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Pakistan needs to form special policy for Afghan women

WomenPakistan needs to form special policy for Afghan women

ISLAMABAD: Participants at a consultation on Friday said that Islamabad should constantly engage with the incumbent regime in Kabul while keeping in mind its security interests but refrain from endorsing the Afghan Taliban’s restrictions imposed on women.

They insisted that Pakistan should form a special policy for Afghan women as well as vul­nerable communities and offer them facilities of scholarships, online education and some kind of vocational training.

Academics, former diplo­mats, journalists, youth and rights activists, policy analysts and experts on Afghan affairs expressed these views at the consultation on ‘Afghan peace and reconciliation: Pakistan’s interests and policy options.’

The talk was the 11th one in a series of discussions organized by the Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS), an Islamabad-based re­search and advocacy think tank, on the Afghan peace process. The main themes of the consultation included ‘The changing security scenario: Women’s perspective’ and ‘Emerging Pak-Afghan ties: Youth’s perspective.’ The discus­sion consisted of two sessions, one represented by women and other by youth.

Former ambassador of Paki­stan Seema Ilahi Baloch open­ing the debate said that the ed­ucation of women had been the worst hit in Afghanistan because of “Taliban regime’s perceived ideological percep­tion about how women should be.” The women have very less chances of access to health fa­cilities there, she added. Afghan women including students have been barred from travelling out­side their country without the presence of male mahram (fam­ily member), she also said.

“We (Pakistan) have to be careful as a neighbour,” Baloch said and added, “We have to see the plight of Afghan wom­en within the Pak-Afghan con­text apart from the perspective of human and women rights.”

Ex- ambassador Baloch also said that Pakistan’s policy of making doors fully open for Af­ghan refugees was not necessar­ily in its national interest. But it is now wrong to forcefully de­port them, rather a proper poli­cy on Afghan refugees should be made at first, she added.

Executive Director at Verso Consulting in Islamabad Safiya Aftab viewed that Pakistan’s Af­ghan policy had been in sham­bles right from beginning while it didn’t have any policy for refu­gees at all. “We cannot look at the Afghans monolithically,” she said, adding that Afghans were quite a diverse community and current­ly they didn’t have a policy to deal with any of those. “To attempt large scale repatriation of Af­ghans now in the given situation in Afghanistan is very heartless, particularly for girls,” she said.

Senior Coordinator at the Cen­tre for Research and Securi­ty Studies (CRSS) in Islamabad Elsa Imdad Hussain quoting a report on two-year rule of Af­ghan Taliban said that Taliban government might be right for Afghanistan in terms of econo­my, finance and foreign relations but women were being treated there in the wrong way. “Despite the challenges and tough foreign policy that we have, it is an op­portunity for Pakistan to come up with a refugee law which should be both human and gen­der-centric,” she said. She called on the Pakistani authorities to introduce online education pro­grammes for Afghan refugee girls and women if there was some compulsion to repatriate them to their home country.

Assistant Professor at Fa­tima Jinnah Women Univer­sity in Rawalpindi Dr. So­bia Hanif taking part in the discussion remarked that wom­en that comprised 50 percent of Afghan population were being subjected to all kinds of human rights violations. They are de­prived of education and employ­ment rights with having no facil­ities of health at all, she added.

Giving her suggestions, Dr So­bia said that Pakistan needed to resolve its problems with Af­ghanistan through constant con­structive engagement with the Afghan Taliban-led interim gov­ernment in Kabul. She stressed that Pakistan should form a spe­cial policy for Afghan women, minorities and people with dis­abilities besides providing them with facilities of online educa­tion and vocational training.

Her colleague Dr. Samra­na Afzal viewed that Pakistan should go for a quiet diploma­cy and public messaging to Af­ghanistan and Taliban govern­ment in meeting the demands on governance including the respect for basic rights as well as counter terrorism commit­ments. “Islamabad should keep its own security interests in mind in dealing with Kabul and refrain from endorsing the Tal­iban’s restrictions imposed on women,” she added.

TV host and social activist Tan­zeela Mazhar endorsed other participants by saying that Paki­stan should have been a separate and specific policy for Afghan women and vulnerable commu­nities. “Pakistan should clear­ly state that it stands for human and women rights besides dis­tancing itself from the Taliban’s policies,” she further said.

Associate Professor at the Quaid-e-Azam University in Is­lamabad Dr.a Salma Malik, the moderator of a session, argued that Pakistan should talk to the rulers in Kabul and offer online education facilities to Afghan women. She suggested that Is­lamabad could allow young Af­ghan girls to complete their education through the sylla­bus of Punjab and Khyber Pa­khtunkhwa.

Director of the Islamabad-based Afghan Women Association Nar­gis Mansoor highlighted that current restrictions enforced by Afghan Taliban on the right to ed­ucation of women in Afghanistan would cause a severe shortage of teachers and doctors in the war-torn country in future.

Freelance journalist and so­cial worker Jamaima Afridi em­phasised upon the caretaker federal government to treat vul­nerable Afghan communities, including women, living in Pa­kistan separately. She said that the government should not only allow them to live there but also provide facilities of education and employment.

Student activist Asad Khan Toori pointed out that Paki­stan’s policy towards Afghani­stan was vague and argued for bringing clarity in it.

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