Change and the X factor

By Rifaat Hamid Ghani

Imran Khan, if not compulsively destructive, is emblematic of change that is vested in rejection – a valid enough one of the misgovernment and self-enrichment of a power elite installed and sustained by preceding democratic electoral mandates. But rejection is only part of that process of change: the other part is replacement. Inevitably the electorate queries: Since you have removed the mafia dons and taken charge, what are you doing and what you have brought in? Also, what (if any) kind of ‘garbage’ disposal system does a getting-to-be-old new administration have in mind if what it rendered political ‘waste’ is not bio-degradable electorally?

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Toilet troubles

By Zubeida Mustafa

IN 2004, nine years before the UN designated Nov 19 World Toilet Day, I visited Bombay to attend the World Social Forum. Early in the morning on the second day of our arrival in the port city, Rabeeya, another member of the Pakistan delegation, and I decided to take a stroll along the beach while our colleagues slept.

As we reached the sandy shores we encountered a bizzare sight. We saw hordes and hordes of what looked like pelicans perched on the edge of the waters. I was fascinated until Rabeeya squealed with horror. What my failing vision saw as pelicans were actually men — hundreds if not thousands of them — squatting on the beach to relieve themselves. I was shocked beyond belief.

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Free from fear

By Zubeida Mustafa

DR Shershah Syed is a gynaecologist with a heart — and his heart has no fear. His claim to fame rests with his monumental services to underprivileged women suffering from fistula who would otherwise have been condemned as outcasts for the rest of their lives. Fistula is caused by prolonged labour in childbirth when the bladder is punctured causing urine to leak all the time.

Shershah’s battles for the cause of medical education in Pakistan have also brought him into the limelight as has his struggle to save the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council from the avarice of the power-hungry.

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Digital vs books

By Zubeida Mustafa

FIRST it was television. Then came the internet. Our old and familiar friend — the book — has had many detractors. When television made its debut in Pakistan in the mid-1960s it was generally said that the idiot box had pulled away readers from their books. Now this charge is levelled against the digital medium. But the fact is that Pakistan has never been famous for its reading culture.

This has been my observation of decades that our society has an aversion for the printed word as testified by our high illiteracy rate. Ask any librarian, bookseller or publisher and s/he will confirm it. The only books that sell are textbooks and the key/guide books, that should actually be banned. What would teachers do then? Believe me, they are the ones who depend on them more than the children.

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Coach Emad

By Zubeida Musrafa

LYARI and Boston. A world separates them. But they have a common connection. Coach Emad. That was the young man of 24 with a passion for football. He passed away in May 2018 leaving his family shattered. He died “of suicide”. That is how his mother, Atia Naqvi, a psychologist, puts it.

Mental illness is on the rise in our society, she tells me. It can lead to suicide. Yet we do not want to talk about it because of the double stigma. Mental illness is “disgraceful” but suicide is worse.

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Religious politics

By Rifaat Hamid Ghani

                    Of course Muslims feel that Islam is one as conveyed by its Holy Prophet (PBUH) in Quranic revelation, and concretized by his exemplary life. But apart from podium oratory, reality demands the qualification that, as apparent in contemporary practice, this singleness emerges in the fact of variously distinct manifold ‘ones’: individual understanding and schools of interpretation are separate and differ.

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A forest or more?

By Zubeida Mustafa

KARACHI is a concrete jungle which could do with a more generous touch of nature. But this is wishful thinking on my part considering the neglect and corruption that characterises the city’s administration.

According to a report, the KMC has 152 parks — rather plots earmarked for parks, most of them undeveloped — under its control. District South alone is said to have 71 amenity plots that include parks and open spaces. Amber Alibhai, secretary general of Shehri, gives me details of District South. She says that KDA’s idea was to develop this district as a natural recreation area for the citizens of Karachi who visit the adjoining sea beaches. The KMC failed to do its job.

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Ambivalence

By Rifaat Hamid Ghani                  

  We have so many regulatory bodies, inquiry commissions, supervisors and monitors, that the only reason we don’t keep nervously looking over our shoulders is that we are also on the watch for what could lie ahead.  The ambience is of unfocused anxiety. The analogy of a police state doesn’t come to mind, for the police force too is under scrutiny. However, PEMRA may soon have TV channels genially tell us ‘Big Brother is watching YOU’ for PEMRA is certainly watching them. If they are naughty or complain there could be recourse to a tribunal and the exercise – for this is civil dictation not military – may not be, like General Zia’s 90-day electoral guarantee, liable to indefinite postponement.

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How we grow

By Zubeida Mustafa

MAHNOOR is 13 years. She studies in the afternoon shift of a school in Neelum Colony. Mahnoor is often late for class because she babysits her six-month-old brother. Her mother is a domestic worker and is away from home the whole day. Mahnoor can go to school only when her nine-year-old sibling returns home from his school to take charge of the baby.

The failure of population planning in Pakistan has robbed many Mahnoors of the joy of childhood and has impacted their education. It has also frustrated our policymakers who have another story to tell. The backlog of 22 million out-of-school children in the country may never be wiped out as 4m new aspirants join the list of admission seekers annually. The government’s capacity to open new schools is limited.

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