Pakistan to adopt and implement international conventions on human rights, labor rights, environmental protection, and good governance. By meeting these criteria, Pakistan has been able to maintain its GSP+ status and continue to benefit from the economic advantages it offers.

Q – What are the economic benefits of GSP+?

The economic benefits of GSP+ for Pakistan include increased exports to the EU, leading to greater economic growth and job creation. With reduced or zero tariffs, Pakistani products can compete more effectively in the EU market, boosting various industries, such as textiles, agriculture, and manufacturing. This preferential trade status has also attracted foreign investment and contributed to diversifying Pakistan’s economy.

Q – What steps do you suggest for the Human Rights Department to take to improve its work?

To improve its work, the Human Rights Department could focus on a few key areas. First, it should strengthen partnerships with local and international human rights organizations to share resources and expertise. Second, it should implement robust data collection and monitoring systems to better understand human rights violations and respond effectively. Third, the department should increase public awareness campaigns to educate citizens about their rights and encourage them to report violations. Finally, ongoing training for staff on international human rights standards would ensure that they remain updated with best practices.

Q – What do you think Pakistan can do to maintain its GSP+ status in the future?

To maintain its GSP+ status, Pakistan should continue to demonstrate a strong commitment to international convention.

While concluding the interview, Nazia Naz says “I see the need for substantial improvements to achieve meaningful progress. Qualified professionals should be recruited to ensure that we have the right expertise in place. Every policy should have a clear roadmap to guide its implementation. While there has been a considerable amount of legislation, the real challenge lies in ensuring these laws are effectively enforced and monitored.”

“Our population is growing rapidly, which requires government departments to be even more committed to addressing emerging issues. Without strong commitment and effective action plans, achieving progress will be difficult. Therefore, the government must focus on building a competent workforce and translating legislation into tangible outcomes. Only then can we move towards a more prosperous and equitable future.”

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Interviews

Aseefa Bhutto – A reflection of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto

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KARACHI: This story reminds us of our school days when we read an article published by a prominent newspaper in Sindh about a girl who came back from Dubai and met her incarcerated father in the Central Jail of Karachi.

A few days later, a photograph emerged capturing this heartwarming moment, featuring a young girl with an adorable baby haircut embracing her father. Overwhelmed with joy, she couldn’t contain her emotions. That girl was Aseefa Bhutto, who was embracing her imprisoned father, Asif Ali Zardari.

The joy of their reunion was palpable, evident on their faces. As the time progressed, the dynamics shifted, and that once-imprisoned individual assumed the role of the President of Pakistan. The world witnessed the transformation of the young girl, now a grown-up, concealing the grief of her mother’s martyrdom within her, while radiating a smile in the halls of the President’s House. As they entered, her father offered support by placing his hand on her shoulder, capturing a photograph of their arrival, both wearing smiles that convey the message that democracy is the best revenge.

Again, there is a conspiracy to weaken Pakistan. The stability of Pakistan’s democracy cannot be tolerated by enemies. PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari is once again being targeted due to personal grudge. The accusation is the same as the old one that has neither head nor foot. In this difficult time, the girl again appears in public and hugs her father while he was being arrested, gives him encouragement and then she holds her father’s hand. From getting out of the armored car to climbing the courtroom stairs, she is seen holding her father’s hand in every appearance.

She possesses a unique demeanor. She tends to emerge when faced with difficult circumstances, while maintaining a quiet presence in tranquil times, often found engrossed in books in an inconspicuous corner. The composition of her character remains a mystery, leaving one curious about her nature and resilience.

She appears resolute and consistently retreats into the background after achieving success. Whenever the topic of democracy arises, she emerges as the revered hero of Sindh, known as “Bhagal Bai”, and stands by her brother, offering support for the strength and stability of Pakistan. At times, she faces unwarranted criticism, as she willingly endures the path she has chosen, adhering to the belief that criticism comes with the territory. Undeterred, she remains focused on her work, as success perpetually accompanies her journey.

In recent days, Pakistan found itself on the brink of a financial crisis due to the stubbornness and obstinacy of an egotistical individual. Once again, discussions about the threat to democracy surfaced, with a potential for violence. However, standing together like Fatima Jinnah, a significant and peaceful long march took place, marking a historic moment in Pakistan’s history. This collective effort resulted in dispelling the dark clouds that loomed over democracy, and once again the proponents of democracy emerged victorious.

