Islamabad: The Pakistani establishment's poster boy and chief of the Jamait-Ulema-I- Islam (JUI-F) and Chairman of the Special Parliamentary Committee on Kashmir, Fazlur Rehman, has left the Nawaz Sharif-led government in a state of shock by saying that the situation in the country's Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) is worse than what prevails in Indian Kashmir.
Participating in discussions in the National Assembly on Friday, Rehman said, "There is no difference (in the condition) between the people of Indian Kashmir and those living in the tribal areas of Pakistan. The people of FATA are living a life of misery."
Rehman lamented that the "suffering of the people of FATA is far worse than the Kashmir issue", and added that Pakistan has no business talking about Kashmir when it is meting out a terrible deal to its own people in FATA.
He also criticized the media in Pakistan for being "obsessed" with the Kashmir issue and "ignoring" the problems in FATA.
He was particularly severe in his criticism of the ongoing Pakistan Army operation in FATA areas, claiming that only peaceful tribesmen are being targeted rather than the Taliban. He said this was a terrible violation of human rights.
Taking the Pakistan state to task, Rehman said there was a need for a referendum on the issue of merging FATA with Khyber Pakhtunkhwas (KPK), adding that the people of FATA were not at all interested in such a merger and quite happy having an area that they could call their own.
Rehman further shocked the Sharif government by not making any reference to Kashmir or to the Indian Army's surgical strikes across the Line of Control (LoC) in his address, but chose instead to draw parallels between the Line of Control (LoC) and the Durand Line.
His description of the two lines as "undefined international borders" was endorsed by other senior leaders in the National Assembly including Mehmood Khan Achakzai of the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party, who kept thumping his desk as endorsement of Rehman's point of view.
For practical purposes, the Pakistan Government was left red faced by Rehman assessment.
The team argued the problem is more common in low and middle-income countries, and hence more resources are needed in these areas to help expectant and new mothers.
"In severely deprived regions where there are wars, political violence, food insecurity, and little help after natural disasters, healthcare workers have little time or resources to meet basic physical needs, let alone mental health ones like maternal depression," said Vivette Glover, researcher at the Imperial College London.
The report highlights the specific mental health requirements of mothers and children in poorer countries that are not necessarily relevant to high-income countries.
"Women are more likely than in richer countries to experience intimate partner violence and have little social support. Furthermore, unintended pregnancies are more common, as are malnourishment, infections, and crowded living conditions," Glover added.
Maternal depression in these countries is also more likely to result in poor nutrition, increased substance use, inadequate antenatal care, pre-eclampsia, low birthweight, preterm delivery, and suicide.
The research, published in the journal The Lancet Psychiatry focused mainly on low and middle-income countries.