Yearly Archives: 2020

To trust or not

By Zubeida Mustafa

THE underlying cause of what is currently termed as ‘confusion’ in our political discourse is a deficit of trust. Simply put, it is the paranoia that has subsumed people from all walks of life, causing them to distrust others. Can you blame them when they have been deceived so often?

Take the case of the pandemic. On June 19, a very eminent infectious diseases specialist, Dr Naseem Salahuddin, wrote an excellent article in this paper explaining the pandemic, the emergence of the novel coronavirus, Covid-19 and the need for a lockdown. According to her, we have already crossed the Rubicon. She attributes the failure to win the full cooperation of the masses on SOPs to “poverty, illiteracy and dense populations” as well as “ingrained habits”. Hence she appeals for specialists to be given the opportunity to explain what the pandemic really is.

Continue reading To trust or not

Whither and wherefore?

By Rifaat Hamid Ghani  

                 THE PTI and its support system are drawing us into dangerous waters. Why? Is it conscious or unwitting? With regard to the PTI leader who is also Pakistan’s prime minister one can say it’s an outcome of mulishness; conceit and arrogant contempt. He may not be able to help himself. But why then should others be helping him persist if it is not possible to tutor him?

         What exactly has the PTI government done to right the mess in governance since taking charge of federal office and the responsibilities of government? Quarrel anew– when taking time off re-runs of old raves and rants. It regularly tells us what it intends to do in various spheres; but provides even less than a broad outline. And it possibly holds a Pakistan Government time-frequency record in instituting commissions and ordering reports and inquiries. The more relevant offences and infringements may regrettably date to its own mandated tenure; but to get to the root as it were, a comprehensive scope can stretch to explore things that took place years ago. Common sense might say their ill-effects have long since been absorbed, digested, or by now decomposed: What is there left to disinter? But there is a viable logical counter-argument that a conscientious inquirer should omit nothing and start from the beginning. Thus, any inquiry’s progress becomes open to both prolongation or acceleration, though all offenders will assuredly be brought to book without fear or favour—Ignore the malice towards none bit.

Continue reading Whither and wherefore?

Floyd and Zohra

By Zubeida Mustafa

THE BBC reported recently that a lawyer for George Floyd said at the memorial service for the African-American that a “pandemic of racism” led to his death. Floyd had been killed by a white policeman in Minneapolis using the ‘knee-on-the-neck’ technique said to have been developed by Israeli policemen.

Judging by the global protests that followed Floyd’s killing one can at least take heart from the fact that there are people around who have a conscience and do care. But what matters is how many people can be mobilised and how much they care. Is their number big enough to make an impact that will bring about the social change that is needed? Changes in the law help but they are at best just the beginning. More difficult to change are attitudes and mindsets without which society remains mired in prejudice and an abusive psyche.

Continue reading Floyd and Zohra

Dr Asif Aslam Farrukhi

Crying in the Dark

By Dr Shershah Syed

IT’S usual for me to cry: Cry in public, in front of junior doctors with the father and mother of young girls who have died in pregnancy during childbirth. Usually it’s impossible to hold my tears when I see a teenage patient with genital tract fistula passing urine all the time. Her mother or sister narrates horrible stories of the Dai who mishandled the patient to produce this terrible result. Usually I recover my composure soon and start functioning normally.

Continue reading Dr Asif Aslam Farrukhi

An opportunity?

By Zubeida Mustafa

IN tandem with Islamabad, the Sindh government has announced that the students who were scheduled to sit for their Grades IX to XII Board examinations this summer will be promoted to the next class without being tested.

In the absence of an alternative, this can be deemed to have been a sensible step. Moreover, the fact is that the exams we have been holding for the last several decades are no less than an ‘immaculate deception’. They are rife with corruption, and candidates resort to unfair means while massive sums change hands to manipulate results.

As a consequence, the real learning outcome of the students is appalling. Education in Pakistan is exam-oriented and these exams are a farce, leaving no incentive for the students to study. For them, it is a paper chase for the certificate/degree.

Now is also the time for the government to come clean on its failure to educate the children of this country as it is required to do under Article 25-A of the Constitution. The pandemic lockdown and the disruption it has caused are a blessing in disguise. The government should now rise to the occasion to bring about radical changes in our education system.

Continue reading An opportunity?

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.

Continue reading Review: Etienne and the Angry Dot

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.

Continue reading It’s not cricket

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.

Continue reading The missing girls

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.

Continue reading Posthumous works

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.

Continue reading Media mechanics