App to expedite reporting and redress of crime complaints

LAHORE: The provincial capital police in collaboration with the Strategic Reforms Unit of the Chief Minister’s Office are going to launch a GPS-enabled Android application – “Local Eye” – on Friday with a prime goal to end ‘red tape’ in reporting crime.

The project would also help connect all the local representatives with the Capital City Police Office, SRU Director General Salman Sufi told Dawn.

The local representatives include the mayor, nine deputy mayors and union council chairmen.

He said the move would enable them to file complaints about crimes on behalf of their constituencies in an effective and convenient manner.

He said through the app the local representatives would act as a bridge between citizens and the law-enforcement agencies.

Public representatives will forward plaints to CCPO office and check status

He said Lahore Capital City Police Officer Amin Wains played an important role in designing the application after having conducted research on the existing issues faced by the police while handling complaints.

The ‘Local Eye’ application would mark a major shift in the working of the CCPO office by eliminating the ‘red tape’ involved in basic crime reporting.

The local representatives would be in a position to receive complaints on behalf of their constituencies and redirect the same to the relevant police stations, he said.

They would have an access to a dedicated portal which would allow them to trace the status of their complaints from the date of filing to the redress of the plaints.

A separate tab within the application would enable the officials to affix appointments with the relevant officials for timely resolution of issues.

The data for the Local Eye has been hosted at the servers of the Punjab Safe Cities Authority where a team of police officials from the CCPO office would monitor the status and redress route for each of the complaints.

He said a separate dashboard was developed for CCPO and Strategic Reforms Unit to monitor the progress of each complaint and remove hiccups, if any.

The pending complaints would be notified on their dashboards which would lead to automatic intervention on their part.

“The establishment of this direct linkage between citizens, their local representatives and the police will ensure that the commoner is facilitated and the crime rate in the city is minimised,” he said.


Oil rises as Opec achieves output targets

Oil prices rose on Wednesday as investors took heart from strict Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) compliance with its pledge to cut output, although evidence of increasing United States (US) production capped gains.

The Opec reduced its oil output for a second month in February, a Reuters survey found, showing the exporter group has boosted already strong compliance to around 94 per cent.

Heftier cuts by Saudi Arabia and Angola helped offset weaker compliance by other members that agreed to limit their output.

May Brent crude futures gained 35 cents to trade at $56.86 a barrel by 1505 GMT, while US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) futures for April delivery traded 28 cents higher on the day at $54.29.

Brent fell 0.2pc in February, its largest slide in the second month of the year in four years.

Oil prices are 23pc higher than they were at the end of November, when Opec announced its deal, but this strength has encouraged more US production to come back online.

“There seems… to be a consensus within Opec that the optimal crude oil price is as near as possible to the upper line of our shale band price range ($40-60 a barrel) but not significantly above,” Olivier Jakob, a strategist at consultant Petromatrix, said.

“Opec will be happy with price stability in the upper half of our shale band (i.e. trying to keep prices in the $50-60 upper half) and above $60 a barrel, we will see more Opec cheating as members do not want to see US shale oil come back too strongly.”

Investors were waiting for weekly US inventory data at 1530 GMT. US crude stockpiles have risen for seven straight weeks.

Forecasts for another build last week, this time of 3.1 million barrels, have fuelled worries that demand growth may not be sufficient to soak up the global oil glut.

The market offered little reaction to news of a rise in North Sea crude supply next month.

Loading programmes for the four crudes that underpin dated Brent showed a rise to 908,000 barrels per day, from March’s 884,000 bpd.

A speech by US President Donald Trump late on Tuesday gave little detail on plans by his administration to boost US oil production.

Traders and investors had expected Trump to include specifics on energy policy in an address to the US Congress.

“If Trump had announced de-regulations of some of the environment protections to make it easier to pump more oil, that might have put pressure on WTI,” said Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at futures brokerage OANDA in Singapore.

How Pakistan is still failing victims of ‘honour’ violence

Nearly three years after Saba Qaiser’s father and uncle shot her in the face, rolled her in a rug and threw her in a river for marrying without their consent, the 21-year-old from Punjab is again afraid for her life.

After surviving the attack in the city of Gujranwala, 225 kilometres from Islamabad, Qaiser was determined to ensure the men were brought to justice.

It was a rare move in a nation where hundreds of women and men are killed each year by their families over perceived damage to “honour” for slights such as eloping or mingling with the opposite sex.

Even though Qaiser’s father and uncle were arrested and jailed, Qaiser was pressured by relatives to forgive them under a law that until last October allowed killers who had been pardoned by family members to walk free.

Since the case did not go to trial, the men were released after two months in jail.

“Although I had to tell the court that I had forgiven them, I never did from my heart,” said Qaiser, whose story was told in the 2016 Oscar-winning documentary, “A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness” by filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy.

