Monthly Archives: May 2006

Social exclusion is their lot

By Zubeida Mustafa
Source: Dawn

UNICEF’S The State of the World’s Children, 2006 is titled “Excluded and Invisible”. The authors of the report define those children as excluded and invisible who are deemed to be at risk of missing out on an environment that protects them from violence, abuse and exploitation.

Those children are also considered to be excluded if they are unable to access essential services in a way that threatens their ability to participate fully in society in the future. Keeping this definition in mind one wonders how many children in Pakistan would qualify as ‘excluded’.

In the physical sense, children’s “visibility” in our society is very high. You see them everywhere, even in places where they should not be seen — on the streets, in workplaces, in garbage dumps, and even in battle zones. With 4.7 million children born every year and nearly 71 million Pakistanis being under 18 years of age (about a third of them under five) it is not surprising that the physical presence of children is so noticeable. Yet a huge majority of them qualify as being defined as excluded.
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Creating a library culture

By Zubeida Mustafa
Source: Dawn

THE news from the library front in Karachi will not cheer the bibliophiles. The plan for a library, that had been promised way back in 1991 by mayor Farooq Sattar who had earmarked for it a three-acre plot of land in Gulshan-i-Iqbal near the Nipa Chowrangi, has now been dropped.

A hospital is to be built there instead. Fifteen years ago, a lot of fanfare had attended the launching of this scheme that was to be designated a city library. Architects were invited to submit designs for this institution and three entries were selected for prizes worth Rs 100,000. The building plan was approved.
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Not a caring state at all

Reviewed By Zubeida Mustafa
Source: Dawn

THIS is a remarkable book. In just 200-plus pages, it sums up everything that needs to be said about the health sector in Pakistan. It recalls its 50-year history, analyses the factors that have determined the state of the health of the nation, laments the grim statistics,sums up the changes that have taken place — for better or for worse — and makes useful recommendations. Of course, one has to be a die-hard optimist to believe that the sensible advice given by the author will actually be accepted by those who are in the corridors of power.
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Business and charity

By Zubeida Mustafa
Source: Dawn

THE Pakistan Centre for Philanthropy has prepared a report on corporate philanthropy to estimate the volume, patterns and range of ‘giving’ of Public Listed Companies in Pakistan. The findings of the PCP survey are significant as well as interesting. They confirm the changing trends in philanthropy in the country which has captured the interest of the government in a big way.

That is nothing intriguing. The government has been reducing its share in the social sectors which are directly concerned with human resource development. For instance, there was a time in the heyday of socialism when it was considered the responsibility of the government to provide basic education and health care to its citizens. Social welfare, from the cradle to the grave, was considered to be the responsibility of the state. Although Pakistan never succeeded in undertaking this responsibility fully, it did not reject this concept theoretically.
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The other side of press freedom

By Zubeida Mustafa
Source: Dawn

LAST Wednesday was World Press Freedom Day. Observed every year on May 3, since the UN General Assembly designated it so in 1993, the day has served to remind governments and civil society of the importance of the freedom of expression. It is now universally recognised that a free press plays a vital role in strengthening democratic institutions and fostering development around the world.

Yet the right of access to information and press freedom cannot be taken for granted. In fact if anything the IPI’s World Press Freedom Review 2006 shows how this right is flouted in so many countries of the world. This document covers 188 states which include some of those conventionally considered to be the strongholds of press freedom, such as Britain and the Scandinavian countries. Some skeletons in their cupboards have also been exposed.
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The incongruous partnership

Reviewed By Zubeida Mustafa
Source: Dawn

PAKISTAN’S political history has been chequered and turbulent. The failure of its civilian leadership to work out a stable and feasible democratic system has cost the country dear. There have been numerous breakdowns in the constitutional structure while the army has been a frequent intruder in politics. This has been a favourite subject for commentators and analysts to study since the factors that have led to this aberration offer a vast field for research. Even though much has been written about this subject in recent decades, the fund of information and material appears to be inexhaustible.

Recently researchers have attempted to prove that there has been a direct link between the army and the religious parties in Pakistan and this has been at the root of the malaise in the country’s politics. Husain Haqqani, a former activist of the student’s wing of the Jamaat-i-Islami, journalist, adviser to Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif and researcher at the Carnegie Endowment for Peace, is the author of Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military. In this book his thesis is, “The alliance between the mosque and the military has been forged over time, and its character has changed with the twists and turns of Pakistani history.”

Haqqani is not the first one to address this issue. Hassan Abbas, another researcher in an American thinktank, in his book Pakistan’s Drift into Extremism covers the same subject. Both reach a similar conclusion though Haqqani is more convincing because he takes pains to document his sources and gives comprehensive footnotes.

The way for Pakistan to adopt an ideological identity was paved during the freedom struggle and the early years of Pakistan when Islamic rhetoric was lavishly used even by the secularist Mr Jinnah to win Muslim votes for the Muslim League. In the post-1947 years the army which was always in control — until 1958 from behind the scenes — used the Islamic idiom to consolidate its own hold over Pakistan’s politics and also achieve its other aims such as confrontation with India, friendship with the United States and strategic depth via Afghanistan.

