Stories written by Irfan Ahmed

Pakistani Rights Advocates Fight Losing Battle to End Child Marriages

At first glance, there is nothing very unusual about Muhammad Asif Umrani. A resident of Rojhan city located in Pakistan’s eastern Punjab province, he is expectantly awaiting the birth of his first child, barely a year after his wedding day.

Raped, And Abandoned By Law

Amina Bibi, an 18-year-old from Pakistan’s Punjab province, was allegedly raped by four men on Jan. 5 this year. All the accused were granted bail. A desperate Amina set herself on fire outside a police station on Mar. 13 and succumbed to burn injuries the next day.

Pakistani NGOs Fear New Year Constraints

A new policy by the Pakistani government to regulate foreign-funded non-governmental organisations (NGOs) has come in for sharp criticism from the social sector, with many saying it could stifle rights-based groups and affect crucial services provided to the needy.

Skype Gets Dark in Karachi

First, it was Youtube. Now, if the government of Sindh has its way, it could well be goodbye to Skype, Whatsapp, Viber and Tango for the people of this province in southeastern Pakistan. At least for the next three months.

Pakistan Government Failing to Go Local

Had the provincial governments of Pakistan heeded their apex court, the country’s four provinces - Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa - would have had local governments in place by now. The Supreme Court of Pakistan had in July this year directed that local government elections be held by Sep. 15.

Lahore Going Back To Its Old Ways

Zahid Husain, 25, is a salesman in the Pakistan city Lahore. He sits idly on the pavement of a clothes shop and plays a game on his cell phone, oblivious to the changes in the city all around him.

Pakistan Marks Historic Election

Flanked by loyalists, friends, journalists and excited family members, former Pakistani premier Mian Nawaz Sharif, head of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N), seemed relaxed on the night of the May 11 general elections.

After Half a Century, Women Head to the Polls

For 70-year-old Ghulam Fatima, the upcoming general elections on May 11 promise to be unlike any she has witnessed before in Pakistan.

Christians Feel the Heat of Religious Intolerance

Younas Gill, a self-employed tax accountant, sits on the pavement in Joseph Colony, Lahore, staring at the place where, until about a month ago, his home had stood.

Profits Before Safety in Pakistan’s Factories

Twenty-seven-year-old Muhammad Arif works at a steel re-rolling mill in Lahore, capital of Pakistan’s northeastern Punjab province, producing steel ingots from scrap.

“The Hands That Supply EU Imports”

The European Union (EU) is Pakistan's largest trading partner, with overall trade between the two countries topping eight million euros in 2011.

Pakistani Workers Slaving Brick by Brick

One does not always need a time machine to travel into the past – a visit to a typical brick kiln in Pakistan’s Punjab province is enough to evoke a time when human beings were traded like animals and slavery was rampant.

Cultivating Toxic Crops

At a time when spiraling input costs and perennial shortages of irrigation water are breaking countless farmers’ backs, a small village community on the outskirts of Lahore appears to have been spared.

Union leaders now in jail. Credit:  Irfan Ahmed/IPS.

‘Anti-Terror’ Laws Haunt Pakistan’s Unionists

As International Labour Day approaches, rights groups in Pakistan are redoubling their efforts to win freedom for six incarcerated union leaders in Faisalabad, the country’s textile hub, who are currently serving a combined jail term of 590 years for supposedly violating the country’s ‘anti-terror’ laws.

PAKISTAN: Political Scandals Rock the Polio Eradication Boat

A knock on her front door throws Beenish, a 28-year-old housewife from Lahore, into a fix: should she allow the female volunteer vaccinators to administer the oral polio vaccine (OPV) to her two-year-old son, or not?