Her uncle never forgot the “dishonour” she had brought on the family, and when he came across a trailer for Obaid-Chinoy’s film last year, he was furious, Qaiser said.

“He came to my house at night and asked for me and started shooting from his pistol. I was lucky to survive his attack,” said Qaiser, whose left cheek bears a scar running from mouth to temple from the previous attack.

Qaiser’s father and uncle were once again taken into custody, in April 2016, and are expected to be freed later this month after Qaiser decided not to press charges against them.

Women’s rights campaigners say the case illustrates the difficulties of prosecuting such crimes despite new legislation against “honour killings”, which removed the loophole that once enabled pardoned killers to go free.

The new law was passed in October, three months after the murder of an outspoken social media star, Qandeel Baloch, whose brother was arrested in connection with her death by strangulation.

The new law still gives victims’ relatives the option of forgiving attackers, but only in cases where the culprits have been sentenced to death. Even if a pardon is given, attackers face a mandatory life sentence.

Yet the nature of honour violence means many crimes are never reported in Pakistan since most attackers are close kin often living under the same roof as their victims, activists say.

Family bonds

After the attack, Qaiser’s mother was forbidden by her husband from seeing Qaiser and forced to move to the northwestern city of Sargodha in Punjab province, 175 kms away from her daughter.

She visits her husband in prison every week. But as soon as the visit is over, she secretly sees her daughter.

“My husband is not angry at her. It’s his brother who provokes him and after they are out of the jail, we will break ties with him,” she said.

But Qaiser fears the matter will not end there.

“He’ll be madder at me and will want to harm me for sending him to jail for the second time,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in the dimly-lit room where she lives with her husband and two children.

Holding her two-year-old son, whose plastic tricycle is parked on the concrete floor, Qaiser said she remembers everything from the night she was attacked, including her father and uncle swearing on the Holy Quran that they would not hurt her.

The men had gone to her in-laws house on her wedding day after finding out Qaiser had married against their wishes. Persuaded to return home with them, Qaiser was then attacked, thrown in a river and left for dead.

“I didn’t lose consciousness. I held onto some bushes in the water and came out,” she recalled.

“I started walking on the road and reached a gas station, where people saw me bleeding and called an ambulance.”

“Forced to forgive”

Bushra Khaliq, the executive director of the rights group Women In Struggle for Empowerment (WISE), said Qaiser “might be” safe while her uncle and father are locked up.

“However, we fear that they might avenge their detention after coming out of the prison,” Khaliq said.

“It is also possible that her brothers or someone else in the family might decide to attack her again, considering she is responsible for the imprisonment of her father and uncle.”

Asad Jamal, a Lahore-based lawyer who took on Qaiser’s case, said the importance and complex nature of family bonds in Pakistan meant honour violence is likely to persist.

“If a father attempts to murder his son and goes to jail for doing so, being the sole breadwinner for the family, the son will be forced to forgive him,” he said.

He also cited the lack of witness protection programme and pressure from families on victims to withdraw their original statements as obstacles to ending honour violence.

“Unless the government understands these nuances, it’s not entirely possible to prosecute and convict the culprits of honour killings,” he said.

PCB to invite ex-players to PSL final, all tickets get sold out

LAHORE: The Pakistan Cricket Board has invited several former cricketing greats for the Pakistan Super League (PSL) final, set to be played at the Gaddafi Stadium on Sunday.

However, when the media persons contacted former players Javed Miandad and Abdul Qadir, they said they have not received any invitation for the showpiece event. “It is not important for us whether they invite us or not but so far I have not received any invitation from the PCB,” said Miandad while talking to Dawn.

Qadir’s reply was the same and he said that although one of Gaddafi Stadium’s gates is named after him, he has not received any invitation for the PSL final.

A PCB official, when contacted to comment on the situation, confirmed that all the eligible cricketers would get their tickets and passes in the next couple of days.

“We received the invitation cards on Thursday morning and these are now being dispatched to all the invitees including cricketers and other VVIPs and they will get it by tomorrow or by Saturday,” the spokesman said.

Miandad, Qadir await invitations

The high government dignitaries including president, prime minister, four provincial chief ministers and governors, highly ranked bureaucrats are also invited for the final.

Meanwhile, the local administration, with the help of Pakistan Army, Rangers, Police is busy giving final touches to the elaborate security arrangements for the match which is indeed a challenge for the authorities.

Meanwhile, the spokesman said that all the match tickets put on sale either through online or through designated branches of the Bank of Punjab have been sold out. However, he was unable to disclose the total worth of the tickets sold.

