Women-only buses hit the road in Pakistan’s Mardan district

Women-only bus service launched in Pakistan’s Mardan district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province from April 4, 2019. (Photo courtesy: Social media)
Updated 04 April 2019

Women-only buses hit the road in Pakistan’s Mardan district

  • Seven buses will operate in Mardan starting April 4 for exclusive use by women and accompanying children
  • Seven more buses will start operations in Abbottabad later this month, all buses fitted with safety app connected to CCTV cameras

ISLAMABAD: The government of Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on Thursday inaugurated a women-only pink bus service in Mardan district aimed at providing safe, reliable and economical transportation for women of the conservative northwestern region.
A total of 14 buses have been procured with financial assistance from the government of Japan and technical support from the United Nations Office for Project Services, an operational arm of the United Nations, and UN Women. UNOPS has also constructed 16 bus stops in Mardan through which the buses will be operated.
“Seven buses will operate in Mardan starting 4th April 2019, through specific bus stops, for exclusive use by women and accompanying children,” UN Women Pakistan said in a statement. “Seven more buses under the project will start operation in Abbottabad later this month.”
Sexual and other types of harassment on buses often deter women, especially in Pakistan’s conservative northwestern regions, to stay home and avoid public transportation, thus giving up on opportunities for education and work.
“An estimated 64% of women in Mardan use private transportation as an alternative,” the UN statement said. “Women who cannot afford private transportation are forced to forfeit opportunities for education and employment.”
Speaking at the launch ceremony for the new bus service, Samita Khawar, UNOPS Pakistan Country Manager UNOPS, thanked the government of Japan for the financial assistance for the project and the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa for owning it.
“This initiative aims to protect women during travel and reduces the risk of being a potential victim. It will provide safe, secure and comfortable transport to the women of Mardan,” Khawar said.
Since safety was the primary concern for women traveling alone, Khawar said, with the support of UN Women Pakistan, the buses had been equipped with a safety app connected to CCTV cameras installed in the buses. Gender sensitization training modules have also been developed for the staff engaged in operations of the buses. 
“We are excited to see the operationalization of busses and hope that this temporary special measure will increase women’s mobility and also pave the way for behavioral change in society to make existing infrastructure more responsive to women’s needs,” Zainab Khan, Head of Sub-Office UN Women Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, said.

Pakistan to be part of new Saudi foreign manpower program 

Updated 14 November 2019

Pakistan to be part of new Saudi foreign manpower program 

  • New skills-based system to be launched from next month
  • Will include India, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Egypt, Bangladesh, and Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Starting next month, Saudi Arabia will introduce a new skilled foreign manpower program that will eventually include Pakistan, a senior official at the Saudi labor ministry said this week. 

Nayef Al-Omair, head of the vocational examination program at the Ministry of Labor, said on Tuesday in Riyadh that the ministry was categorizing the tasks and the structure of some professions for visa-issuing purposes.

Under the new policy, visas would be issued only after skill tests and the previous system would be gradually phased out. 

The new scheme would be optional for one year starting December 2019 after which it would become compulsory, Al-Omair said. The new program would first be applied to manpower recruited from India due to its large size in the Saudi market.

Eventually, the program will cover seven countries, including India, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Egypt, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. Workers belonging to these states constitute 95 percent of professional manpower in the Kingdom’s local market.

Saudi Arabia is home to around 2.6 million Pakistani expats those have been a vital source of foreign remittances.

Last year the country received $21.8 billion in remittances out of which $5 billion were remitted by Pakistani nationals working in Kingdom.

According to the Pakistani ministry of finance, there was a major decline in manpower export to Saudi Arabia where only 100,910 emigrants proceeded for employment in 2018 as compared to 2017, a drop of 42,453 emigrants.

However, Sayed Zulfikar Bukhari, special assistant to the Pakistani prime minister on overseas Pakistanis, said in an interview earlier this month that Saudi Arabia had agreed to increase the share of the Pakistani labor force in the multi-billion dollar New Taif City development.

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have formed working groups to develop procedures for this transfer of manpower. Pakistani groups will visit the Kingdom in the coming months to finalize arrangements.