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Pakistan Seeks Potential Solution to Political Protests

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For the past several weeks, Pakistan has faced a set of dual protests that have sparked a political crisis. One protest, led by former cricket star turned politician Imran Khan, head of the PTI party, draws on Khan’s allegation of widespread rigging in the landmark 2013 elections. Khan’s demands include electoral reforms, a redo of the election, and, controversially, the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of the PML-N party.

The other protest, led by Sufi cleric Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri, who heads the PAT party, seeks justice for followers killed and injured in a June incident at his headquarters. Qadri has demanded a full investigation, and also seeks the resignation of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, the Prime Minister’s brother. After marching to Islamabad and holding daily rallies, the protests eventually turned violent. While the violence subsided, and the army has mediated talks among the government, Khan and Qadri, the situation has not yet abated.

These crises come at a difficult time for Pakistan. The country is dealing with massive floods after heavy monsoon rains. Furthermore, because of the protests, the center of Islamabad has been shut down for more than month, freezing legislative and ministerial activity in the capital. As a result, the government has been unable to make any progress on meeting an extensive set of conditions to keep badly-needed funds flowing under an IMF loan facility. Moreover, the much-awaited visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping has been postponed.

Over the past year, as shown by CIPE’s partner PRIME, an Islamabad-based think tank, the government has made only limited progress toward implementing an ambitious economic reform agenda, thus engendering widespread frustration. Against this backdrop, many observers worried that the military could seize power again, as it has done in the past, or at least seek greater influence. Citing a report from the US Congressional Research Service, there was fear that this could cause the US to withdraw crucially needed support. Continue reading

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Governance Principles for Business Associations and Chambers of Commerce: Now Available in Urdu

urdu-gov-principlesBusiness associations need strong governance systems and guiding principles in order to effectively serve their members and act as advocates for policy change. In Pakistan, business associations are mostly struggling to adapt effective governing mechanisms that could ease the path to successfully achieving their vision, mission, and objectives.

Societal norms are changing, the business environment is getting more complex and challenging, and following the principles of corporate governance should now be one of the foremost issues that business associations must address.

CIPE has a huge online library of resources and publications through which business associations can get instant guidance and support. In order to facilitate good governance principles within business associations, CIPE and the World Chambers Federation (WCF) developed a guide on Governance Principles for Business Associations and Chambers of Commerce. The guide was originally published in English and subsequently translated in to Arabic, French, Russian, Spanish and Dari languages.

To support and further simplify good governance principles in the country, CIPE Pakistan has produced an Urdu Translation of these principles (available here) for the benefit of business associations all across Pakistan that can be further guided with local language clarity.

Emad Sohail is a Senior Program Officer at CIPE Pakistan.

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Social Media in Pakistan Helps Engage Youth in the Democratic Process

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In the recent elections, social media such as Facebook and Twitter were instrumental in engaging youth and bringing them out to vote. But the question remains: how can social media can help strengthen democracy in Pakistan?

Social media in Pakistan is an ever growing phenomenon. The editor of Dawn.com, Jehazeb Haq, recently compared Facebook to a virtual city competing with Karachi, the largest city in Pakistan with a population of 20 million and growing.

“Over prolonged periods of autocratic rule, the youth of the country was deliberately made apathetic. The revival of the political process happened at a time when social media had already arrived and started playing a central role in the lives of the connected youth. This medium was used to fullest extent prior to the 2013 elections to spread awareness about the imperatives of the democratic process, as a mobilization tool to garner support and canvassing of ideas and manifestoes by parties. Needless to say the youth was the vanguard of this new movement through the new media.” – Afia Salam, Member: IUCN Commission on Education & Communications

The power of social media in providing the right to speech has been limited, however, since 2010, when government attempted to ban many social media sites, resulting in an uproar from users and civil society groups. All past efforts by government to do so ultimately failed, resulting in access to social media sites being restored.

The only site that is still banned in Pakistan is YouTube, as the government says that it still makes blasphemous material accessible in the country. However, civil society organizations and youth groups are being vocal and have been advocating for restoring access to YouTube. Most of these efforts are done using social media.

CIPE Pakistan spoke to few key social media activists to get their views on the current state of social media in the country and how youth is using this medium. Continue reading

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The Unrealized Potential of Volunteerism in Pakistan

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Fayyaz Bhidal is a CIPE-Atlas Corps Think Tank LINKS Fellow at the Atlantic Council

Saturday, October 8, 2005 was an unfortunate day in the history of Pakistan. The entire country was ravaged by an earthquake that registered 7.6 magnitude on the Richter scale. The tremor devastated the entire Kashmir region, razing almost every building to the ground. It also damaged large parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan provinces and caused a high rise housing tower to collapse in Islamabad. The loss, both human and material, was colossal. The death toll surpassed 100,000, and 3.5 million people were displaced. The injured were numerous and everywhere.

This earthquake in Pakistan, just like earthquakes anywhere else in the developing world, caught disaster response institutions off guard. They were unprepared, lacked the essential rescue equipment, training, and resources. On top of that, road and rail networks were no longer usable without major repairs.

In the face of this massive catastrophe, when the state institutions were stuck in a state of panic, the responsibility fell to common people to take it upon themselves to do whatever they could to save their brethren pinned under the rubble and debris. Their efforts rescued over 138,000 injured stuck under collapsed buildings, and saved many more women, children, and elders who lost their families in the calamity. Had it not been for their efforts, most of the injured would have died by the time government rescue teams reached them after a delay of 78 hours.

Attending a panel on ‘Disaster Protection through Preparation’ at the Points of Light Conference in Atlanta, and learning about the role volunteers played in Nashville in saving people and properties during the 2010 floods, and later on helping the city clean up and recover, I could not help but think about the role volunteers played during the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan. They not only helped minimize the damage and sped up rescue, recovery, and rehabilitation efforts, they also left the affected communities more united and self-reliant. Continue reading

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Study Shows Lack of Ideas is Not What’s Holding Women Entrepreneurs Back

 

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Participants at a recent training workshop for South Asian women’s business associations in Kathmandu.

African women are almost twice as likely to have a new business idea they would like to develop than women in Europe and the United States, according to a new study commissioned by Dell. This is further proof of what many of us already know – that there is no lack of ideas and energy among women entrepreneurs in developing countries. It is institutional barriers and local economic conditions that primarily hold back women who are looking to start a business.

CIPE and its partners have supported women entrepreneurs in a number of countries to make significant gains in increasing their role in the economy and their input to public policy. For example, women’s business associations in Nigeria have successfully advocated to increase their role in a national conference to review the nation’s governing institutions.

In Pakistan, CIPE and its partners worked to reform the National Trade Organizations Ordinance to allow women to form their own associations and improve women’s representation on already established chamber boards. The Bangladesh Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry has successfully advocated for local and national level policies to improve access to credit for women entrepreneurs. And in Papua New Guinea, a new CIPE-supported women’s business association helped to establish a “women’s desk” at the largest commercial bank in the country to make it easier for women entrepreneurs to obtain bank loans. Continue reading