Pakistani woman whose call to PM went viral demands justice system reform

Pakistani woman whose call to PM went viral demands justice system reform
Ayesha Mazhar, a single mother from Quetta, whose live call to Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on April 30, 2021 went viral. (AN photo)
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Updated 05 June 2021

Pakistani woman whose call to PM went viral demands justice system reform

Pakistani woman whose call to PM went viral demands justice system reform
  • Mazhar complained to Imran Khan about a man illegally occupying her house 
  • Problem was addressed and outstanding rent paid hours after raising issue

LAHORE: A Pakistani woman who shot to internet fame last week, after she called Prime Minister Imran Khan during a live Q&A session and complained about a tenant who had illegally occupied her house, has called for a reform of the justice system in the country, saying millions like her have no recourse.
Ayesha Mazhar, a single mother of a three-year-old, called Khan on Sunday and said a tenant had refused to leave her house, and subsequently to pay rent of over 450,000 rupees ($2,883), and was using his influence with the police to prolong her agony.
“The moment I ended my call with the prime minister, I was contacted by police officials who wanted to know my address and promised to resolve my case,” Mazhar told Arab News on Wednesday. “The next day I got the outstanding rental payments, and my problem was addressed.”
While she expressed gratitude to the government, she also called for institutional reforms. “Do we always have to call the prime minister when we find ourselves in such situations?” She asked.
Mazhar, who lives in Quetta, said her mother had bought a house in Lahore’s DHA Rahbar Housing Society, which she rented to a man named Imran Asghar in 2019, who turned out to be the brother of a senior superintendent of police, and who, after a point, refused to pay rent or vacate her house despite repeated requests. 
Asghar also got a stay order from a court which “allowed him to occupy the house for an indefinite period,” Mazhar said. “I wonder how a court can allow a person to do that and turn the real owner of a house homeless?”

BACKGROUND

Mazhar applauded Lahore’s former Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Umer Sheikh who got Asghar to vacate the house last December before being transferred.

Mazhar said that consequently, she could not move into the house in Lahore. “I am a divorcee with a three-year-old son. Can you imagine what it must be like for a woman to travel to a new city with no shelter?”  
She said that she had lodged a complaint with police but was “devastated” when the tenant used abusive language against her at a police station and no officials intervened.
“The situation took its toll on my mother’s health, who was diagnosed with cancer,” she said. “I took my mother to see several parliamentarians and even visited media houses, but no one came to our rescue.”
Mazhar applauded Lahore’s former Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Umer Sheikh who got Asghar to vacate the house last December before being transferred. Asghar, however, “refused to pay the rent which had piled up in the last two years and amounted to over 450,000 rupees,” she said.
Asked about Mazhar’s case, the city’s new CCPO Mehmood Dogar agreed that it had been mishandled.
“It was a simple case,” he said. “Her house was illegally occupied, and the tenant was not vacating the premises. However, it became tricky due to the legal technicalities since both parties had filed their cases in the court and we were bound by its orders.”
He added that the police had launched an operation against illegal occupants since the beginning of the year, and restored the possession of more than 350 plots to their rightful owners.
Police spokesperson Muhammad Arif said more than 100,000 such cases were reported every year and resolved in accordance with the law.
“This was one case where things grew ugly and the victim had to suffer at the hands of our system,” he said, adding that the CCPO had asked all police stations to deal with such cases as a priority.
Meanwhile, Mazhar said she hoped Khan would do his best to reform the police and judiciary, and provide some respite to “millions of people who are suffering and desperately waiting for justice.” 


‘Sweet day’ for Afghan sportswomen fleeing Taliban rule on latest flight

‘Sweet day’ for Afghan sportswomen fleeing Taliban rule on latest flight
Updated 57 min 36 sec ago

‘Sweet day’ for Afghan sportswomen fleeing Taliban rule on latest flight

‘Sweet day’ for Afghan sportswomen fleeing Taliban rule on latest flight
  • The female footballers, basketball players and others were among 369 passengers on the plane to Qatar
  • Flying alongside the athletes were expat Afghans who were visiting their homeland and were caught off guard by the speed of the Taliban victory