As the rates of the tickets are quite high this time at Rs12,000, Rs8,000, Rs4,000 and Rs500, the total worth of the stadium having a seating capacity of around 25,000, comes to around Rs180 million.

In the past, Gaddafi Stadium, even when packed to capacity, has generated just around Rs10 million from a match.

Though the final has been declared as an extremely high profile and sensitive occasion and every possible safety measure has been taken to hold it in a peaceful manner, the sports journalists are still awaiting a comprehensive briefing from either the PCB or the security agencies to help them perform their duties professionally and without any hurdle.

Meanwhile, the security agencies also held a dress rehearsal of bringing the two teams to the stadium from their hotel. For this purpose three routes were tested. Moreover, a similar rehearsal was also held at the Lahore Airport, where the two teams will be landing, to bring them into their hotel.

The Punjab government has also decided to provide bus shuttle service to the ticket-holders and to off-load them in front of their respective enclosures after picking them from the car parking stand.

For this purpose, arrangements have been finalised with a big private bus service group. The same buses will also pick the ticket-holders from the stadium and drop them at the parking after the final. It is the first time that such a shuttle service will be provided to the ticket-holders.

Why English again?

SINCE 1999, when Unesco first declared Feb 21 International Mother Language Day, this issue has received much attention throughout the world. In Pakistan, where the language issue has always had a complexity of its own, educators, linguists and activists are now more vocal than ever.

Will the ruckus being created have a real impact on the language situation in various sectors of national life? The courts have given two major language-related verdicts in the past two years. One was the Supreme Court’s directive of 2015 asking the government to use Urdu as the official language of administration. The second is the recent order of the Lahore High Court asking the Federal Public Commission to conduct CSS examinations in Urdu.

There is a logical link between the two. A person who is to conduct the affairs of governance in one language should be fluent enough in it to pass an exam to qualify as an administrator. The conclusion that follows is that the CSS candidates should have studied Urdu in school as well as college to be able to take examinations in that language.

Instead, confusion reigns supreme in the language-in-education policy. While we are still ambiguous about the status of our indigenous languages, policymakers and stakeholders have leapfrogged to English in an effort to make it the medium of instruction. Even the sensible proposal of introducing mother tongue-based multilingualism, which is universally recognised as the most feasible approach, has failed to win supporters.

The debate on language policy continues to defy logic.

One misconception is that English is considered a superior language — that if we wish to keep up with the world, our children must study in English and abandon their own so-called inferior languages. Even the idea of teaching English as a second language subject is rejected out of hand. As a result, we are driving a wedge through our already fragmented society, and this quixotic approach is also destroying our education system.

A legacy of colonial times, English is promoted as the language of the political elite — the “language of power” as Dr Tariq Rahman, our leading linguist, puts it. Being dubbed as inferior, native languages are neglected and their speakers become the underprivileged of society. Given our limited resources, it has not been possible to teach English well to all people, thereby ensuring that the majority remains disadvantaged. A small minority, which has the resources to learn good English from highly qualified teachers, becomes the empowered elite.

One wonders what stops us from thinking rationally about this issue. In 2011, the British Council commissioned a world-renowned linguist, Hywel Coleman, to make suggestions related to this matter. Coleman proposed a three-language policy starting with the mother tongue, followed by Urdu (the language of communication) and finally the global language in vogue, English. This was not reaffirmed in the follow-up report. Instead, Coleman proposed further advocacy on the matter.

Recently, I asked Coleman, “Why advocacy?” He explained that extensive consultations and meetings with provincial ministers of education made him realise that his “original proposal [though ideal for Pakistan] was simplistic and naïve”. So, in the revised proposal, he suggested a lengthy process to raise awareness about the “nature and roles of language in education”.

He emphasises that nobody pressured him to modify his position. He wants advocacy to be directed at parents (so that they appreciate the risks involved in not using the mother tongue in the early years of primary school), education policymakers and planners, politicians, government officials and, above all, the general public so that they see linguistic diversity as a divine blessing.

The tragedy is that language myths persist and are destroying education in Pakistan. There are many reasons for this failure, but the main one is our inability to produce competent and committed teachers. This is not surprising given the fact that the teachers are the products of a system that collapsed several decades ago. An attempt to revitalise teaching will be a major task, but it has to be done. Teachers can be taught pedagogy quite quickly; subject knowledge is a bigger challenge but not impossible to cultivate in short courses spread over several months. But can you teach a language to a teacher in a few weeks and expect her to use it perfectly as the medium of instruction? Yet this is what is attempted from time to time. It would be easier for teachers to learn a subject in the language that they are fluent in, while some teachers with potential could be selected for more long-term training to teach English as a second language.

Why this simple logic eludes us is not clear. But this lack of clarity is making good education the privilege of a few — those enrolled in upscale private schools — while the majority is denied its basic right.