Human Rights Youth Task Force: How Does It Work, What Does It Do?

July 9th, 2014 by Valerie Khan No comments »

1) Check on facebook!

https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004916086448&fref=ts

2) Developing work plans, tasklist.

At work, team work!

3) Starting implementing the work plan!

Child and her young peer volunteers donating a tea set for survivors and ASF staff!

The lead volunteer for this tea set? Kenizeh-Juliette, 7 years old!

ASF new pilot partnership!

July 2nd, 2014 by Valerie Khan No comments »

ASF and GD Pakistan partnering to establish a Human Rights

Youth Task Force to promote human rights in Pakistan: more

to come! Stay tuned!

ASF ZAKAT CAMPAIGN LAUNCHED, READY FOR THE CHALLENGE?

June 25th, 2014 by Valerie Khan No comments »

Presentation Of Needed Amendments For Comprehensive Acid And Burn Crime Bill 2014

June 25th, 2014 by Valerie Khan No comments »

ASF Chairperson Valerie Khan along with Advocate Saad Rasool at Punjab provincial Assembly

Discussing the coming presentation to women parliamentary caucus members

The presentation in the Women Parliamentary Caucus was chaired by Fauzia Viqar, Chairperson PCSW and co -chaired by Minster for Social Welfare Department Punjab, to discuss the comprehensive legislation submitted by Asma Bokhari in Punjab Assembly on 5th June 2014. Valerie Khan and Saad Rasool explained that majority of acid and burn victims came from Punjab, that resources were available in pakistan : PIDSA project to build the Rehabilitation Center in Multan, inclusion of acid and burn victims in Fund for Women in Detention and in Distress, Bait Ul mal and other schemes… The comprehensive legislation will address all aspects of the acid and burn phenomenon that could not be tackled through a simple -but essential- amendment in the PPC.

Article From The Express Tribune

June 25th, 2014 by Valerie Khan No comments »

Burning issue: ‘Over 50% acid attacks in Pakistan occur in Punjab’

Published: June 6, 2014

PHOTO: FILE

LAHORE: The highest rate of acid attacks in the country in 2013 was in the Punjab where 56 percent of the nationwide attacks were recorded, a meeting organised by the women parliamentary caucus in collaboration with Punjab Commission on the Status of Women (PCSW) for an orientation on acid crime laws heard on Thursday.

In the meeting at the Punjab Assembly Committee Room, Valarie Khan, chairperson Acid Survivors Foundation, an NGO, said, “A strong concentration of attacks in Punjab is in southern Punjab, including Multan, Muzaffargarh, Rahim Yar Khan and Bahawalpur.”

The agenda of the meeting was to discuss the Acid and Burn Crimes Bill 2014, which was presented by Women Caucus Convener MPA Azma Zahid Bokhari in the Punjab Assembly last month, and to determine how to make it a law after addressing the issues impeding its approval by the assembly.

Khan said that at least 65 per cent of the acid and burn victims were women and girls, 15 per cent were children and 80 per cent of the survivors earned less than Rs8,000 a month. She said the prosecution rate was 35 per cent, which meant that justice was not provided in 65 per cent of the cases, and in the rest of the cases there were problems in the investigation and trial stages and out-of-court settlement added to the problems of victims.

She said medical care was prohibitively expensive, free rehabilitation services were absent and the state did not even have reliable statistics on the number of victims.

Barrister Saad Rasool, a legal expert, briefed the women lawmakers from the treasury and the opposition on the acid and burn crimes law and recommended that the structure of the proposed law “must have clear definitions of what is acid crime and burn crime as many people do not make a distinction between the two”.

In his presentation, Rasool said the government must also set up an interim monetary relief fund which could also recover the amount of fine imposed by the courts from the convict. He said the government should also provide free healthcare to the hospitalised acid and burn victims.

Rasool said the role of police was very important and under the proposed law the station house officer (SHO) should act as an investigation officer. He said the bill envisaged that the investigation would be completed within 15 days and the authorised court could grant a further 15 days as well as punish lack of diligence or failure to carry out duties. The bill provided for a witness protection programme.

