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Minorities in Pakistan: a juridical and women's perspective
   
 
 
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Minorities in Pakistan: a juridical and women's perspective

 
Sunday, 26 April 2015 11:31
 
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Epos converses with Ammara Farooq Malik

by Nicolamaria Coppola (EPOS)
EPOS Conversations

 

Mrs. Ammara Farooq Malik  has over sixteen years of professional experience as a lawyer, law professor, entrepreneur, social entrepreneur, development consultant and freelance journalist with several legal and research articles published to her credit. She is currently heading the SEPLAA Foundation as the Founder & CEO and the first Social Entrepreneurship for Peacebuilding Incubator in Pakistan: the Impact Change Xcelerator (iCx), as the Founder and Director.

She has been a Child Rights & Juvenile Justice Law Reform & Policy Consultant with UNICEF, Project Director of an Umeed Jawan & SEPLAA project in South Punjab, been supervising international interns in peacebuilding at SEPLAA from the New York University MS in Peacebuilding & Conflict Management classes since 2011 and has been volunteering on various professional mentoring forums for youth, women and professionals.

She is advisor to several social enterprises and is the Co-Founder of the SEW-e-GAP Women Empowerment Program that has over 600 professional Pakistani women as members. To date under her leadership the SEPLAA Foundation has benefited over 25,000 children, youth and women in empowerment, education, peacebuilding, environment awareness, legal awareness and health advocacy.

Mrs. Ammara Malik regularly gives seminars and speeches in national and international conferences on ‘Legislative Reforms’, 'Social Entrepreneurship', ‘Leadership’, ‘Women Empowerment’ and ‘Peacebuilding’.

In this exclusive interview for EPOS she discusses Pakistan's current situation, talking about sensitive topics such as the issue of the minorities and the condition of the Christian community in the country, the role of women in Pakistan, the status quo of the Pakistani Civil Society and the challenges that the population and all the insittutions are asked to face.

Nicolamaria Coppola, EPOS: Nauman Masih, a 13 boy from Nawan Kot, was set ablaze allegedly by two unidentified men in Gulshan Ravi and he died in hospital after four days of treatment. Some media reports gave the incident a religious angle claiming the boy, a Christian, was set ablaze by two radical Muslims for his faith. Rejecting all such reports, senior police officials claimed the real motive behind the incident had not been ascertained yet. What is the perspective from the gound? What do Pakistani people think of that?

Ammara Malik: On the ground this is a case of blatant child rights violation and reflects the state of affairs of children in Pakistan. Nauman was a 13 year old child and irrespective of whether he was Muslim or Christain, this should not have happened. Yes, Nauman Masih’s unfortunate death comes at a time when two Muslims have also recently wrongfully been lynched and burnt alive by an angry Christian mob in Lahore. But sources in the media imply that Nuaman’s murder was induced by a family enemity over property. Media reports are also conflicting with family members  giving different accounts of why the child was torched and killed. Unfortunately, very few poeple would discuss Nauman Masih’s case if it is only a murder induced by a property dispute. Generally people on the ground do condemn violations against children but the country still does not have laws in conformity with the UNCRC and very few are even implemented.

Nicolamaria Coppola, EPOS: It seems that Pakistan's Christian citizens are victims of endless violence and discrimination: is it true or is just an exaggeration? What is the condition of the Christian community in Pakistan? And what is the status of the other religious minorities, such as Hindu and Sikh, and the condition of the ethnic minorities like Pashto, Sindhi and Urdu?

Ammara Malik: Yes the poor live in constant fear in Pakistan: fear of poverty and fear of the strong. In this scenario, if one is a Christian, it can make matters even worse. Certain menial job roles are ‘defined’ for Christians more because majority of the elite and upper middle class Christians have left Pakistan due to rising religious intolerance. Of those who are left behind, majority belong to the labour or underprivileged class. These people are often made victims of discriminatory laws created by General Zia in the 1970s in the name of religion in order to gain political milage.

However, Pakistan has seen some brillaint Christains become very successful in Pakistan as well such as Justice A. R. Cornelius , Pakistan's first non-Muslim Chief Justice of Pakistan Supreme Court. Pakistani Christians also distinguished themselves as great fighter pilots in the Pakistan Air Force such as Cecil Chaudhry, Peter O'Reilly and Mervyn L Middlecoat. Christians have also contributed as educationists, doctors, lawyers and businessmen but most have migrated to other countries offering better opportunities and equal protection before the law. This brain drain of a community already in minority has meant that there is less diversity in Paksitani Christian community and in the intellectual Pakistani diaspora on the whole. Most of the other minorities such as Hindus, Parsis and Sikhs have also left Pakistan. A few remain but live under constant fear in a growing Islamic fundamentalist state. Other ethenic minorities in Paksitan such as Balochis, Pashto, Sindhis and Urdu speaking, face a tussle of another kind, one for the determination of and allocation of national resources amongst provinces.

