Monthly Archives: June 2013

Who shapes health policies?

By Zubeida Mustafa

IN a country where policies are formulated in an ad hoc fashion and are designed to promote the interests of a vested class rather than of the people as a whole, it is creditable that there are researchers trying to inject some rationality into the decision-making process.

That is how I see the move by the Research and Development Solutions, an organisation working on collecting information, analysing it and sharing it with concerned parties. ResDev’s focus is on health, specifically maternal and reproductive health and immunisation. Above all, the research is done professionally under the director Dr Adnan Khan.

And who would deny that our health policy making leaves a lot to be desired? With a measly 0.7pc of GDP being assigned for the health sector in the official budget, Pakistanis end up incurring the heaviest out-of-pocket expenditure on health in South Asia. It does leave one wondering as to how policies are made.

ResDev’s latest research promises to be an innovative one and might prove to be very revealing as well. Continue reading Who shapes health policies?

A Gentle Heart Has Been Stopped

PerweenAquila Ismail
Karachi, Pakistan

The butterfly counts not months but moments and has time enough…Tagore


“Apu! You’re here! Great!” That’s how my little sister Perween would greet me every time I arrived at her door from Abu Dhabi at 3:00 in the morning, followed by hugs and kisses. The fragrance of her embrace would right every little grievance that I had with the world. She had a habit of doing this smile with a tilt of her head that renewed life and plunged me into a world of twinkling eyes, melodious chimes of her bangles, peals of laughter, and high fives.

The sentence that invariably followed was,

“Apu, I have to meet someone from the KWSB/Goth [village]/Union council/etc. in the morning, so I will leave early and come back early.”

Knowing fully well the answer, I would ask, “How early?”

“By six for sure!”

“Oh, Perween can’t you take half a day off? Just once…” Asking her to take a whole day off was a non-starter. So the negotiation would begin with half a day.

“I can, Apu, not today, but I promise on Friday!!”

Friday was already half a day at work, “Okay, on Friday when will you be back?”

I had to take whatever crumbs she offered.

“I will start for the office at 6 and be home by 5 and then we can go out. Let’s go out and have chaat and paani puri. We can give Ammi her ice cream.”

Half a day was coming home at five when every day it was six.

Okay, Perween, Friday it is. I hope you will take Sunday off at least.”

“Of course, Apu. You know I never work on Sundays. Can we watch a film Saturday night?”

“Which one?” This was asked not so much out of a need to obtain the DVD but the trepidation that it would be a silly film full of song and dance, knowing Perween’s love for MTV. “I don’t want to see these tragic tear-jerking films. They are so unreal. I don’t think there is so much desperation in the world,” she would say.

“But life is like that, is it not?” The cynic in me would reply.

“Not at all. Everyone tries to make the best of their lives.”

So we would end up watching a rollicking masala Indian film with the stammering don et al., or a film like “I Bought a Zoo,” about animals and hope.

I would lie in bed watching her morning ritual with a statuette of Buddha looking on as well. This would begin with greetings by birds chirping in her garden on bushes of red and yellow exora, hibiscus flowers, graceful palms, butterflies, and clay figurines of ducks and elephants. Her bed was right alongside a window to the garden and the curtains were never drawn. The cats who slept on her bed, one at her feet, the other by her head, would begin their call for food and she would tell them to be patient until she had washed her face and brushed her teeth. They never ever listened, so with hair flowing, admonishing the cats, she would head to the kitchen to dole out their food. Added to the two permanent feline members of the family were the disabled, sick, or injured kittens she would pick up on her way to and from her OPP office in Qasba Colony, Orangi. The mornings then would also be time to check their health status and given Calpol when she thought they were feverish. The washerman’s donkey got hooked on the medicine and would not leave until given a dose each Friday, and Perween despaired that she had created an addict.