He said under the proposed law, an Acid and Burn Crime Monitoring Board would be established to monitor the production, sale, purchase, storage, transportation, import and trafficking of acid and a chief inspector, a deputy chief inspector and inspectors would be appointed and given the monitoring authority.

Bokhari told The Express Tribune that over the last month and a half she had been corresponding with the Law Department and the Civil Secretariat, which argued that the federal government had legislative authority for Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), Code of Criminal Procedure and the Qanun-i-Shahadat Order and therefore could not be amended by provinces. She said another objection was that the bill talked about setting up an interim monetary fund, which meant that it was a money bill and a private member could not move a money bill.

Bokhari added: “After today’s meeting, I will argue these are provincial matters and we could amend these laws. As second as the second objection is concerned the government has already assured me that they would cooperate.”

Bokhari requested PCSW chairperson Fauzia Viqar to appoint a focal person from the commission to attend all meetings of the caucus for better liaison. Minister for Women Empowerment Hameeda Waheeduddin assured the caucus and the PCSW of complete support in getting the Acid and Burn Crimes Bill 2014 approved at the earliest. She said she would also take up the matter in a meeting with the Punjab chief minister.  At the end of the meeting Waheeduddin read a resolution stating that the participants condemned the killing of Farzana Parveen outside the Lahore High Court by her relatives.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 6th, 2014.

June 25th, 2014 by Valerie Khan No comments »

Focus Points
Facing the Facts of Acid Attacks
By Alayna Ahmad, Monday, 17th February 2014
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The most vulnerable continue to fall victim, despite Pakistan enacting new laws in recent years, writes Alayna Ahmad.
Facing the Facts of Acid Attacks_Aquila Style

Acid attack victim Asiya Bibe, 35, poses with a portrait of herself before her disfigurement, at her residence in Bahawalpur district in Multan, Pakistan on March 16, 2012. AFP Photo / Bay Ismoyo

Acid attacks are prevalent in many countries, including India, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Uganda and Cambodia, amongst others. On average, the BBC claims that 1500 attacks are reported worldwide every year.[i] I believe the actual numbers are far greater than these; some perhaps go unreported or are disregarded by the authorities. The Department for International Development in the UK reported that between 2007 and 2012 there were a total of 786 incidents of acid attacks in Pakistan alone.[ii] Usually these ghastly assaults are targeted at women and young girls, however, men can also find themselves under attack.

Along with Dr Mohammad Jawad, a British-Pakistani surgeon, I was invited to speak at Birkbeck University on 4 February 2014 by the Birkbeck Pakistani Society. Following my talk on acid attacks in Pakistan was a viewing of the award-winning documentary, Saving Face. This short film focuses on Dr Mohammad Jawad’s journey to Pakistan to perform reconstructive surgery on survivors of acid attacks.

Acid attacks leave victims burned, maimed and disfigured. The depth of their disfigurement depends largely on the amount and potency of the acid used. Hydrochloric and sulfuric acids are the most common sorts of corrosive liquid used during an attack. However, there have been cases where household items have also been used as they contain corrosive chemicals. Sulfuric acid, an extremely strong mineral acid, is mainly used in the chemical industry. It is most commonly used in lead-acid batteries, explosives, oil refinement and fertiliser manufacturing. This acid is known for its highly corrosive nature, making it extremely dangerous when it comes into contact with human skin.

The acid causes the skin tissue to dissolve, which often results in the bones becoming exposed beneath the flesh; at times it can even melt the bone. When acid comes into contact with the eyes, it can permanently damage these organs. Many acid attack victims may have survived, but by paying the price of losing one or both eyes. The victims are traumatised physically, socially and psychologically. Recovering from the trauma of an attack takes time, and even more time is needed for the victims to adjust to their disfigurements. They often become isolated and ostracised in society; the scars left by the acid going beyond just the skin.

This further damages the victims’ self-esteem, self-confidence and seriously undermines their professional and personal future. Women who have survived acid attacks suffer in their attempts to live and function in normal society. They have great difficulty in finding partners, if unmarried, and finding work or sustaining a career. Their children are often taken away from them, as was the story with one victim in the Saving Face documentary. Not being able to marry or adjust to a normal life which existed prior to the attack can be socially isolating.

