Here’s what’s happening across the border: An acid attack survivor is one of four transgender poll candidates, and Pakistanis are donating in droves for key dams.
Military ‘running a campaign of threats & intimidation’
The military in Pakistan is running a campaign of persuasion, intimidation and threats, The Wall Street Journal quoted rights activists and politicians as saying.
According to the people the newspaper spoke to, the military is supporting former cricketer Imran Khan’s party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and using every tool to “break former Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s vote bank”.
Before being jailed, Sharif claimed that Major General Faiz Hameed, deputy chief of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), was forcing politicians to leave his party, the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz).
Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) candidates have also talked of being bullied by military officials to switch parties. Consequently, complaints have been filed with the Election Commission of Pakistan against four such officials.
However, the military has denied trying to influence the election, saying it had no political alignment.
A PTI spokesman said the allegation was “without substance”.
Pakistan has had a chequered history with the military, with the country witnessing several coups to unseat the civilian government. The last such coup in 1999 saw dictator Pervez Musharraf assume the reins of power after ousting a civilian administration led by Sharif.
Acid attack survivor wants to empower transgenders with a run for office
A transgender election candidate who has survived an acid attack by her ex-boyfriend and sexual abuse by relatives is hoping to empower the community with her run for the national assembly, BBC reported.
Nayyab Ali, one of four transgender candidates contesting the 25 July election, is contesting as an independent.
“The transgender community is progressing slowly in Pakistan – we’re finding positions in various industries like education and journalism,” she said in an interview with the BBC.
Explaining why she decided to contest, she said, “I realised that without political power and without being part of the country’s institutions, you cannot gain your rights.”
Ali, who was only 13 when she was forced to leave home, is the national spokesperson for the All Pakistan Transgender Election Network, reported SBS News.
Pakistan is one of the few countries that allow the transgender community to identify themselves as such on their national identity cards, under the title “third sex”. Last year, the option was added to passports as well.
“In May, Pakistan passed new legislation guaranteeing basic rights for its estimated 500,000 transgender citizens – including intersex people, transvestites and eunuchs – and banning discrimination against them,” the report added.
Thousands at risk amid lax security at sensitive polling stations
Hundreds of sensitive polling stations in Pakistan remain without a boundary wall, bringing the caretaker provincial governments under the election commission’s scanner for reportedly failing to maintain them, reported The Business.
A lapse like this threatens to put thousands of Pakistani voters at risk in an election run-up marked by more than one terror attack targeting candidates.
The governments have also ignored repeated directives from the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to equip polling stations with basic facilities, including water and power, the report added. According to sources quoted in the report, as many as 4,945 polling stations have been found to lack basic facilities just days ahead of the 25 July election.
The situation was found to be the worst in Sindh, where preparations were found lacking in 3,688 of 17,747 stations.
Meanwhile, following directives from the interior ministry, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has suspended mobile internet services in several districts of Balochistan till 31 July, reported Dawn.
Given that it’s election season, the suspension, it is feared, might hamper the effectiveness of the Result Transmission System (RTS), an internet-based application introduced by the ECP to transmit polling results from constituencies to the commission.
Citizens rally together amid water crisis, donate Rs 260 million for dams
The call of the chief justice for citizen donations to build two dams has drawn an enthusiastic response, with Pakistanis shelling out Rs 260 million (Rs 13.9 crore) so far, reported The Express Tribune.
According to the newspaper, the Supreme Court has created a fund in the State Bank of Pakistan to collect donations for the construction of Diamer-Bhasha and Mohmand dams, which are expected to help the country tide over a water crisis. While the Diamer-Bhasha dam will be made on the River Indus in Gilgit-Baltistan, Mohmand dam will come up on the River Swat, near Peshawar.
“The country is facing a difficult situation regarding water and all measures are being taken to start work on water reservoirs,” Water and Power Development Authority chairman Lt Gen Muzammil Hussain (Retd) said, adding that they were also reaching out to foreign banks and external financiers for the extra amount needed for the construction.
Meanwhile, at a public gathering in Bahawalpur Friday, PTI chief Imran Khan promised to prioritise the construction of the Diamer-Bhasha dam, while also vowing other plans to conserve and recycle water.
Contributors: Anagha Deshpande,Hansa Kapoor, Rupanwita Bhattacharjee, Sharanya Munsi, and Manisha Mondal
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