Ammi would then be asked to get up and commence her day. The sun did not rise for her until Perween said it did. They would sit for breakfast with Perween in a direct visual line with the dining room window, which was abounding with red, pink, and white fragrant jhumka flowers, yellow flowers of the radhachura, and trailing vines with heart-shaped leaves. The table was surrounded by blue, rust, and yellow pottery, vases, and pitchers and plates on the floor, sideboard, and shelf, interspersed with plants growing in bottles. She had brought these from the numerous trips to towns and cities of Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Punjab to meet the partners who shared the OPP methodology. Her best friend and colleague Anwar Rashid would always accompany her.

I had gone along on several trips to attend the Community Development Network meetings: to Khairpur where we paid homage at the tomb of Sachal Sarmast, felt the injustice in the dismal rooms of Faiz Mahal, and marveled at the majesty of the quarry of Aror; to a village near Hala where we were told, without being asked, by the man in Ray Ban glasses who drove us there, that there was no kari kari in ‘his’ goth. The women we met did not meet our eyes when we asked them if this was true. We went to the banks of the Indus in Sakkur, where we sat by the boats of the Mohannas. We saw and bought the most exquisite rallis made by women in Sinjhoro; in Uch the meeting was held in the shadow of the striking tomb of Bibi Jawandi. We ate street food in Lahore, and walked in the dappled sunlight with the peacocks in Tharparker.

In 2004 my daughters Saima and Sahar were to go to the United States to pursue their studies, and Perween’s goodbye present to them was a trip to Bhitshah. She wanted them to remember the sufi tradition of Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai, whose songs to the seven queens of Sindh, Moomal, Sassui, Heer, Lila, Soroth, Marvi, and Sohni spoke of their beauty and purity of heart through the ragas that bore their name. Anwar Rashid joked that if Perween had lived in the days of Bhitai Shah there would surely have been a raga for her, probably called sur muskkurahat, the song of smiles!

In Bhitsah while climbing the steps to the main building of the blue and white floral embellished mausoleum, Perween stopped by all the vendors and discovered their wares as if for the first time, although this was, perhaps, her tenth trip. With accompanying trills of laughter she bought arjak chadars, amber and turquoise embedded rings, sets of green glass bangles, small painted clay pots, all to be given to her team members in the OPP. Since 2010 the recipients of her gifts were also members of the Women’s Savings Groups that she organized and supported. Several members were taken to meetings in Nepal, Bangkok, and Sri Lanka to present their projects. They came from Orangi, Baldia, SITE, Korangi, Malir, Neelum Colony, and groups in Dera Ghazi Kahn, Jampur, Badin, Ghotki, Naushero Feroze, Jafferbad, Matiari, and Battagram.


Usually on each of my trips we would spend a weekend at my house in Seaview by Clifton beach. On our way back Sunday night, when the car reached the foot of the Baloch Colony Bridge, Perween would excitedly point to the left,

“Look Apu, look at how covering the Manzoor Colony Nala has changed this place. Can you see the children playing there?”

“I know, Perween, I know…” I would try not to roll my eyes at the umpteenth mention of this.

“Remember how we explained this to the minister and saved the people of the area from being evicted? You were with Guru and me in that meeting. You do remember, right, Apu?”

Guru was her name for Arif Hassan, her friend and mentor whose house had been the setting for many a discussion on the meaning of life and other such very serious topics. Invariably Perween would be sitting with Arif Hassan’s friend, known to all who loved him as Galla, and Perween’s melodious merry laughter would punctuate our discussions as she responded to every irreverent joke that Galla cracked. Needless to say she was his favorite person, and according to him, one who was the meaning of life.

At the wedding of a team member in Orangi, Perween, decked in a sari and wearing lipstick, was persuaded – not that much persuasion was needed -to come on to the dance floor. She danced and thumka’ed, much to my embarrassment, and when she came and sat with us for a breather, her ‘boss,’ Dr. Akhtar Hameed Khan, said to her, “Today you have been transformed from a ‘jungle ka sher’ [lion] to a ‘circus ka sher’.” It was meant as a mild rebuke, for dancing was anathema to Doctor Saheb, but Perween threw back her head, laughed, and exclaimed, “Wow I did not know that the circus lions had so much fun.” That is the way she was!