So one may ask, why do people engage in such vicious acts? Unfortunately, there are no straightforward answers to this question. As discussed in Saving Face, there are a number of different reasons why individuals commit this heinous crime. Many of these reasons are egotistical: men who cannot handle rejection from a girl, or in the case of a woman seeking divorce from an abusive husband, the man’s fear of being dishonoured in society. Aside from this, the less privileged classes suffer economically and have poor literacy rates. They perhaps do not understand the severity and damage an acid attack can have on a victim’s life.
Facing the Facts of Acid Attacks_Aquila Style

Acid attack victim and former Pakistani soldier Farooq, 24, holds up a portrait of himself before his disfigurement at Basti Maluk village in Multan on March 16, 2012. AFP Photo / Bay Ismoyo

In Pakistan the patriarchal culture grooms men into thinking they are the more superior gender and, therefore, hold a higher stature in society. Is it any wonder then that in 2011, the TrustLaw poll ranked Pakistan as the world’s third-most dangerous place for women? [iii]

It may come as no surprise that acid is not easily available in the Western world, but it can undoubtedly be obtained in Pakistan with little or no effort. Acid is often used to clean cotton and is widely used in agriculture. If you really want to hurt someone, a gun or any other type of weapon may be expensive to purchase. But acid-based products can easily be obtained from the local convenient store in the simple form of washroom cleaning liquid. And because this product is readily available in the market, it has contributed to the increasing number of acid attacks over the years.

Pakistan has and is becoming increasingly conservative, and women are often treated unfairly. Their conditions are worse especially in poor, rural areas. They receive very little protection from the state and remain under constant pressure not to dishonour their families. In 2011, Pakistan introduced some laws to protect its citizens against acid attacks. “A minimum sentence of 14 years in jail and a fine of one million Rupees ($10,000)” was introduced for those found guilty of throwing acid.[iv] A Pakistani English-language newspaper, The Express Tribune, reported Valerie Khan Yusufzai, chair of the Pakistan branch of the Acid Survivors Foundation, as saying that “the conviction rate rose from an average of six per cent before the amendment to 18 per cent in 2012.”[v]
Facing the Facts of Acid Attacks_Aquila Style

Pakistani acid attack survivor Naziran Bibi, 23, poses for a photograph with her daughters Alishba and Haseena at the Acid Survivors Foundation in Islamabad on January 5, 2010. Naziran was forced by her mother-in-law to become the second wife of her brother-in-law after her first husband died. Treated badly by her second husband and his first wife, she had acid thrown on her face and torso by an unknown attacker while she was sleeping. AFP Photo / Behrouz Mehri

While it is good for lawmakers to pass such laws, more needs to be done to ensure that these laws are enforced. Often, corruption leads to the release of those guilty and, in many ways, punishes the innocent. There have been many arrests and convictions of the perpetrators of acid attacks in Pakistan since 2011. However, more can be done in the province Sindh, which has the highest number of acid attacks every year. A better infrastructure & communication needs to be in place.

For the victims of acid attacks, there is some support from charities and organisations, including The Acid Survivors Foundation (ASF). The ASF is an organisation founded in 2006 with the help of Acid Survivors Trust International to support survivors of acid attacks in Pakistan. ASF Pakistan mission is “to [aim] to eradicate acid violence from Pakistan and ensure that survivors’ human rights are protected and enforced.”[vi]

Organisations such as these face many daunting challenges ahead. They can lobby democratically and provide assistance to the victims, but the power to completely make a difference lies with the government. It is not enough for the government of Pakistan to say that they have passed domestic violence laws; they need to ensure these laws are implemented to the fullest extent.

How can we help the victims? There are many charities we can support financially or by offering our expertise and services. Most of all, we should raise awareness of these issues with our families and friends, and this requires minimum or no effort at all. Many times these issues are not publicised. However, if we, as an international community, are aware of these atrocities, then certainly we can find a way to put pressure on the Pakistani government to act in order to safeguard their people.

