Saving mothers

By Zubeida Mustafa

TWENTY years ago, nearly 400 mothers out of 100,000 giving birth in Pakistan died. This phenomenon, referred to as the maternal mortality rate, has come down to 178 per 100,000 today. This is remarkable progress when seen in our own context. One may attribute this to better childbirth practices and immunisation of expectant mothers.

Continue reading Saving mothers

Trump’s Ignorance Touches Off a New Crisis in Kashmir

By Zubeida Mustafa

South Asia is again in crisis and could be on the brink of war. For the second time in six months, the world is on tenterhooks, waiting to see what turn events will take. Because the two antagonists are armed with nuclear weapons, the possibility of a confrontation is taken seriously. And as has happened before, Kashmir is at the center of the dispute that has kept India and Pakistan at loggerheads for over 70 years.

Continue reading Trump’s Ignorance Touches Off a New Crisis in Kashmir

Love of English

By Zubeida Mustafa

ONE reason why our education system is going to the dogs is that our policymakers earnestly believe that to be meaningful, education must be serious and dull. They think that a student enjoying herself in class is not learning anything. That would explain why our classrooms are generally not intellectually lively and why our students learn so little.

Having said this, I will ask the question I had asked in my earlier column, ‘Books are fun’: can a child enjoy any activity in a language she cannot understand? The answer is so obvious that it amounts to insulting the readers’ intelligence and I am sorry for raising this question again. Yet our schools insist on teaching small children in a language they do not understand and enjoy. In Karachi, with the exception of public-sector schools and some NGO-run educational institutions such as TCF, the medium of instruction is either English or a hybrid of Urdu-English because the teachers know no better. The worst part is that all the reading and writing is done in English because the textbooks used are in English.

Continue reading Love of English

Of cuts and balancing

By Zubeida Mustafa

Was it a coincidence? Or a case of action and reaction? To a casual  observer of the scene, there may have been a connection. That is how the scene played itself out. It was a balmy Sunday afternoon two days before Eid, and the occasion was a panel discussion on the economy  at the T2F. Former PTI Finance Minister, Asad Umar, was being grilled rigorously about his government’s policy vis-à-vis the IMF.  His interrogators were Pakistan’s two top-ranking economists, Kaiser Bengali and Akbar Zaidi.

Continue reading Of cuts and balancing

Books are fun

By Zubeida Mustafa

RECENTLY I decided to have some fun with books and children. Isn’t that a paradox? We are perpetually told that our children do not read books. So how could I even think of combining the two and call it fun? But believe me, it was fun. I decided right away against any boring imposition on the children. No speeches on how wonderful books are. Let them discover this for themselves.

My friend Farida Akbar, a trainer of Montessori teachers, and I held a session during the summer programme of a school for underprivileged children where I teach English to Grade 9 students on a voluntary basis.

Continue reading Books are fun

Accountability

By Rifaat Hamid Ghani

               SETTING aside the particularities of NAB and the context of specific tenures and incumbents, what does ‘accountable’ connote more generally? Housewives for instance take accounts/hisab daily: How much money was spent on the alu, matar, daal; is it actually the weight and price charged? Double-check! If there are discrepancies who is cheating or being fooled? The cook? His favourite sabziwalla? Are they in cahoots? If the cook is to blame he is replaced, and possibly the grocer and butcher as well: produce at another shop is the same price and better quality. Punishment and investigation are linked to forestalling recurrence.  

          What if a negligent housewife suddenly wakes up and finds she has been cheated by a series of cooks over years of poorly supervised housekeeping?

Continue reading Accountability

Joy of giving

By Zubeida Mustafa

PAKISTAN is a bundle of contradictions. We have acquired the latest technologies in medical fields. But we have failed to keep pace with these changes. In fact, socially, we have stagnated if not actually regressed.

Take the case of organ transplantation, which has made great headway in the country thanks to the Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation. The institute provides free treatment to nearly 2.6 million patients every year, and performs 350 kidney transplantations from live-related donors. The SIUT also provides free-of-cost, lifelong healthcare to the donors as well as the recipients.

Continue reading Joy of giving

Amazed in the maze


By Rifaat Hamid Ghani   

Pakistan’s democratic advances and retreats are usually perceived in terms of a tussle between power-belts: a civilian establishment comprised of what– post lateral-entry– we may no longer justly call mandarins, enabled by and facilitating administration and policy for an electorally empowered party leadership: now called chors and dakkus. (Party activists, dissidents, and turncoats of lesser stature we could soon be calling raillu kattas.)  In the scales for charge of the governmental process is the military establishment.

We still term it the khakis. Notwithstanding the fact that the last military coup was essentially a day-long airborne drama, those clad in blue and white do not emerge as coup-Caesars. Perhaps what really matters is what you have on the ground — or the ground realities of the political field.  What are these and who determines them? Supposedly in the electoral democratic process the voters. But who enfranchises and disenfranchises?

Continue reading Amazed in the maze

No guns, please

By Zubeida Mustafa

QAMAR Zaman is the father of an infant boy. He works in Karachi’s Defence Authority’s Phase 4 Commercial Area. He had just finished his duty at 6pm on June 10 and had stopped to purchase vegetables for his wife to cook for dinner, when he was knocked out by a hail of gunshots. For him everything went black thereafter.

He later learnt that a guard before a mobile shop close by had accidentally pulled the trigger claiming that he did not know that his gun was loaded. He had just received the weapon from his colleague who was going off-duty.

Continue reading No guns, please

GMO tug of war

By Zubeida Mustafa

WHY should an official of the US Embassy, representing the Department of Agriculture, be going overboard to ‘collaborate’ with Pakistan on projects involving genetically modified maize? This unwanted advice seems to be seedy business at a time when there is a tug of war taking place between various lobbies in the agricultural sector.

Even more regrettable is that in the past such dubious overtures by biotech giants have been extended to too many people whose integrity is in doubt. Quite a few were elected representatives of the people who went ahead to change the Seed Act in 2016. The legality of this move has now been challenged by the farmers in a court of law. The amendments in the act paved the ground for introducing GM seeds in the country.

Moves are now afoot to win over opinion in the quarters that matter. This time the target is maize, one of our best food crops next to wheat and rice. The battleground is in the highest quarters. Pakistan produced 6.1 million tonnes of maize in 2018 showing a yield per hectare of 5MT (about 2MT per acre). This was 2MT in 2003. The Philippines which switched over to GM corn in 2003 could increase its yield per hectare from 2MT to only 3MT in the same period.

Continue reading GMO tug of war