As to our conversation on the drive back home, invariably after the Manzoor Colony mention, the conversation would veer to,

“And remember the Orangi Nala that we fixed.”

“You fixed, you mean.”

“No, no, it was all of us!”

As the car rolled on to Shahrah-e-Faisal and Nursery she would say, “We worked in Chanesar Goth.” To Perween’s chagrin the work was stopped after a few lanes were done. Lanes or gallis were the units of measurement in her work in sanitation and housing. Success and failure were measured by how many lanes were organized and worked in.

When we went past the Awami Markaz, she would invariably remind me of the time that the railway people tried to evict the settlements along the train tracks behind this public building. They had lived there for years and the contention was that 100 feet of land was needed on either side. This was a blatant attempt at eviction of the poor because in fact only 30 feet on either side were needed.

“Do you remember the map I gave you showing some buildings like this Awami Markas, and those factories and apartment blocks built just 10 feet away from the tracks and not marked for demolition? Can you imagine the unfairness of it all? But we saved the settlements by giving the residents that map.” The map was made by the Urban Resource Center, which she and some architect friends from Dawood Engineering College, her alma mater, had set up. She had been the recipient of gold medals in eight out of ten semesters of the Bachelor’s in Architecture course.

Of late Perween discussed, with immense joy, being able to help get land tenure for residents of more than 2,000 villages, or Goths as they were called, that lay on the periphery of Karachi city. Using Google Earth to identify the location, her team would physically verify its existence and then, with the permission of the goth elders, map out the village. With these maps the elder could demand that the authorities acknowledge their existence and their right to land that they had lived on for many many years.

All along the way she would point to illegal water filling stations, the so-called hydrants, from which water earmarked for the city was siphoned off and sold. The enterprise was worth millions. Perween’s quantification of this trade, subsequently made public, was fraught with danger, and I had cautioned her many, many times, that she was stepping on powerful toes.

“Whatever, Apu. You know how the poor suffer for lack of water and the rich buy what rightfully belongs to everyone. I cannot know this and not do something about it.”

“I’m not asking you to stop documenting it, but don’t go overtly public with it.”

“No, no, you know I never do things publicly, like go on television. That is for others to do. I just want to put my head down and do my work.”

“I know that, but this time be careful with who you give the information to.”

After breakfast her beauty ritual, or ‘sola singaar’ as she called it, would commence. Massaging her neck and her forehad with Oil of Ulay, combing and tucking her hair with a clip at the back, putting on her stone-encrusted silver rings and bangles, her looped earrings, her small bead pendants, she would carry on a running set of instructions for Ammi’s caretaker Mussarat: this medicine at this time, this for lunch, take her for a walk even if she protests, massage her knees, etc.

Mussurat would also each morning make Perween some vegetables for lunch, carried in a small steel tiffin box. Saleem, Anwar Rachid, and she would eat lunch in the small canteen every day around three. If Mussarat asked Perween what she would like for lunch Ammi would answer,” Why are you asking her, you know if she has her way she would eat only daal. Make her some bhindi bhaaji.”

“Baji, why don’t you eat some chicken or kababs? I can quickly fry you some kababs.”

“No, no, don’t do that. You know I don’t eat meat. So stop trying!”

Tiffin box in hand, bottle of water tucked under the arm, her colorful cloth bag filled with papers, she would give Ammi a kiss on the forehead, promising to come home early, and head off to Orangi–and on March 13, 2013, it was never to come back. That day her throat was pierced by a hired assassin’s bullet at 7:15 p.m. It took just a few moments for her gentle heart to stop beating.

Source: Peace x Peace

Invisible little workers

By Zubeida Mustafa

JUNE 12 was Day against Child Labour. It is a shame that we still have to observe such a day. But we must if we have to make our society less insensitive towards children.

On this occasion, Sparc, which has been struggling since 1992 for the protection of the rights of the child in Pakistan, launched a weeklong campaign focusing on child domestic labour. It demands a ban on it. This is a laudable move though the strategy needs to be well-thought-out.