It is important to note that this victory came at a cost, including the sacrifice of Aseefa Bhutto, who sustained severe injuries from a drone strike but bravely rejoined the convoy, her injured eye a testament to her resilience. Her countenance on this occasion reflected a radiant glow, evoking a sense of maternal warmth and generating an inspiring energy.

Aseefa, whom Asif Zardari once mentioned in an interview stating that he was initially alone but now has two lions, Bilawal and Aseefa. Aseefa, the beloved princess of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto, has indeed demonstrated President Zardari’s words to be true, in her own unique style. She carries forward the legacy with grace and determination.

It is often said that the youngest children receive the most love and affection, and Aseefa, being the apple of many eyes due to her young age, is no exception. However, this abundant pampering and love have not spoiled her; instead, they have contributed to her maturity and growth.

A precious princess entered the world on February 3, 1993, in the household of Shaheed Ms. Benazir Bhutto and Asif Ali Zardari. It is a testament to the depth of Bibi’s affection for Asif Ali Zardari that she chose to name their daughter Aseefa. Aseefa, being the daughter of Bibi and Asif Zardari, carries the legacy of Benazir within her. She is the granddaughter of the late Shaheed Zulfiqar Bhutto and the great-granddaughter of Hakim Ali Zardari, known for his principled politics in Pakistan.

Additionally, her lineage can be traced back to Hasan Ali Effendi, the visionary behind Sindh Madrasatul Islam, a pioneering institution that revolutionized education in Sindh. With such a distinguished lineage of respected and highly educated individuals, it is no wonder that Aseefa Bhutto Zardari has grown up to assume important responsibilities, such as overseeing esteemed educational institutions like SZABIST in Sindh.

Aseefa Bhutto, who holds a bachelor’s degree in Economics and Politics from Oxford University, has also obtained a master’s degree in Global Health from University College London.

Aseefa Bhutto grew up in the shadow of the late Ms. Benazir Bhutto, who played a significant role in starting the polio immunization program in Pakistan. In response to baseless debates and fatwas claiming the harm and illegality of polio drops, Shaheed Benazir Bhutto took a powerful step. She inaugurated the immunization program by personally administering polio drops to her own daughter, Aseefa Bhutto, at the Prime Minister’s House. This act effectively countered the opponents and debunked the rumors surrounding the safety of polio drops. Aseefa Bhutto, deeply influenced by her mother’s mission, resolved to carry it forward and dedicated herself to the fight against polio in Pakistan.

As the Ambassador of the United Nations campaign for polio eradication, Aseefa Bhutto Zardari undertook comprehensive measures to eliminate this potentially fatal and contagious disease from the country, ultimately striving for a polio-free Pakistan. In pursuit of this cause, she pursued her master’s degree to strengthen her knowledge and ability to work towards improving healthcare, particularly in the context of polio eradication in Pakistan.

She is the second Pakistani lady, following in the footsteps of the Shaheed Benazir Bhutto, to address the Oxford Union at Oxford University. In her address, Aseefa Bhutto Zardari acknowledged the sacrifices made by her grandfather and emphasized the importance of stability. She shared a poignant anecdote about her grandfather, Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who wrote to her mother from his prison cell, asking what gift he could send her. He replied, “Yes, I hand you over to the people. You are the custodian of the world’s greatest civilization, and it is your duty to strengthen it.”

Difficult circumstances compelled Shaheed Benazir Bhutto to enter politics after her father, Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, was unjustly removed from power, imprisoned, and executed. She emerged as the leader of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), which was established by her father, and went on to become the first female head of government in a Muslim-majority country.

On the occasion of the 70th birthday of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto, Aseefa Bhutto paid tribute to her and recognized her exceptional leadership during challenging times. She emphasized that Shaheed Benazir Bhutto led Pakistan through difficult and trying moments, and highlighted that her legacy can serve as a guiding light to navigate the current darkness.