Since the army has had the upper hand by virtue of its military power it has sought to impose its institutional supremacy within the country

This equation between the army and the mosque was so firmly entrenched that when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto took over the reins of government in 1972 this pattern did not change. In fact, Bhutto tried to cater to the whims of both sides and enlisted the help of the military as well as the Islamists to sustain himself in power. He protected their interests — the Hamoodur Rehman Commision’s report was kept classified and it was Bhutto who had the Ahmadiyyas declared non-Muslim. To please this civil-military complex he adopted an avidly anti-India stance and diluted his socialist rhetoric with Islamic ideals.

Under Ziaul Haq’s rule, the partnership between the mosque and the military was further consolidated. While the mosques grew in number, the military was kept busy mobilising support for itself, mainly against India and the USSR in Afghanistan. After 1988, when democracy was supposedly restored, the civilian governments of Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif could not resist the military’s pressures and its hold on policy making in areas of its interest such as Afghanistan, Kashmir and the nuclear programme. That is why the Islamic/military strand in Pakistan’s policy remained unchanged throughout the ‘90s.

Since the army has had the upper hand by virtue of its military power, it has sought to impose its institutional supremacy within the country. It has used force to achieve this end. This has created psychological and political layers of insecurity in the nation. The alliance between the mosque and the military, according to the author, maintains and sometimes exaggerates these fears to its advantage. It has proved difficult for the country’s weak, secular civil society to assert itself.

As a result Pakistan has historically suffered from many faultlines and contradictions that have led to instability, insecurity and the breakdown of law and order. Thus there is a perpetual struggle for power between various sections of society — the military and civilian sectors, ethnic groups, provinces and the various schools of Islamists — and the conflicts never seem to be resolved.

In these conditions when the political process has not had a chance of normal development, the American support for the army has had a negative impact on the country’s domestic and foreign policy. For instance, the fear of India and the exaggerated role of Islam in the country’s politics and economy have emerged as key factors in Pakistan’s national life.

That would explain the rationale of many policies adopted by the governments in power. Pakistan’s support for forces which challenged Indian power — the Sikhs, insurgents in Kashmir and the disgruntled neighbouring states — was designed to undermine New Delhi. The military used the Islamists to further its aims.

On its western flank, the army has found the Islamists most useful to acquire strategic depth which it lacks. The early military leaders were trained in the British strategic doctrines and they had failed to enlist the support of the ethnic/racist nationalism. Hence, they sought to appeal to the religious sentiments of the masses and encouraged the Islamists to pursue a forward policy across the Durand Line. In 1973, the Jamaat-i-Islami joined hands with the ISI to operate in Afghanistan. This was much before Kabul fell to the Communists.

Pakistan’s generals who are now entrenched in power have juggled to keep the religious parties in their folds as well as the Americans on board. This has become increasingly difficult after 9/11. In response to President Bush’s “you are with us or against us” ultimatum, President Musharraf has had to end his support for the Taliban and agree to intelligence sharing with the Americans. As a result, Pakistan has become a victim of the Islamists’ wrath.

Very convincingly argued, the book, however, ends on a flawed assumption. Haqqani writes that the Islamists can be contained through democratic means. “Washington should no longer condone the Pakistani military’s support for Islamic militants, its use of its intelligence apparatus for controlling domestic politics, and its refusal to cede power to a constitutional democratic government,” he writes. His argument is that even in 2002 the religious parties could win no more than 11 per cent votes. Therefore, they can easily be sidelined through the ballot box.

But this line of thinking could well be a fallacy. The wave of religiosity and anti-American sentiments that grips the country today could work in favour of the Islamist parties in an election. This has happened before in Algeria and Palestine where extremist Islamic groups won their way to the top through a popular vote. In Algeria, they were not allowed to enter the government but in Palestine the Hamas wields power today. It might already be too late in Pakistan to exclude the Islamists from the state structure through the electoral process.

This is a lucidly written book which sheds light on the complex military-mosque alliance that has shaped Pakistan’s destiny.

Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military
By Husain Haqqani
Vanguard Books, 45 The Mall, Lahore.
Tel: 042-7243783
ISBN 969-402-498-6
397pp. Price not listed

Globalisation and languages

By Zubeida Mustafa
Source: Dawn

AT A conference on elementary education organised recently by the Sindh Education Foundation in Karachi, an issue which came under discussion was that of globalisation and language. In his well researched and enlightening presentation, Dr Tariq Rahman, professor of sociolinguistics at the Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, pointed out the snags in Pakistan’s language policy in education. He also explained how globalisation was affecting the state of languages all over the world.

Quoting Dow Templeton Associates, he said, “English will become the universal language and capitalism will become the dominant social system.” Dr Rahman continued, “If this vision comes true, most languages will die and English will be the great ‘killer’ language. It is already moving towards that role.”
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