KABUL: Afghan women athletes expressed relief and optimism Wednesday as they fled Taliban rule on the latest flight out of Kabul, with one calling it a “sweet day for all of us.”
The female footballers, basketball players and others were among 369 passengers on the plane to Qatar, including more than 55 who were evacuated in coordination with global football body FIFA which is organizing next year’s World Cup in the Gulf monarchy.
The semi-regular flight to Doha, arranged by the Qatar government, has become a rare lifeline for Afghans with passports and visas since the Taliban seized power in August.
Wednesday’s flight was the most packed yet, and included several women athletes including 28-year-old basketballer Tahera Yousofi from Herat, who is heading to Canada.
“Today is a very, very sweet day for all of us because after many, many weeks our trek starts and we are very happy,” she told AFP.
Tahera used to play and train regularly in Afghanistan and has competed internationally, but since the hard-line Taliban returned this has proved impossible.
“The Taliban government don’t let us play and don’t let us get a job and we have to vacate this country, unfortunately,” she said.
Sports were banned when the Taliban last ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, and since their return women’s freedoms have again been abruptly curtailed.
Flying alongside the athletes were expat Afghans who were visiting their homeland and were caught off guard by the speed of the Taliban victory.
Aside from Afghans, the passengers included citizens from the United States, Germany, Britain, Belgium, Ireland, the Netherlands, Canada, Japan and others.
Several families brought young children and babies, and some were so exhausted they fell asleep almost on take-off.
Sef and Zohra Amiri, 22 and 26, had planned a two-week visit from their home in Britain but ended up trapped for a fearful two and a half months.
“Finally we got the phone call from the British Embassy to help us to get out of here. Now we can finally breathe and we can fly wherever we want to go and (do) whatever we want to do,” said Zohra.
Since the Taliban took control of Kabul, the family has been trapped in their compound — particularly the women.
“My auntie went outside and the Taliban broke her foot. So that was really scary for us, really sad for us. As a woman we want all freedoms for us, like boys,” Zohra said.
The Qatari flights began on August 31 and depart around twice a week, carrying hundreds of passengers each time, including Afghans at risk under the new regime.
The Taliban have complained that the ongoing departure of many educated middle-class citizens and employees of the former US-backed government is a brain drain undermining their effort to stabilize the country.
But they have promised the international community not to interfere with the departure of Afghans with legitimate papers, despite reports of intimidation, and have cooperated with the Qatar air bridge.
On arrival in Qatar, the passengers are taken to a compound where they have access to Covid-19 testing and can rest and prepare for onward travel to their final destination.
Qatar says it “will continue to work with international partners on efforts that ensure freedom of movement in Afghanistan, including through serving as an active mediator between various parties.”


UK hospitals on the edge as government resists fresh COVID measures

UK hospitals on the edge as government resists fresh COVID measures
Updated 20 October 2021

UK hospitals on the edge as government resists fresh COVID measures

UK hospitals on the edge as government resists fresh COVID measures
  • Javid announced deals for two experimental COVID-19 antivirals
  • Britain has the eighth biggest death toll globally from COVID-19, with 139,000 fatalities

