Days with Herpes Zoster (shingles)

 By Dr Zeba Hisam

zubeida-3-001-1TEN days ago I started feeling a peculiar pain in the scapular region of my back. It was localised at one point and was constant. It didn’t seem to be the routine muscular pain that I get after vigorous home chores. I took an analgesic but it didn’t go away. I was perplexed as to what it could be.

The mystery was solved after four days when some papular rashes appeared in a line at the same site. I made my diagnosis. It was  Herpes Zoster which is termed Shingles in popular parlance. Yet I went to the skin ward of the Karachi Civil Hospital to confirm my diagnosis. And the doctors there endorsed it and put me on antiviral acyclovir tablets five times a day.

I am not going to college where I teach. Neither do I attend my clinics at the hospital where I work. Continue reading “Days with Herpes Zoster (shingles)”

Exploring New York 31 years on

Strand Book Store, New York: 18 miles of books
Strand Book Store, New York: 18 miles of books

By Zeenat Hisam

guest-contributor29 July 2016: Today is my first day of exploring New York. It rained last night. And the morning is bright, the air crispy, the weather pleasant. The heat has subsided. Manhattan is 30-minute subway train ride away from the place in Brooklyn we are staying in. Well, not a bad bargain for a low-budget traveller.

All the way from Stony Brook to New York I saw America shining and prospering: well-maintained infrastructure looking almost new; a lot of construction/repair work in progress; highways filled with big, gleaming cars. In New York the subway stations and the carriages all looked new. So far I have not detected anything that looked dilapidated, worn out or shabby. Continue reading “Exploring New York 31 years on”

Changing Lives

Official launch with Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland.- Photo by GWL
Official launch with Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland.- Photo by GWL

By Zubeida Mustafa

WOULD you expect to see Qurratulain Hyder’s Aag ka Darya on the shelf of a public library in Glasgow? Probably not. But I actually found Annie Apa, as she was fondly called, in the Glasgow Women’s Library (GWL). The discovery was made more exciting by the fact that the library was a distinguished one as only a feminist library can be.

Set up in 1991, the GWL has grown and never looked back. In 2015, it celebrated the 25th year of its existence. Containing 30,000 books on women or by women (about 20,000 writers), the GWL is distinct from other libraries by the feminist ownership shown by those who manage it and those who use it. Continue reading “Changing Lives”

The Glasgow Women’s Library

Story Cafe at the library,--Photo by GWL
Story Cafe at the library,–Photo by GWL

By Zubeida Mustafa

As you approach the stately Glasgow Women’s Library at Bridgeton (Glasgow) there is no way you can miss it. A large name plaque in black announces its presence.

The “extraordinariness” of the library is visible in the mural painted on a fence across the road in front of the building. It depicts the struggle of an Inuit girl, Sedna,  who resists the brutality of her father who wants her to marry a man she doesn’t want to. He pushes her into the sea and chops off her fingers when she clings to the boat to save herself. She is later declared by her people the Goddess of the Sea. The most distant planet of the solar system is also named after Sedna. Continue reading “The Glasgow Women’s Library”

Measuring peace

By Zubeida Mustafa

WE seem to be living in an age when countries are constantly being measured, classified and ranked. The trend was set by the United Nations Development Programme 25 years ago when the Human Development Index was introduced. Many others followed suit as new technologies were developed for gathering and collating data from diverse sources that made the compilation of such indices feasible.

Today, virtually no area of national life has been left without being probed. We have international rankings on education, disease, poverty, corruption, press freedom, gender empowerment, religious freedom, and even happiness. Only recently, the Global Peace Index 2016 (GPI) — a relatively new area to be measured — was released which warns us how wars are taking us down the path of self-destruction.

The GPI, a product of the IEP (Institute of Economics and Peace, London) will not come as a revelation to those who aren’t too focused on statistics. We all know that violence has escalated worldwide. Terrorism is at historical levels; in 2014 alone, it took a toll of 30,000 lives. Battle deaths are at a 25-year high, resulting in the displacement of some 60 million people. This bodes ill for the future of humankind. What is, however, significant is that all countries ranked low by this index are invariably at the bottom of all lists.

How does Pakistan fare? Trailing at 153 out of the 163 states ranked, it has all the negative traits the report warns us against. This is not surprising for we figure equally poorly in all other indices.

The emphasis of ‘positive peace’ is on ensuring society’s security.

The fact is that human life cannot be sliced into segments with one part doing very well and the other being in an appalling state. The abundance of analysis of data we are exposed to proves beyond doubt that one sector of life interacts with another, creating a holistic impact on the entire nation.

Hence policymakers should take the information and its analysis seriously when planning their strategies. Take the GPI for instance. It says that for peace to become a permanent feature in the life of a state there are certain qualities that must be promoted on an ongoing basis. This is termed as ‘positive peace’ which is defined as the “attitudes, institutions and structures” that sustain peaceful societies. These focus on achieving “acceptance of the rights of others”, “low levels of corruption”, “free flow of information” and a “well-functioning government”.