As is the case in Pakistan, anomalies abound. First of all, we do not even have reliable data. How many children are there in the labour force? The government has not conducted a survey to collect information since 1996 when it stated that three million children were working in the country. Today various agencies give much higher numbers which range between 10 and 12 million (the International Labour Organisation and Unicef, the UN children’s agency). Continue reading Invisible little workers

Kudos to SIUT, for ‘making the impossible possible’

By Anil Datta


Glowing and touching tributes were heaped on the Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation (SIUT) Director, Dr Adeebul Hassan Rizvi, and international award winning journalist Zubeida Mustafa, the former for having rendered yeoman’s service to the sick, the needy and the underprivileged across the length and breadth of the country, and the latter for having brought these achievements on record through her book, “The SIUT story: making the ‘impossible’ possible”.

The occasion was the launch of Mustafa’s above-noted book at the Mohatta Palace Friday evening.

6-15-2013_183766_l_akbGhazi Salahuddin, noted journalist and columnist, recalled the time when Dr Adeebul Hassan Rizvi was a student leader and paid him tribute for not having let his idealism wane and for remaining true to his ideals for the betterment of society.

“There’s lots of talk in our society about human dignity but in actual practice, there is none. We are a terribly class-riddled society, utterly apathetic to the travails and needs of our fellowmen. Dr Rizvi’s devotion to human dignity is so very evident in his institution. The SIUT’s stress on human dignity is not based on charity. Rather it is based on the natural rights of all human beings”, said Ghazi Salahuddin.

Having been her colleague for a long time, he praised Zubeida Mustafa and said that Zubeida had introduced a totally new research-oriented approach to journalism, something that hitherto had not been there. This, he said, made all the information so very profound and authentic.

Former Commissioner, Karachi Divisions, Shafiqur Rehman Piracha, in his very touching and emotional tribute to Dr Rizvi, talked about the “divine madness” of Dr Rizvi that had made the inception of an institution as altruistic as the SIUT possible where human beings were accorded their natural right to things that could make life a pleasurable experience for them. He said that everyone was treated with dignity at the SIUT without having to pay for it.

In a tribute to Rizvi’s altruistic simplicity, Piracha narrated how there was a concerted effort by the country’s most powerful segment of the bureaucracy to induce Rizvi to accept the post of federal health minister and what a hard time Rizvi had warding them off till they gave it up. He narrated how even these days, Rizvi travelled by train once a fortnight to Sukkur and its environs along with his medical team to perform surgeries and transplants absolutely free of cost.

He lauded Mrs Mustafa for having authored such a book on a subject as vital as healthcare and set the record straight for posterity.

Dr Adeeb Rizvi, acknowledging the accolades, and in his tribute to Zubeida Mustafa, recalled his first encounter with her and narrated how she was constantly grilling him with the questions: “How will you render such advanced medical care for free?” “How will you carry out dialysis for free?” and said that he was always hard put for a ready answer. “Ultimately, we made up and Zubeida joined us in our tissue transplantation campaign”, he said.

Zubeida Mustafa, acknowledging all the tributes, thanked the Support Trust (one of the sponsors of the book launch) for their cooperation in her painstaking venture.

“I wanted everyone to know that there are as many good people in our society and good works being done and that our society is not just bloodshed and killing”, she said.

The SIUT, she said, was not a charity organization but one where all humans got their rights with dignity. “That’s what I wanted to convey”, she said. She went on to state that all citizens had a right to education and healthcare and even though today’s liberal economics had turned things upside down, the SIUT still abided by its noble philosophy.

Kishwar Zehra, a thriving businessperson and a committed social worker who devotes of her time for voluntary work in the institute, lauded the most selfless service to society by Dr Rizvi and praised Zubeida Mustafa’s journalistic acumen in putting the story together for posterity.

