IN media parlance what would the Bahria Town Karachi incident that took place on Sunday, June 6 be called? It was not fake news, considering that a large number of protesters and the police were involved and some violence also occurred that day on Super Highway. But the way the facts were twisted by a section of the media, both social and mainstream, one would certainly call it a case of misreporting.
The impression was sought to be created that the protesters — including various civil society groups and people who have been struggling to save their ancestral lands from the avarice of the land grabbers — resorted to violence and arson. But from the accounts of those present on the scene (I spoke to Sheema Kermani of Tehreek-i-Niswan and Khuda Dino Shah from the Indigenous Peoples) an altogether different picture emerges: it was clearly a false flag operation to vilify the protesters and spread dissension among the diverse ethnic groups that constitute Sindh’s population.
WHEN schools in many parts of the world have resumed education in varying degrees, why are our schools still shuttered? The irony is that this is the fate of institutions that cater to the needs of the poor who are already deprived. I feel the matter has not been given serious thought. Even in pre-Covid times public-sector education in Pakistan was rotting. Now it is about to hit rock-bottom.
Plaudits are due the revolving pageant of official Information bigwigs whose fatuity conceals the adroit competence of their ministry of information, no matter which of them is managing it. That institution has the varied segments of public opinion exactly as it would have them be: numbed and distracted with statements both highly-charged and conflicting; repetitive and inconsistent; contradictory and confirmative; denying and reaffirming; so that no one quite knows what the government and its minions and bogeymen are about. Reportage and news is a turbid flood of speculative analyses and patchy investigations of what could be reality or should be reality or may or may not have happened.
HOW many of Pakistan’s 225 million like to habitually connect with nature? Unsurprisingly, not many. Most of the urban population lives in man-made subhuman conditions while those in the villages lead a brutish life of want imposed on them by feudal leaders. Not being educated, people are unaware of their own rights, let alone the significance of the environment.
ONE aspect of I.A. Rehman’s priceless legacy was his restless spirit that drove him to champion the cause of freedom and human rights in Pakistan. The huge community of human rights activists in the country drew inspiration from his rational and encouraging leadership.
Many of us — his juniors — were constantly turning to him to draw from his limitless pool of knowledge and saw him as a pillar of strength. In the gloom that followed his death I felt comforted when I received a book of poetry that resonated with me. It touched the same causes Rehman Sahib had inspired us to espouse. Titled Eik Subh Aur Aaygi and containing 103 poems by Anis Haroon, the book is a powerful statement on the sad state of human rights in Pakistan that has brought the country to the brink of a catastrophe.
OUR politicians — whether in office or in the opposition or on the streets — have a bizarre mindset. They think of their personal and family’s concerns first rather than the country’s interests when it faces a grave problem.
Look at the issue of the census and the lurking crisis of population explosion which seems to worry no one. The census is mandated by the Constitution and is to be held every 10 years. Its results form the basis of the number of seats in the national and provincial assemblies and also how the federal divisible pool is distributed among the provinces.
RECENTLY I received a call from Ali Mohammad Goth (in Jahoo Tehsil, population 40,033) in Awaran, Balochistan. Jahoo Tehsil has only two high schools for girls. Scores of students from one of these schools had demanded books to read. This message was conveyed to me by their headmistress Ms Sabar-un-Nisa, courtesy Shabir Rakhshani, the education activist of Awaran. This made me jump up.
UNESCO’S constitution in its preamble declares: “Since wars begin in the minds of men it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed.” In the feminist context it should read that the defences of women’s rights against patriarchy need to be constructed in the minds of the women who are the most oppressed and exploited. That should be the immediate goal of the feminist movement in Pakistan.
The fact is that the state of women reflects best what author Kazim Saeed titles his book, Dou Pakistan. We have had a female prime minister, a young girl as a Nobel laureate, female pilots, mountaineers, millions of women teachers and highly qualified doctors and so on.
THOSE who favour civil over military politics in Pakistan fret that PM Imran Khan’s personalised mode of governance obstructs the flow and continuity of the federal democratic political process and facilitates the entrée of centralistic benevolent dictatorship. A question then arises: is he using the military or are they using him? The tenor of occasional judicial pronouncements unpleasantly recalls the coziness of the relationship with President General Zia; and Imran Khan’s PTI is no grassroots, often aggressively independent, democracy-minded element in party politics aiming to reduce military trespass into civil space.
Is the PTI a king’s party or just the captain’s? If the iron hand has not merely donned cricketing gloves for form’s sake, are Imran Khan and a judicious military combine hand in glove?
Unlike 2018, the road to PTI success in elections 2023 is not paved with good intentions: these have been found functionally deficient.
Let alone the underprivileged irrelevant citizen, even the beneficiaries thereof, do not deny the validity of the corruption rubric conferred on the PML-N and PPP. But that is not enough to kill a party. Nor should it sustain it: And more than two years into its mandated tenure, a perception that the PTI too is nourished on the milk of human corruption cannot be quelled. Highlighting the corruption of other political contenders is now tactically a boomerang.
THOSE who sow the seeds of change must first prepare the soil for it. That is the immediate thought that occurred to me when I read about the Aurat March, its bold posters and the backlash last Monday. It created a rumpus but the gravity of its message was lost in the melee. That is because we never remember that we have to take it step by step when addressing sensitive issues.
For decades after the initial excitement of the early years of feminism had subsided, International Women’s Day had become a ritualised event to recall the achievements and non-achievements of women in their struggle against the burden of oppression put on them by the forces of patriarchy.
Once feminism stopped making ripples and frustration set in, it was time for change. And it came spontaneously in the form of the Aurat March in 2018. It was the radicals who responded to the challenge. I admire their courage to act but not their strategy.
Many of the problems highlighted by the Aurat March have existed for ages. Feminists of my generation were aware of them too but were too slow in reaching the woman at the grassroots. The radicals have succeeded in mobilising a large number of people from all classes that we failed to reach. But do the leaders of the Aurat March have a solution?