If these features are present the other goals stressed by the GPI — meeting citizens’ needs and resolving their grievances without the use of violence — will be addressed in the normal course of things.

Societies that observe positive peace principles are more “peaceable” and cohesive. We tend to neglect the basic fact that it is the instability and uncertainty in their lives that drives people to violence. Lack of control over one’s life deprives a person of equanimity of mind. Hence the emphasis of ‘positive peace’ is on ensuring safety and security in society. This is possible only if citizens are provided social justice that guarantees their basic rights to health, education, shelter and employment. Inequality is another factor that robs large sections of underprivileged humanity of their self-esteem leaving them angry and humiliated and prone to acting violently. We see this happening in Pakistan all the time.

The state itself is often responsible for denying its people the safety and security that they are entitled to. That is not all. We are also seen as promoting violence by allowing weaponisation in society to go unchecked and not lessening tensions with neighbours. Since its birth the country has never been conflict-free for a long stretch of time. It has seen wars and been in the grip of domestic con­flict basically because of political instability and the failure of our leadership — both civilian and military. Our foreign policy has often been criticised. This, together with the feeble efforts put in for achieving political, economic and social strength, has paved the way for the security establishment to take charge.

A study of the GPI establishes that these factors have been present in abundance in all the countries that are at the tail end of the index. Thus along with Pakistan, four other countries — Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Nigeria — have contributed to 78 per cent of deaths resulting from global terrorism.

There are two other factors that characterise the 11 least peaceful countries in the list. First, all of them have suffered some form of military and political meddling in their affairs by the US that has set the tone of war and peace in the region.

Second, with the exception of three in these 11 countries, all of them have a Muslim majority. It would be instructive for researchers to study the impact of the United States’ presence on peace in distant regions and the link between religion and war.

Source: Dawn

Continue reading “Measuring peace”

Catch ’em young

ACCORDING to Unesco’s Global Education Monitoring Report [GEMR] 2016 released recently, only two-thirds of children worldwide would have completed primary schooling by 2030, the deadline set by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

The report also stresses the need for human dignity, social inclusiveness and equity in education so that economic growth does not intensify inequalities in society but empowers everyone. For this, Unesco calls on policymakers to adopt new approaches and fundamentally change their thinking on education. Thus it hopes to create a safer, greener and fairer planet for all. Continue reading “Catch ’em young”

Organ donation

index 2

By Zubeida Mustafa

ABDUL Sattar Edhi, the iconic humanitarian, who passed on recently, has been highly eulogised all over Pakistan and beyond. He has also received accolades for something more. He donated his corneas after death which bestowed the gift of sight on two visually impaired people.

Edhi’s donation was of immense importance. Coming from a person held in such admiration by all, his example has inspired many. That is what we need today — heroes who lead by example and not words alone. As it is, Edhi was a man of few words. Continue reading “Organ donation”

Re-configuring the MQM


By Rifaat Hamid Ghani

guest-contributorOn August 22 the MQM’s almost week-old peaceful rather low-key ‘fast-unto-death’ outside Karachi’s Press Club erupted into obedient frenzy at the urging of its remote-controlling leader, himself safely enshrined in London. That sacred cow of democracy, the media, had the premises of two big-time TV houses—- located a virtual stone’s throw away—- stormed: live.

The Press Club is at once at the commercial, official, industrial and historic heart of Karachi. Sticks and stones breaking bones; baton charges; arson: The impact of the vicious unruly mob was instantly apparent—- panicking people thronging the markets, and obstructing hordes heading home from work. The resultant traffic jam was rapid and extensive. LEAs heading to the rescue were also caught in it. More than a handful badly injured; one dead; another dying: Probably the whole of Pakistan’s TV audience witnessed the rampage vicariously and read tickers of the concern being voiced by the President; PM; military top brass and prominent politicians. The CM, the DG Rangers, officials and functionaries visited the trouble-spot. The interior minister intended phoning officialdom in London, where MQM’s Altaf Hussain has long been a British resident, turned citizen. Continue reading “Re-configuring the MQM”

Going solar

Sharing the cool
Sharing the cool

By Zubeida Mustafa

ONE of the promises which every government that comes into office in Pakistan holds out to the people is that it will end load-shedding. Deadlines are announced but not met. Waiting for uninterrupted power supply from the grid is like waiting for Godot.

The government continues to reiterate its pledge to provide sustainable, affordable and reliable electricity to the people and hopes to add 10,400 megawatts to the national grid by 2017. Will it? The circular debt keeps mounting and the promised level playing field is nowhere in sight. Heavy load-shedding continues to be the lot of the low-income areas. Continue reading “Going solar”

Why us?

pakistan-mpi-squareBy Zubeida Mustafa

SINCE June, the Pakistan government has been patting itself on the back. Multidimensional poverty (MP) has fallen from 55pc to nearly 40pc in the country since 2004, we are being told. Of course it is admitted that there are districts where poverty is as high as over 90 per cent (Qila Abdullah in Balochistan) today. But in Punjab only 31pc are impoverished. Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi have an MPI (multidimensional poverty index) of 10pc. Continue reading “Why us?”