Nusrat Ali Khan and Hassan Jameel, trustees of the Support Trust, outlined the aims and objectives of the Trust which, in a nutshell, could be summed up as publicizing all the work being done on a voluntary basis in various walks of life in the country and augmenting the mission of altruistic organizations. Nusrat Ali Khan proposed that copies of Mustafa’s book be sent to all diplomatic missions in the country and to all Pakistani diplomatic missions overseas to disseminate knowledge about the reservoir of selfless and noble individuals in our society.

Noted TV journalist compered the function and lauded Zubeida’s press crusade against the deficiencies in our healthcare and social systems.

Source: The News

The SIUT Story — Making the ‘Impossible’ Possible launched

By Shazia Hasan

guest-contributorKARACHI, June 14: “I was only following my emotions but she had the backing of research and proper data before asking me to explain how exactly I intended to offer free treatment to my patients. I was at a loss,” recalled Dr Adibul Hasan Rizvi at the launch of The SIUT Story — Making the ‘Impossible’ Possible while referring to its author Zubeida Mustafa at the Mohatta Palace Museum here on Friday.

“When we started our free dialysis work, she was back on the request of her editor at Dawn newspaper, Ahmad Ali Khan sahib, firing more questions that I didn’t have the answers to,” he shared.

“Our first kidney transplant was done quietly. We kept it from the media and when she found out, she was mad at us for being so secretive,” he laughed, adding that then it was Mrs Mustafa herself who also helped guide them on ethical things and how to tackle the issue of tissue transplantation, etc.

“Thank you for writing this book, which immortalises our philosophy that every human being has the right to healthcare and dignity,” Dr Rizvi said.

Senior journalist Ghazi Salahuddin said that he knows Dr Rizvi from the time when he was a young student at DJ Science College actively involved in students’ union. “He still believes in the dreams he had back then,” he said.

Praising the author of the book, he said that Mrs Mustafa came to Dawn from an academic background. “Not just this book but all her well thought out writings over the years are the product of extensive research and data collection,” he said.

“It is great that she could do this for SIUT now. The book is like a revolution in a society where there is no value of life leave alone the concept of human dignity,” he added.

Former Karachi commissioner Shafiq Paracha called Dr Rizvi’s passion to help people gain health regardless of their being rich or poor or belonging to any religion or belief “Divine Madness”.

He narrated an incident from former President Pervez Musharraf’s time when Dr Rizvi’s name came up for health minister and the doctor was determined to make the government officials drop the idea. “He took us on a round of the hospital trying to explain how much he was needed there only until one of us understood that it wouldn’t be wise to spoil one kind of good to start another,” said Mr Paracha.

“Dr Rizvi is that island of hope which balances our society,” he added.

About the author, he said that he was grateful to her for introducing us to the people who make the “impossible possible”.

Finally, Mrs Mustafa said that in Karachi where losing lives had become a common occurrence there was the Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation that is dedicated to saving lives. “It gives us hope. It had to be celebrated,” she commented.

She said, “I am glad that I wrote this book now after doing so much research on this place. The research I did over the years has helped settle all my doubts about its running. It is not just any charity hospital. It is a model hospital and the philosophy behind it can help build other such institutions.

“Being part of the public sector, there is also no element of commercialism attached to it. The treatment offered at the SIUT boasts foreign standards. The technology brought here from the West is also adjusted to local needs. It is laudable that they started from eight beds and have become what they are today through need-based extensions.

“The experts at the SIUT were just normal people who received proper training before putting it to good use. Foreign experts come here as well to train the doctors here. They also treat the patients at the hospital. It is compassion of the people working here that has raised the value of humanity at SIUT. But this team works so well because it has a great leader,” she said gesturing towards Dr Rizvi.

Meanwhile, it was suggested that an Urdu edition of the book also be brought out so that it can reach a bigger readership. Mrs Mustafa said that she would consider the suggestion.

Source: Dawn

Pakistan’s healthcare history: a unique chapter

guest-contributorBy A.B. Shahid

June 15, 2013
When devotion overtakes every other consideration what one ends up doing is setting an example that inspires others to follow suit with even greater zeal. The story of Sindh Institute of Urology & Transplant (SIUT), very ably and comprehensively narrated by renowned journalist Zubeida Mustafa in her book entitled “The SIUT story”, too is about the admirable devotion and commitment of those who run the SIUT.

