No science culture

By Zubeida Mustafa

PAKISTAN’S first Nobel Laureate, Prof Abdus Salam, constantly lamented our failure to promote science. His contributions to theoretical physics apart, he was a powerful advocate of science and research. For decades, even after he had left Pakistan in protest, Salam’s love for his homeland and concern for his government’s failure to promote science was undiminished. He continued to plead the case for science through his speeches, writings and the institutions he founded, till he died in 1996.

It is a pity that 18 years after his death, science in Pakistan continues to languish as the neglected stepchild of state and society. It never recovered from the severe blow it suffered under Ziaul Haq’s Islamisation and anti-education policies. Not that science and research had received preferential treatment at any stage, but today their survival is endangered. Continue reading

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Pakistan’s Youth: The Light at the End of the Tunnel

By Zubeida Mustafa

The so-called youth bulge in Pakistan has now become visible. One young woman making news around the world of late is 17-year-old Malala Yusufzai, who was named the youngest-ever winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in early October.

Not that Pakistan has not been a young country for several decades. The country’s high population growth rate over the 1980s and 1990s means more than a quarter of the country’s population of 182 million today is between 15 and 29 years of age, which is how youth is defined by the United Nations. However, it is only in times of turbulence, as Pakistan is experiencing at present, that the youth’s presence has become pronounced. Two democratic elections in a row – in 2008 and 2013— have focused public attention on young voters.In the May 2013 general election it is said that about a third of the registered voters were under 29 (that worked out to 25 million in absolute numbers) and many of them would be casting ballots for the first time. The political parties took note, and all of them included plans for the youth in their election manifestos. Continue reading

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How Young Pakistanis Help Themselves

By Nudrat Kamal The challenges that Pakistan’s young people face today are significant and pervasive, and can be addressed only through sweeping systemic changes. Notwithstanding these challenges, many young people are defying great odds to become conscientious and engaged members … Continue reading

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Creating a Safe Haven for Pakistan’s Youth

By Nudrat Kamal

geust-contSohail Rahi, 44, and Nadeem Baig, 45, the duo who established the Lyari Youth Cafe in Karachi, Pakistan in 2012, were in their twenties when they first took up the cause of the youth in their neighborhood. In 1990, they began organizing street schools to make education accessible to the underprivileged boys and girls of Lyari. Two years ago, the idea of the street schools was developed further, and the Youth Café was launched.

When I visited them recently, we sat on the rooftop of the two-story building in the heart of the city’s bustling Lyari neighborhood that houses their brainchild. On one end of the roof is a small kitchen designed to provide free tea and coffee to visitors. The remaining area has small tables and chairs. On the floors below are makeshift desks where free classes are held for local children. The walls are covered with bright handmade posters proclaiming messages of peace and positivity Continue reading

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People’s power

By ZubeidaMustafa

THE buzzword these days is ‘empowerment’ and there is a lot of talk about empowering the people. The most vocal are political leaders who use the term randomly as a strategy to empower themselves politically.

True empowerment, however, envisages equipping people with tools they can use to achieve a decent life for themselves and their families which can be got through education, employment, healthcare, a roof above their heads and the sense of dignity they acquire when they do not have to be permanently dependent on others to sustain themselves. An example of how people are empowered pertains to the Ali Hasan Mangi Memorial Trust which was set up by Mr Mangi’s granddaughter Naween to draw out the innate capacity of the 3,500-strong community of Khairo Dero to uplift itself.

The main tools that have been identified by the trust for empowerment are education, literacy, healthcare, microcredit for income generation and building homes and getting water supply and sanitation on a self-help basis. The fact is that until the basic needs of a people are met and a sense of security provided to them, they cannot strive for higher goals. AHMMT works, as its vision statement says, with the aim of building a “model village that can be replicated”. Continue reading

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Nobel for Malala

By Zubeida Mustafa

EDUCATION, or rather the lack of it, in Pakistan has made world headlines on a number of occasions. Last week, the issue was once again in the limelight, but with a positive twist. Malala Yousafzai, our young campaigner for education, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Malala has done us proud as did Prof Abdus Salam 35 years ago when he became Pakistan’s first Nobel laureate (for physics).