Aseefa Bhutto Zardari displayed confidence from a young age. During her time in exile, she was interviewed by senior journalist Sohail Waraich. When asked about what she liked most about Pakistan, Aseefa Bhutto responded in a confident tone, expressing her belief in the country’s potential for greatness. She continued to work diligently for a better Pakistan, particularly in the healthcare sector, alongside her brother Bilawal, even though she prefers not to seek personal recognition for her efforts. Her quiet dedication and achievements speak for themselves.

Aseefa was just 14 years old when her mother, Benazir Bhutto, was martyred in 2007. Their lives have been intertwined with the politics of their parents, both in life and in death. They lead extraordinary lives, facing the challenges and uncertainties with the hope and courage that tomorrow will bring a brighter day.

As siblings, they carry the weight of the political legacy passed down from their parents, Benazir Bhutto and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. The party leadership firmly believes in the importance of a robust democracy, recognizing that it cannot thrive without ensuring the well-being and empowerment of the less privileged members of society.

[ The writer is Deputy Director, Information and Archives Department, Government of Sindh. He regularly contributes articles in regional and national dailies ]

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Interviews

Maheen Hisbani – Sindh-lover, a poet, an intellectual, singer

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KARACHI: With the God gifted sweat voice and sensitive nature, Maheen Hisbani daughter of Ghulam Murtaza Hisbani was born on April 1, 1976 at Tharu Shah, a town of district Naushehro Feroz, Sindh. Her father was a landlord of the area. She has four sisters and two brothers.

Maheen Hisbani received her early education from Government Primary School Tharu Shah however she passed her matriculation from the Government High Secondary School, Bhirya Road with flying colors in 1991.

While doing her matriculation, Maheen’s family moved to Hyderabad, the second largest city of Sindh province, where she passed intermediate examination from the Government Zubaida College, affiliated with the Board of Intermediate Education Hyderabad in 1996. She secured good grades in intermediate.

Maheen was an extraordinary student in her studies who always actively participated in debate competition, essay writing, comparing etc.

With a vision to do something distinctive in life, Maheen completed her Bachelors of Public Administration (BPA) and Masters of Public Administration (MPA) from the most prestigious education institution – University of Sindh – Jamshoro in 2001 by clinching the first division.

In her university life, Maheen participated in many programs including hosting events, doing comparing, reciting poetry and verses, heading literary events etc. She also recited ghazals and wayes.

She also did voice over on Sindh Languaphone, a project of the Sindhi Language Authority aimed at teaching Sindhi language to non-Sindhis. She received much appreciation for her soft and clear voice, perfect pronunciation.

In 2000, Maheen’s family shifted to Karachi where she got admission in the University of Karachi. She completed another degree Masters of Arts (MA) in Sindhi Literature. She used to recite poetry of prominent poets Parveen Shakir and Ahmed Faraz, Ustad Bukhari and Shaikh Ayaz.

While accidently visiting the PTV Karachi Center during those days, Maheen Hisbani was introduced as new talent by Iqbal Saeed Ansari, a prominent producer. Her voice inspired a number of people and hence she became newscaster at PTV Karachi. She became the ‘Voice of Sindh’. She officially joined the PTV as Group-V officer which is equivalent to BS-17. She also produced famous show called “Parkh”.

After quite some time, a Sindhi new channel namely – KTN – was launched and Maheen was offered a senior position which she accepted and joined the channel. She was tasked to direct an independent program in the KTN besides she also directed many other programs.

While introducing a new trend in the media, Maheen Hisbani started a literary program namely ‘Sher Sitara ( شعرستارہ ) which touched the highest peak of popularity in very short span of time. Then, she became Director of the KTN’s Music Department where she directed dozens of world-famous Sindhi songs which are still famous amongst masses.

After few years, Maheen Hisbani joined another Sindhi channel namely – Mehran TV – based in Hyderabad however she could not work for a longer period in district Hyderabad. She, then, returned back to Karachi and joined Awaz TV.   

Maheen Hisbani has worked on and produced many documentaries prominent among them were documentary on life of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Shaheed and Mehtab Akbar Rashidi. She has received a number of awards for her literary contributions and the prominent amongst them was Lal Shahbaz Qalandar Award in 2016.

Maheen Hisbani moved to Canada in the recent past and living a happy life with her husband Altaf Memon and most intelligent son Sindhyaar and cute daughters Soneti Memon and Suhasini Memon.

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