What is particularly commendable about the book is its coverage of every aspect of SIUT with relevant details. Besides, the book is a ‘must read’ for all physicians, surgeons and hospital attendants because it gives them important message – humanity must be served without any distinction, and the most deserving are the poverty-stricken; serving them is the route to salvation and Professor Adibul Hassan Rizvi is a living example thereof.

How in 1972, an eight-bed unit of the Civil Hospital, Karachi was transformed into SIUT – an internationally recognised medical centre – is the story of a remarkable struggle that succeeded because of the commitment of Dr Rizvi and his team, to serving humanity, especially the down-trodden, and at the same time steadily raising the standards of care in many fields besides the delicate area of kidney-related illnesses.

The book highlights in detail the success of SIUT, given a historic background wherein healthcare never got the importance it deserved in a country like Pakistan that has the reputation of having one of the world’s highest rates of population growth. The book begins, and very rightly so, by summarising this sad track record to show how inspite thereof SIUT made the ‘impossible’ possible.

The author sums up the philosophy of SIUT very well when she says “The idea is to be as self-sufficient as much as possible and provide the institution with state-of-the-art technology without any ostentation.” That’s why there are no private wards in the SIUT, nor do its senior doctors have private offices. This profile has been hugely helpful in SIUT benefiting from the world’s top-ranking medical institutions, physicians, and surgeons.

Organ donation is imperative for transplant, which can be exploited as an irreligious act by those who place saving lives – the prime human obligation – at a low priority. SIUT was able to pre-empt such a disastrous move back in 1998 by obtaining legal and religious support for it when the father of a diseased young man set a great tradition by deciding to donate the organs of his son to give the ‘gift of life’ to those who needed them.

This great act and many thereafter, provided the beginning for SIUT’s transplant service in which it made great strides and has now become a world renowned institution. This initiative convinced institutions abroad about the sincerity, commitment and futuristic approach of the team at SIUT in reaching new heights in medicare and making it a truly humane service.

The support SIUT receives from global medical experts has been dealt with extensively by the author giving both the details of the experts from the US to Australia helping SIUT, and their very encouraging assessment of the services the SIUT offers, as well as its achievements in this context. Some of the messages coming from top-notch medical specialists assure you that not everything is wrong with Pakistan’s medical services.

Encouraged up by global support and the commitment of its physicians, surgeons and paramedical staff, SIUT now offers a variety of treatments and therapies including dialysis, endoscopy, oncology, nephrology, ultrasound, haematology, renal failure, lithotripsy, prostrate surgery, organ transplant, and more and has elaborate diagnostic expertise and requisite technologies therefor.

The ability to offer a variety of therapies is rooted in a knowledge sharing base – teachers, laboratories and libraries – building which has been an ongoing task. Besides setting up teaching facilities, a library with over 5,000 books and subscribing to 125 medical journals, a landmark was the setup of Zainul Abideen Institute of Medical Technology. In 2009, HEC too recognised SIUT as a degree awarding education institution.

In spite of all the negatives that Pakistan has been suffering from, SIUT has earned global recognition as a forum for global conferences. In 1994, SIUT organised the first International Symposium on Urology, Nephrology and Transplant. Since then SIUT has been hosting international conferences that are attended and addressed by renowned foreign medical experts, and add to the knowledge-base of SIUT’s team.

Besides medical treatment, SIUT has set up the Centre for Biomedical Ethics and Culture (CBEC) – a forum of physicians and sociologists devoted to designing the core values of the profession. Until CEBC’s setup, in Pakistan the need for institutionalising a forum to define and impose ethical practices in the medical profession was not realised. CEBC now holds regular sessions for physicians as well as for visiting students.