Malala’s commitment to campaigning for girls’ education and her fearlessness in defying the Taliban have made her an icon. In spite of the danger to her life, she challenged the militants and their perverse mindset that led them to blow up hundreds of schools in the country. She has inspired many girls in Pakistan. Today, this inspiration is needed not so much to convince girls that education can empower them, as to instil the courage in them to resist the brutal opposition they face from vested anti-social elements, and not just the Taliban and their ilk. Continue reading

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Elusive goals

mdg

By Zubeida Mustafa

WITH Pakistan more concerned about the existential threat it faces, one is hardly surprised that not much is heard of the MDGs — those elusive eight points called the Millennium Development Goals adopted by the UN in 2000 to be met in 15 years. The deadline is approaching and it is time for scrutiny of the report card.

How has the world fared on this count? The UN MDG report of 2014 observes that these goals have made a “profound difference in people’s lives and the first goal of halving poverty was achieved five years ahead of the 2015 time frame. Ninety per cent of children in developing regions now enjoy primary education, and disparities between boys and girls in enrolment have narrowed”.

It speaks of remarkable gains having also been made in all health indicators. According to the UN, the target of halving the proportion of people who lack access to improved sources of water has also been met. The UN, however, concludes that a lot more still needs to be done to accelerate progress. As it is, the goals did not seek universal coverage in all sectors. Every goal had varying targets. If the global results pleased the UN it is understandable. Some countries performed infinitely better than others. Continue reading

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Scottish referendum

Glasgow voted YES in the referendum.- Photo by Shamima Hasan​

By Zubeida Mustafa

LAST week Scotland decided its destiny. It came to the brink of independence and then pulled back. In the closing days of campaigning it was estimated that several thousands of the 4.2 million voters were undecided till the last. When the ballots were cast on Sept 18 over 55pc voted to stay in the union.

The 45pc who voted for change were overruled by the majority and conceded defeat. Alex Salmond, the first minister of Scotland whose Scottish National Party spearheaded the movement for an independent Scotland, announced his decision to step down.

Negotiations will follow in the coming months as more devolution of power is on the cards as has been promised by the Westminster parties in a last-ditch attempt to lure the Scots back from an irrevocable breach. Continue reading

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IS and the youth

liftarn_Person_with_molotov_cocktail

By Zubeida Mustafa

A MAJOR issue being debated in Britain today concerns the Muslims — men and women. It is what is termed the radicalisation of their youth.

Concerns were sparked off by the Islamic State (formerly Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham) when its militants beheaded James Foley, an American journalist covering the war in Syria, and circulated a video of the bestial act. Even before this incident grabbed the headlines, media reports had been suggesting that authorities in London believed that as many as 500 Muslim men with British nationality had left the UK to join the IS ‘jihad’. Continue reading

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Our own Berridales?

Image courtesy mcmom-ents.com

By Zubeida Mustafa

DEMOCRACY is a misunderstood term that has been overused in the discourse surrounding the ongoing political drama in Islamabad.

There have been repeated references to democracy and human rights by the dharna leaders and legislators in parliament, which have only increased myths about these political concepts. No one speaks about the empowerment of the people which should be the aim of democracy — to enable citizens to help themselves and win their rights. This idea appears alien to Pakistan. People’s empowerment is possible without actually bringing about a revolution.

Thousands of miles away from home, I find business to be as usual in Glasgow, a city at present in the grip of Scotland’s independence referendum debate. For me this was an opportunity to observe the Scottish way of life. Last Saturday, courtesy Irene, to whom I had been introduced earlier, I spent some time at the ‘Open Day’ of the Berridale Allotments and Gardens which is a project that can be emulated by us with due indigenisation to empower urban women. Continue reading

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