LONDON: Britain's health minister Sajid Javid on Wednesday resisted calls from doctors for fresh measures to halt a rising wave of COVID-19 infections despite their warnings that hospitals are on the edge of being overwhelmed.
Britain reported 223 new deaths from COVID-19 on Tuesday, the highest daily figure since March, and cases are the highest in Europe, with nearly 50,000 new infections reported on Wednesday.
Javid announced deals for two experimental COVID-19 antivirals, one developed by Merck and Ridgeback Therapeutics and another by Pfizer, doubling down on a strategy of relying on vaccines and drugs to limit the damage this winter, instead of restrictions.
But he warned that people should get vaccinated and take up booster shots when offered, or else "Plan B", involving limited steps such as mask mandates, a work from home order and vaccination passes to get into venues, might be enacted.
"We're looking closely at the data, and we won't be implementing our Plan B of contingency measures at this point," he said, adding that 5 million people aged over 16 remained unvaccinated and that cases could reach 100,000 cases a day.
"If we want to secure these freedoms for the long term, then the best thing that we can do is come forward (for a shot), once again, when that moment comes."
Britain has the eighth biggest death toll globally from COVID-19, with 139,000 fatalities. But it also had a quick start to its vaccine programme and Prime Minister Boris Johnson has lifted almost all restrictions in England, ending social distancing measures and mask mandates.
Johnson's government has said it is relying on vaccinations, including booster shots for the vulnerable, to avoid winter lockdowns, having already shut the economy three times.
But the rollout has stalled, slipping behind several other European countries, while the booster programme is off to a slow start.
"COVID-19 cases are rising and winter is drawing closer. If you have not been vaccinated, now is the time. If you are offered a booster please take up the offer," Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said, adding that masks in crowded indoor spaces remained important.
Doctors have expressed concern that an increase in numbers going into hospital, combined with pressures on the National Health Service (NHS) from seasonal viruses, could leave hospitals unable to deal with long waiting lists and function normally.
Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, called for more measures.
"This is the middle of October. Things are only going to get worse," Taylor told BBC radio.
"The health service is right at the edge ... if you push much further we will not be able to provide the level of service that people need to have."
Javid said he did not believe the pressure on the NHS had become unsustainable, and added the government would act if that changed.
Andrew Pollard, the head of the Oxford Vaccine Group, said the risk was mainly in the unvaccinated.
He added that a subvariant of Delta that is growing in England was unlikely to change the picture. Javid said there was no reason to believe the subvariant posed a greater threat than Delta. 


British Somalis met with hatred and abuse after murder of MP

British Somalis met with hatred and abuse after murder of MP
Updated 20 October 2021

British Somalis met with hatred and abuse after murder of MP

British Somalis met with hatred and abuse after murder of MP
  • A Somali community center in London has moved its activities online over backlash fears
  • Attacks on the community began almost as soon as the identity of the killer was revealed

LONDON: British Somalis have received heightened death threats and abuse following the murder of an MP at the hands of a British man of Somalian origin, community leaders have said.

Community centers for British Somalis have been forced to close and residents have received abuse and physical attacks such as throwing things after lone suspect Ali Harbi Ali, 25, was arrested after the murder of Sir David Amess.

Police are continuing to question him over the stabbing, which has been declared terrorism-related.

Kahiye Alim, director of the Council of Somali Organisations, told The Times newspaper that the attacks began almost as soon as Ali was identified as the alleged attacker.

“We’ve heard reports of people being verbally abused on the tube (London’s metro rail) and the street, being told to ‘go back home’ and called ‘terrorist,’” Alim said.

He continued: “Some of our members have received death threats by email and had things thrown at their windows. We are a very distinct and recognizable group and very much in the fabric of British high streets.”

One Somali community center in London has decided to close its doors and operate online until further notice.

Alim said he understood that Ali's connections with Somalia were “very little” and that he had “probably never been” to the country. He said he was part of a “lost” generation of British Somalis whose parents “live on the myth of return.”

The attacker was born in the UK after his father — who had worked closely with the Somalian government while in the East African country — came to Britain in 1996.

There are at least 100,000 British Somalis in the UK, with the majority based in London. They are predominantly Muslim.

The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) has announced guidance to help British Somalis and the wider Muslim community deal with hatred and abuse following the attack.

Zara Mohammed, the MCB’s secretary-general, said mosques in and around Southend, where Sir David was an MP, were devastated by his murder and that he was regarded as “a member of their family.”

“This is a heinous crime and we utterly condemn it,” Mohammed told The Guardian. “Nobody in the local Muslim community could believe how anybody could brutally murder anyone, never mind Sir David, who was so engaged with them.”

She said there was now “apprehension for Muslim communities.”

The council is producing updated guidance on how to report hate crimes, which will be translated into Somali and shared on WhatsApp.