Education programmes and publications of the CBEC forum led to global recognition of this centre, and Dr Farhat Moazam and Dr Aamir Jafery of the CBEC were elected to global forums on biomedical ethics. More importantly, CBEC also helped the WHO Task Force on this subject in upgrading its global guidelines on organ transplantation – no small achievement for a Pakistani institution.

The author has allocated a chapter to the role played by donors, both big and small, without whose help SIUT could not become what it is, given the consistent inadequate funding of the health services by the state. Among institutional donors, the first to begin contributing back in 1980 was the Bank of Credit & Commerce Int’l Foundation (now called the Infaq Foundation), under the leadership of the late Agha Hassan Abedi.

Besides many reputed contributors special reference is made to Suleman Dawood, the Haroon family, the Cowasjee Foundation, and to Dewan Farooq who financed the setting up of Zainul Abideen Institute of Medical Technology. Then there are thousands of donors in Pakistan and abroad who regularly donate sums to the SIUT besides helping in acquisition of medical equipment.

This wide scale of public support is the manifestation of the peoples’ confidence in the way SIUT is run by Dr Rizvi and his team. To institutionalise the recording, accounting and appropriate use of donor funds, back in 1986, SIUT had established the Society for the Welfare of Patients of Urology and Transplant, which is overseen by an independent Board of Governors.

The book concludes with comprehensive indices about virtually every aspect of SIUT services, expert opinions thereon, SIUT’s connections and affiliations and, very rightly, also includes a roll of honour listing the many national and international awards bestowed upon Dr Rizvi and his team of able physicians, surgeons and paramedical staff who performed with unmatched commitment and devotion to serve humanity.

Source: Business Reorder

Bomb or bread?

By Zubeida Mustafa

ON May 28, an email was circulating on the web from Dr Shershah Syed, whose services to women’s reproductive health are widely acclaimed.

Doctor Sahib wrote, “Today we are celebrating the atom bomb day when we are a country where millions of children are not going to school — where millions of kids start their morning without food and will work in factories.…”

How true. While chasing the bomb, we have destroyed our people. What Dr Shershah can add is that this is also a country where one cannot escape the heart-wrenching sight of little rag-pickers rummaging through the garbage for food leftovers to ease their hunger pangs. Their emaciated bodies taunt our bomb-makers with misplaced priorities. Defence spending is expected to increase in the budget to be presented later this month. At this rate, though, there will be no one left to protect. The data given out by the health authorities of the prevalence of malnutrition and stunting in Pakistan are not exaggerated. Continue reading Bomb or bread?

Weapons and information

By Zubeida Mustafa

IT is exactly 12 weeks to the day when Perween Rahman, director of the Orangi Pilot Project (OPP) Research and Training Institute, was gunned down in Orangi when she was returning home from work.

Two months later, another activist of the OPP who ran a school, Abdul Wahid Khan, was killed outside his home. A few days later on May 18, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf leader Zahra Shahid Husain was assassinated by armed men.

These were not the only people who were victims of target killing in Karachi. Approximately 259 other people met a violent death in the city in the same period. We mourn them all. Above all, we mourn our own helplessness to save these precious lives.

Zohra Yusuf, the chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, was spot on when she once commented that in Karachi a person championing a human rights cause, who dies a natural death, is indeed lucky. Continue reading Weapons and information

Trying presidents

By Rifaat Hamid Ghani

ONE could well say Pakistan’s democracy suffers from a president problem. Ghulam Ishaq was adept at dismissing Parliaments. Farooq Leghari, popularly doubted for the party status he enjoyed till assuming office, let down the party, if not the public. Tarrar, unofficially renowned for carrying a briefcase, drifted through the crosscurrents of a countercoup without a hiccup. Presidents Musharraf and Zardari though are in a class by themselves; and who would you send to the top of the class? If one posed a conceptual challenge as a COAS president, the other posed a more empirical one as an active party promoter and controller.

And now, perhaps the thorniest nettle the incoming premier, Mian Nawaz Sharif, will have to grasp: Should the government he is to lead press treason charges on the former President Musharraf? Continue reading Trying presidents