Review: Etienne and the Angry Dot

Etienne and the Angry Dot

FOR all the children of the world – be they in the West or the East, in Pakistan or in the US – the pandemic lockdown has been a trying time. Their lives have changed drastically. They cannot go out and play as they have normally done.

 Those who are young can’t even understand what is happening and why. Even those who are old enough to read books or listen to stories from their mothers are at a loss because this new phenomenon has not been written about much and definitely not from the point of view of young readers.

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It’s not cricket

By Rifaat Hamid Ghani

THE cricket metaphor in political comment is by now so over-stretched as to have become even more applicable to the ruling party. Heaven and Pemra forbid that one has match-fixing; ball-tampering; tergiversating umpires or a well-prepared pitch in mind. Doctoring is for Shaukat Khanum and spectators realise home-ground is home-ground and competitors are opponents if not encroachers: Wipe ‘em out! However, it does happen that a match becomes a foregone conclusion and spectator interest sinks.

          It is humbling to think our government of the day derives its political mystique from an endearing playboy captain who won the cricket World Cup for Pakistan about thirty years ago. Is it reassuring or alarming that it took that long for the cup of national gratitude to overflow? Or can it indicate that once the cup over-floweth there is demand for another vessel? After all there are many sports: We were once Olympians at hockey, and had as good as a dynastic monopoly on squash. Admittedly, those champions were not Oxbridge or Ivy league, or even, come to think of it, madressa alumni. Still, there is consolation for advocates of non-cricketing political gaming that the PML(N) does have hockey linkages: think Gulu Butt and Supreme Court compounds. And, for good measure, it has indigenous free-style wrestling champions in the family.  For that other out-fielded grassroots mainstream party, the PPP; the only gaming metaphor that comes to mind is depressingly cerebral: Chess. How to read the fact that ZAB didn’t need sporting skills to make it to Oxford and political distinction, and for his heirs Benazir and Bilawal, Oxbridge was as good as a birthright. Politics it would appear is not the only thing that is dynastic: brain and brawn are too. Together (though not virtually) they make an unbeatable combination. But then they are seldom long enough on the same page.

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The missing girls

By Zubeida Mustafa

SINCE 1986, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has acted as a conscience keeper of the nation. Its flagship, the annual State of Human Rights in Pakistan, should jolt any government out of its stupor.

How did this government respond to the latest report? The human rights ministry, headed by Shireen Mazari, had a knee-jerk reaction and apparently without reading the report carefully issued a statement accusing the HRCP of having “overlooked several major milestones towards securing and safeguarding the rights of vulnerable groups” in 2019. It even questioned the ‘intent’ of the HRCP.

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Posthumous works

By Zubeida Mustafa

THE world would have been denied the richness and scholarship of some of Franz Kafka’s literary work — especially The Metamorphosis — had his friend and executor, Max Brod, not decided to ignore Kafka’s instruction in his will to destroy the unpublished manuscripts he left behind. Kafka died young in 1924.

Other writers have generally been pragmatic by not leaving a will. There are quite a number of them though we hardly note it. Albert Camus’ A Happy Death as well as Agatha Christie’s Sleeping Murder saw the light of day when the authors were no more.

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Media mechanics

By Rifaat Hamid Ghani

Recently, in the course of a nationwide ‘telethon’ we heard the PM’s views on the media, an illustrious maulana’s views on the media; and after due pause some media responses thereto on the media; sometimes we even hear viewers’ views on the media: when and how it proffers the platform. Ah there’s the rub! The electronic media’s message and the messenger—irrespective of the guiding principle—are selective and selected. In all fairness is there any way it can be otherwise? Ultimately, the viewer’s choice—his selection—is limited to switching channels or switching off. Not so the State: it can control, project, promote, expunge, exclude, omit, invent, compel.

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GMO or organic?

By Zubeida Mustafa

TIME and tide — and also season and weather — wait for no man. Taking this truism to heart, the government decided to move on a vital agricultural sector that has never failed to stir controversy. That is cotton production — the key cash crop for our economy. This time the government has decided to be discreet and avoid ‘unnecessary’ publicity.

Foremost came the devastating news that Pakistan had once again fallen short of the target set for cotton production this year as disclosed by the Pakistan Cotton Ginners Association in January. Only 8.3 million bales were produced as against 10.4m last year. Cotton production has been on the decline for more than a decade. Punjab, the province which has the largest share of the country’s cotton, has obviously suffered the most. It has also seen a fall in the area under cultivation and yield per acre.

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How we survive

By Zubeida Mustafa

IN these trying times of lockdowns, I have found relief in books. Currently, Michelle Obama has brought me the comfort I was looking for. America’s former first lady’s memoir, Becoming, grips your attention with its lucid style. It also gives you a graphic insight into the life of the African-American community, whose struggle has fascinated me since Martin Luther King made his famous ‘I have a dream’ speech more than 50 years ago.

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Pandemicitis

By Rifaat Hamid Ghani

VIRAL fear is experienced by young and old alike globally – but not uniformly. Viral pandemic, it is certified, Covid-19 is also a search engine on the stratifications of globalization. The impact is manifold and varied culturally and economically, and we may only learn empirically if there are any impermeable layers. There is interaction and adaptation; yet there may be responses and outcomes that will never be felt in common and so a separate-ness be reaffirmed.

Time to ponder

By Zubeida Mustafa

HERE is something to take your mind off the novel coronavirus pandemic that has overwhelmed the globe. I would like to take you to another world — the world of education. It is too early to speculate about the post-virus age. We can, however, use the opportunity provided by the lockdown to ponder issues pertaining to education. The fact is that they have never received much thought.

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Karachi, Karachi

By Rifa’at Hamid Ghani

‘Karachi, no one owns this city’, is yet another of the doleful explanatory clichés about the metropolis. Yet Karachi might be better off if it was left alone for a bit – at present it continues to be what it has long been: a battleground for civic and political ownership. Despite the pitiable state it has been reduced to by its varied custodians it remains a prize — demographically and thence politically — and always geo-strategically — as a port.

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