Monthly Archives: February 2012

Letter from Haripur jail

By Zubeida Mustafa

I FIRST learnt of Sohail Fida from his fascinating book Soul Unshackled. The book is an autobiographical account of a young man from Swat who lands in prison on false charges of murder and makes a confession extracted through torture when he was not even 18.

While behind bars he finds solace in books — reading them and then going on to write one. Books become the means of his redemption. They facilitate his studies, shape his mind, help him overcome depression brought on by his wrongful confinement and in the span of 12 years — five of them in the death cell — he passes five examinations: Intermediate, BA and three MAs. The son of a petrol station owner, Sohail Fida could build on the schooling he had already received.

What makes this story special is not so much Sohail’s success in his exams as his extraordinary response to his adverse circumstances from April 2000 onwards. Continue reading Letter from Haripur jail

Nadia attends the KLF

By Zubeida Mustafa

ON the weekend of Feb 11-12, the Karachi Literature Festival unveiled a treasure of intellectual delights for the third consecutive year to those who attended.

Graced by eminent writers from Pakistan and abroad with whom one doesn’t always get the opportunity to interact, the event allowed one the luxury of disconnecting oneself — though momentarily — from the brutal realities of life in Karachi.

At the time when Vikram Seth, the author of A Suitable Boy, was engaged in a one-on-one conversation with Prof Shaista Sirajuddin, a few kilometres away, the Defence of Pakistan Council was indulging in India-bashing at its rally near the Quaid-i-Azam’s mausoleum. An umbrella organisation of 40 reactionary parties, including some banned ones, its message was quite the opposite of the themes the KLF was expounding.
Continue reading Nadia attends the KLF

Pakistan’s struggles with democracy

Nearly nine years after I joined Dawn in 1975, Pakistan’s most respected and widely circulated English language newspaper, a young woman came to this newspaper’s office looking for a job. She had studied in the US and had worked for a paper there. She had also written for Dawn and I was quite familiar with her writings. Since Dawn had started opening its doors to women and Nafisa Hoodbhoy (that was the name of the young journalist), had proved her mettle in journalism she was taken without much fuss.
Continue reading Pakistan’s struggles with democracy

The polio story

By Zubeida Mustafa

PAKISTAN has failed to educate its children. It is now failing to protect them from communicable diseases like poliomyelitis, an untreatable crippling disease caused by a virus.

Preventive vaccines have however been developed and large regions of the world have been declared polio-free. It is, therefore, a pity that Pakistan is losing its war against polio. A spate of stories in the print media lately point to this tragedy. This is not at all surprising, given our criminal neglect of the health sector.

What is the polio story? When Pakistan launched itself on the long road to polio eradication in 1994, it showed remarkable success. It set up an effective surveillance cell and national immunisation days were undertaken. Continue reading The polio story

Freedom or license for TV?

By Zubeida Mustafa

THERE is much to be cherished about the freedom that our media, especially the electronic media, has come to enjoy. The extent to which this freedom — it was called licence in earlier days — has gone is provoking a debate. This is a positive development because there are some media heavyweights who are now ready to admit that something is amiss.

When critics first started speaking up against the electronic media a few years ago, the issue that gave rise to controversy was the portrayal of violence. The Pakistan Medical Association raised this issue and invited some journalists for a dialogue to explain how scenes of violence impacted on the minds of young children. Continue reading Freedom or license for TV?

Teachers who cannot teach

By Zubeida Mustafa

THE Annual Status of Education Report 2011 (ASER) — the second in a row — that was launched last week should be an eye-opener for those who do not know much about how the children of the ‘other’ learn.

In a country where even the decennial census cannot be held on time for fear of the truth being exposed, credit should be given to the group of courageous educationists who undertook this massive exercise to assess the knowledge of our schoolchildren. Surveying 146,874 children (three- to 16-year-olds) in 84 rural and three urban districts, Continue reading Teachers who cannot teach

So your child will be starting school – what language will he learn?

By Zubeida Mustafa

When your child is old enough to go to school and you are planning the start of a new adventure in his life and your own, you would do well to learn something about the role of language in learning. His success in life would depend on that. As the school-going age becomes younger and younger and the demand on nursery pupils and pre-schoolers increases, the quest for knowledge about language has acquired a new urgency.

What is most surprising is that parents weigh all the pros and cons that have a direct bearing on their child’s formal education and his future but they remain so misinformed about language acquisition. They look into the school environment, its pedagogy, the teachers’ approach, teaching aids used, etc. However when it comes to language, they just want to be sure that English is the language their child will be taught. Continue reading So your child will be starting school – what language will he learn?