CHASE: ASF new project in collaboration with ASTI, BVSN and UK AID

April 16th, 2014 by Valerie Khan No comments »

ASF new campaign : what to do in case of acid attack...

From Myra Imran, The News

April 15th, 2014 by Valerie Khan No comments »
Tuesday, April 15, 2014
From Print Edition
7  0  1  0
Islamabad

From 2007 to 2013, around 949 cases of acid attacks have been reported in the country. Among the total number, 519 were women whereas majority of cases (589) were reported from Punjab region.

The statistics were shared by the Chairperson Acid Survivors Foundation (ASF) Valerie Khan at the launch a report titled ‘Fostering Effective Implementation of Pro Human Rights Laws: Criminal Law Amendment Act 2011 (Act XXV), An Example of Good Practice.’ Valerie said that from January till March 2014, 40 cases of acid attacks have been reported in the country.

The report presents the efforts Pakistani government and civil society in improving the implementation of the above mentioned law. The event was organised by ASF in collaboration with National Commission on the Status of Women and Australian Aid.

The report highlighted that acid attacks reporting had increased (110 attacks in 2012 and 143 in 2013) which shows an encouraging trend to further break the silence and denounce violence against women and girls.

Additionally, the report insisted on the fact that police had made tremendous efforts to register due and correct FIRs under the new laws passed on December 12, 2011 when it faced acid attack cases. While only 1 per cent of the FIRs were registered under the correct law in 2012, 71 per cent of the FIRs registered in 2013 were under the new and correct law. The report mentions that many survivors still do not have sufficient or adequate access to medical and rehabilitation services, 65 per cent of the victims still could not access justice in 2013 and national consolidated data is still required.

Marvi Memon, the Chief Guest, declared that since 2010, Pakistan had come long way and she insisted that those improvements needed to be celebrated, but she also indicated that there was still a long way to go. She stressed that the “Comprehensive Acid and Burn Crime Bill” must be passed.

“Now there is sufficient momentum to support this bill, and we owe it to other survivors, we will continue the fight,” she said.

The event was attended by various stakeholders from different areas in Pakistan and it included law enforcement agencies representatives, lawyers, doctors, survivors, members of civil society media, acid survivors themselves.

The panel discussion after the report launch was chaired by Chairperson of the National Commission on the Status of Women Khawar Mumtaz. Kishwar Zehra, MNA from MQM, was also amongst the panelists in addition to Australian High Commissioner to Pakistan Peter Hayward and Chairperson ASF Valerie Khan Yusufzai.

All participants underlined the need to create awareness in order to challenge discriminatory and patriarchal mindsets, as well as transfer knowledge to achieve positive results in fostering law implementation. They were informed that judges now tend to punish far more severely in case of acid attack. before 2011, the average conviction was 6 to 10 years, now it is generally at least 20 years. It was shared that in general, convictions were more severe since 2012, and judiciary was trying to ensure trials in a shorter timeframe to provide relief to survivors since 2013.

Chairperson NCSW Khawar Mumtaz termed it encouraging that more reporting occurred but she also insisted the need to work on data and build up synergies to face the remaining challenges.

Valerie Khan called upon the government to lead the way and pass the Comprehensive Acid and Burn Crime Bill that Marvi Memon has tabled in the Parliamentary Committee of Law and Justice last week. “We are ready to provide technical help to review the comprehensive bill, but it is urgent that the federal and provincial governments ensure stronger protection to Pakistani citizens. Pakistani has inspired many other countries to address acid violence such as Columbia and India but positive steps such as establishing burn centers and social rehabilitation centers, or medical boards must be part of a legislative framework to be sustained and institutionalized.”

Australian High Commissioner Peter Hayward congratulated all stakeholders for those improvements and reiterated Australia’s commitment to support ASF action.

Awards were later on distributed to police, lawyers and doctors from all over the country, what ASF called, the true heroes.

ASF press release

April 15th, 2014 by Valerie Khan 1 comment »

Press release

On 14th April 2014, Acid Survivors Foundation Pakistan organised an event in collaboration with National Commission on the Status of Women and Australian Aid to launch a report titled : Fostering effective implementation of pro human rights laws: Criminal Law Amendment Act 2011 (Act XXV), an example of good practice. ASF-P presented how Pakistan had worked to improve the implementation of the above mentioned law.