Owner of plane in Sala crash ‘forbade use of pilot’

Owner of plane in Sala crash ‘forbade use of pilot’
Updated 20 October 2021

Owner of plane in Sala crash ‘forbade use of pilot’

Owner of plane in Sala crash ‘forbade use of pilot’
  • Fay Keely told the hearing that on July 6, 2018, six months before the fatal incident, she emailed David Henderson telling him not to use David Ibbotson again
  • Investigators in March 2020 concluded that Ibbotson was not licensed to fly the plane or to fly at night, and that he lost control and flew too fast as he tried to avoid bad weather

LONDON: The owner of a plane that crashed with Argentine footballer Emiliano Sala on board told a UK court on Wednesday she had ordered the operator not to use the pilot.
The plane — a single-engined Piper Malibu — came down in the Channel in January 2019, killing the 28-year-old striker and the 59-year-old pilot David Ibbotson as they returned from France to Wales.
The plane’s operator, David Henderson, is standing trial at Cardiff Crown Court in Wales, accused of endangering the safety of the plane.
The plane’s owner, Fay Keely, said she bought the plane on Henderson’s advice and allowed him to operate it and choose pilots.
But she told the hearing that on July 6, 2018, six months before the fatal incident, she emailed the operator telling him not to use Ibbotson again.
She did this after the Civil Aviation Authority informed her of two infringements when he was piloting.
She later learnt that Henderson had nevertheless hired Ibbotson for a flight with her sister on board just a month later.
“He allowed that to happen without my permission,” she stressed.
Asked by the defense whether she had repeated her warning to Henderson not to use the pilot, she said: “No. As far as I was concerned I had made my feelings clear that he shouldn’t be flying the aircraft.”
Lawyer Martin Goudie, for the prosecution, told the court on Tuesday that Henderson was unavailable to pilot the return flight carrying Sala and arranged for Ibbotson to fly instead.
Henderson, from Hotham, in Yorkshire, northern England, has denied one charge of endangering the safety of an aircraft.
The court was told on Monday he had admitted one count of attempting to discharge a passenger without valid permission or authorization.
That charge typically concerns a business operator failing to acquire the appropriate licenses to hire a plane commercially.
Sala died on the return flight from France, which he had visited to collect his belongings and say goodbye to teammates at Nantes after signing with Cardiff for a record £15 million (18 million euros, $19 million).
British air accident investigators in March 2020 concluded that Ibbotson was not licensed to fly the plane or to fly at night, and that he lost control and flew too fast as he tried to avoid bad weather.
The Air Accidents Investigation Branch said both the pilot and Sala were affected by carbon monoxide poisoning before the crash.


WHO: Europe the only region with rise in COVID-19 last week

WHO: Europe the only region with rise in COVID-19 last week
Updated 20 October 2021

WHO: Europe the only region with rise in COVID-19 last week

WHO: Europe the only region with rise in COVID-19 last week
  • The UN health agency said there were about 2.7 million new COVID-19 cases and more than 46,000 deaths last week worldwide
  • WHO said the two regions with the highest rates of COVID-19 incidence were Europe and the Americas

LONDON: The World Health Organization said there was a 7 percent rise in new coronavirus cases across Europe last week, the only region in the world where cases increased.
In its weekly assessment of the pandemic released late Tuesday, the UN health agency said there were about 2.7 million new COVID-19 cases and more than 46,000 deaths last week worldwide, similar to the numbers reported the previous week.
WHO said the two regions with the highest rates of COVID-19 incidence were Europe and the Americas. Globally, the US reported the biggest number of new cases, more than 580,000, which still represented a 11 percent decline.
Britain, Russia and Turkey accounted for the most cases in Europe.
The biggest drop in COVID-19 cases were seen in Africa and the Western Pacific, where infections fell by about 18 percent and 16 percent, respectively. The number of deaths in Africa also declined by about a quarter, despite the dire shortage of vaccines on the continent.
But for the third consecutive week, coronavirus cases have jumped in Europe, with about 1.3 million new cases. More than half of countries in the region reported a rise in their COVID-19 numbers, WHO said. Britain and Russia each reported about a 15 percent increase in new cases.
In the past week, Russia has repeatedly broken new daily records for COVID-19 cases and the number of infections in the UK has surged to levels not seen since mid-July.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday backed a Cabinet proposal to keep Russian workers home for a week in an effort to stem the spread of the virus.
Russian officials have struggled to vaccinate the population but due to vaccine skepticism, only about 32 percent of people have been immunized despite the availability of its Sputnik V vaccine. It has by far the largest virus death toll in Europe, with more than 225,000 deaths.
Although the head of Britain’s National Health Service has urged the government to introduce stricter COVID-19 protocols including mask-wearing and the faster vaccination of children, politicians have so far demurred.