Nicolamaria Coppola, EPOS: According to a poll of experts by the Thomson Reuters Foundation Poll, Pakistan is the third most dangerous country for women in the world. It cited the more than 1.000 women and girls murdered in "honor killings" every year and reported that 90% of Pakistani women suffer from domestic violence. Westerners usually associate the plight of Pakistani women with religious oppression, but what is the reality?

Ammara Malik: Yes it is true that depending on economic and educational backgrounds, women in Pakistan are constantly subjected to opression and violence. Most are struggling for their voice, struggling to be taken seriously, to be seen as equal human beings without being ridiculed and to be empowered to be able to go out and work. Domestic violence is generally unreported and a lot of women endure  physical and psychological abuse within their marriages due to religious and societal pressures. However for a very small percentage of educated women, Pakistan has both hardships as well as numerous opportunities.

Nicolamaria Coppola, EPOS: As a Pakistani woman, what does "being a woman in Pakistan" mean?

Ammara Malik: I am fortunate that I belong to that very small percentage of empowered women who have several opportunities at their disposal. That is not to say that I did not face my share of numerous hardships as a woman struggling to achieve in Pakistan. However, the only way that women in Pakistan can truly be empowered is to keep moving forward despite their personal or domestic problems. It can be easier said than done in many cases which is why it becomes more important for women who have achieved some degree of success to come forward and share their stories in order to inspire other young women.

Nicolamaria Coppola, EPOS: You are the Founder and CEO of SEPLAA Foundation, and the Co-Founder and President of SEW-EGAP Women Empowerment Program. You are so much involved in peacekeeping and peacebuilding issues and activities: could you please tell us more about your organisation and the projects you are carrying on?

Ammara Malik: The SEPLAA Foundation started as a personal initiative for me to be able to give back to the community in 2008. Since then, the organization has grown and worked in a number of projects in peace, empowerment, education, environment and democracy with children, youth and women. Some of the initiatives started with the SEPLAA Foundation have now become independent organizations and platforms such as the SEPLAA Young Leaders’ Club which is now an independent social enterprise. In 2013, SEPLAA launched iCx SEPLAA Foundation, the first social entrepreneurhsip for peacebuiling incubator in Pakistan. In 2014, the  iCx SEPLAA project under Umeed Jawan was able to reach across to 2300 young people in South Punjab and helped create 16 social enterprises with the objective to steer young people towards peaceful activities. Peace education was also imparted during the incubation process. The Impact Change Xcelerator (iCx) SEPLAA Foundation is now also being moved to it’s sustainable independent model as ‘iCx-Impact Change Xcelerator’ as a continuing project of the Wyne Malik Consultants, where it is hoped that innovation and international linkages will help train, incubate and connect individuals to build peace through new skills and business opportunities. Since I personally am a great advocate of strong women and believe in encouraging other women to also exceed their limits, I launched the SEW-EGAP Women Empowerment Program in 2013. SEW-EGAP stands for SEPLAA Empowering Women for Economic Growth & Peace.  Recently we also created an executive non permanant Council under the program to encourage exceptional women to come forward and netwrok with other women who are struggling in their professions, or those who need an equal voice in society and those who must have equal rights within their homes.

Nicolamaria Coppola, EPOS: What is the status quo of the Civil Society in Pakistan?

Ammara Malik: The Civil Society in Pakistan has always been an important pressure group in the country to push for law reforms and to speak up against injustice in the system or society. Today it is more active than ever before with the help of technology and social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

Nicolamaria Coppola, EPOS: EPOS is running a project called MY FUTURE for the Syrian refugees, and we strongly believe in a better future for them and for all of us. What are the plans for your future as a Pakistani woman and as a Founder of a no-profit organisation? And how do you forsee the future of Pakistan?

Ammara Malik: As a Pakistani woman, I hope to see myself go down in history as a person who contributed greatly towards the uplift of the lives of my countrymen. And just as EPOS also works with Syrian refugees, I hope that as a global citizen, I can also contribute to world peace and stability. As the Founder of a non profit organization I have to forge linkages and partnerships in pursuance of my personal aims and the vision of the SEPLAA Foundation. The future of Pakistan lies in the hands of its children, youth and women. How much we invest in them today in terms of education, providing opportunities for dialogue and peace, empowering them with skills and providing them with a safe environment to develop in, will determine the future of Pakistan.

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DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in this article are the interviewed’s own and do not necessarily reflect EPOS WorldView’s editorial policy


Last modified on Tuesday, 05 April 2016 09:30
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