Ms Marvi Memon, PML-N MNA, a champion for the fight against acid violence in Pakistan, was welcome as a Chief Guest, Mrs Khawar Mumtaz, Chairperson of the National Commission on the Status of Women chaired the panel of discussion. Mrs Kishwar Zehra, MQM –MNA was also amongst the panelists in addition with his excellency, Mr Peter Hayward, Australian High Commissioner to Pakistan, Ms neelam Toru, Chairperson of the Provincial Commission on the Status of Women and Mrs Valerie Khan Yusufzai, Chairperson Acid Survivors Foundation Pakistan.

The event was attended by various stakeholders from different areas in Pakistan (Balochistan, ICT, Punjab, KP, Sindh) and it included Law Enforcement Agencies representatives, lawyers, doctors, survivors, members of civil society media, acid survivors themselves.

The report highlighted that acid attacks reporting had increased (110 attacks in 2012 and 143 in 2013) which shows an encouraging trend to further break the silence and denounce violence against women and girls.

Additionally, the report insisted on the fact that police had made tremendous efforts to register due and correct FIRs under the new laws passed on 12th December 2011 when it faced acid attack cases. While only 1% of the FIRs were registered under the correct law, WITHOUT ASF intervention in 2012, 71% of the FIRs registered in 2013 were under the new and correct law, without ASF intervention.

All participants underlined that awareness campaigns to challenge discriminatory and patriarchal mindsets, as well as transfer knowledge, were crucial to achieve positive results in fostering law implementation. Judges now tend to punish far more severely in case of acid attack: before 2011, the average conviction was 6 to 10 years, now it is generally at least 20 years.

ASF also informed participants that in general, convictions were more severe since 2012, and judiciary was trying to ensure trials in a shorter timeframe to provide relief to survivors since 2013.

Mrs Khawar Mumtaz Chairperson NCSW acknowledged that those improvements were positive, that more reporting occurred thanks to a stronger mobilization of Pakistani citizens to denounce this worst form of gender based violence, but she also insisted on the remaining challenges, the need to work on data and build up synergies like the ones proposed by ASF.

Many survivors still do not have sufficient or adequate access to medical and rehabilitation services, 65% of the victims still could not access justice in 2013 and national consolidated data is still required. Marvi Memon, the Chief Guest declared that since 2010, Pakistan had come long way and she insisted that those improvements needed to be celebrated, but she also indicated that there was still a long way to go: the “comprehensive acid and burn crime bill” must be passed, now there is sufficient momentum to support this bill, and we owe it to other survivors, we will continue the fight and we will make hings move.

To this effect, Valerie Khan Yusufzai, called upon the government of Pakistan to lead the way and pass the Comprehensive Acid and Burn Crime Bill that Marvi Memon has tabled in the Parliamentary Committee of Law and Justice last week. “We are ready to provide technical help to review the comprehensive bill”, but it is urgent that the federal and provincial governments ensure stronger protection to Pakistani citizens. Much has been done, Pakistani has inspired many other countries to address acid violence such as Columbia and India but positive steps such as establishing burn centers and social rehabilitation centers, or medical boards must be part of a legislative framework to be sustained and institutionalized.

Mr Peter Hayward, Australian High Commissioner, congratulated ASF and all stakeholders for those improvements and reiterated Australia’s commitment to support ASF action.

Mrs Neelam Toru announced that the comprehensive bill was now ready with KP social welfare department so that it could be tabled, she said she knew cases were under-reported in KP as she had just been told of a case in Mardan on her way towards the event.

Ms Kiswar Zehra ensured ASF of MQM full support for the passage of he comprehensive acid and burn crime bill in assemblies.

Awards were later on distributed to police, lawyers and doctors from all over the country, what ASF called, the true heroes.

ASF Event In Collaboration With Australian Aid And NCSW, Join Us!

April 15th, 2014 by Valerie Khan 1 comment »