Author Archives: Raza Jaffri

Trapped in poverty


By Zubeida Mustafa

MIGRANTS are in the news all over the world. Recently, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) released in Rome a report titled Sending Money Home which focused on the remittances — $436 billion in 2014 — transferred by migrant workers to their families. This received positive publicity. The countries that provided jobs to such workers were seen as helping alleviate poverty in the Third World.

In Canada, where I am on a visit, I chanced upon a local paper The Golfi Team Real Estate Market Watch which carried an article against immigrants blaming the latter for many economic woes of the country, including the escalation of property prices and suppression of wages. It sarcastically accused the political parties of seeking to capture immigrant votes by adopting pro-immigration policies while pretending to benefit the rest of the world. Continue reading

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Wily Politics


By Rifaat Hamid Ghani

Ethnic politics, dynastic politics, and perhaps most ill-advised of them all – cultist politics.

But it would be false to identify Bhutto himself as the trail-blazer of Bhutto-ism: He was no cultist. Bhutto-ism could become a cult because of what Bhutto actually achieved and signified despite his catastrophic flaws. He founded a political party that reoriented national politics and revitalized the democratic grammar Field Marshal Ayub Khan’s basic democracy had rubbished. Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party had a meaningfully persuasive popular ideology. Unfortunately he betrayed its democratic manifest: Once empowered, he sought the mode of a one-party state. Pakistanis were too pluralistic to accept that; but long after his death the party infrastructure he constructed remains viable. Continue reading

Comments Off | Posted in Defence and Disarmament, Development and Poverty, Guest Contributor, Politics, Social Issues |

Justice in Pakistan: Unmasking Perween Rahman’s Killers

Perween Rahman Poster from the website Photograph courtesy of Aquila Ismail.

by Zubeida Mustafa

The “weakness of women”, widely believed to be a natural phenomenon, is actually a myth. Women are resilient and there are many cases where “woman power” won the day because women fighting for a cause refused to back off.

The valiant social activist Perween Rahman was gunned down two years ago in Pakistan’s port city of Karachi. Perween was the director of the Orangi Pilot Project-Research and Training Institute, in which capacity she was working to improve the life of the poor. An architect by training, she shunned thirty years ago the opportunity to make a successful corporate career. After joining an architectural firm, soon after her graduation, she said to herself,” I do not want to spend my life building palaces for the rich. I’d rather build homes for the poor.” And that is what brought her to the OPP, at the time the recent creation of its founder Dr Akhter Hameed Khan. And she did exactly what she wanted to do, help the poor build shelters for themselves at affordable prices. She went on to do much more – show the poor how they could live with dignity and self esteem. In the process, Perween instilled confidence in the people she worked for – both men and women – and empowered them. Such was her charisma and the magic of her personal humanism. Continue reading

Comments Off | Posted in Law & Order, Perween Rahman, Social Issues, Women |

Riding a pousse-pousse in Lyon

Pousse-pousse in Lyon

By Zubeida Mustafa

LYON (France) is not exactly new to me. Having visited this quaint town of 1.4 million a number of times since 2009, I have already been through the routine exercises a first time tourist is expected to go through. The city tour in the bus, visits to museums that bring a smirk on my daughter’s face, long walks in the parks, look at archaeological sites and buildings protected under the heritage law and so on. Even the novelty of a ride in the ‘driverless’ metro run by a computerized system has worn off.

So I wanted my trip to Lyon in the wintry February of 2015 to be different. The weather with temperatures ranging between -5 and 5 degrees Celsius provided a new topic of conversation but that changed fast when for a week it was bright and sunny as the day temperature touched 12 degrees Celsius. The dry weather more than the sunshine became an inducement for me to venture out for walks. Continue reading

Comments Off | Posted in Culture and the Arts, View from Abroad |

Shattered dreams


By Zubeida Mustafa

A FEW years ago, when the army operation took place in Swat and many families were displaced, I went to Baldia in Karachi to meet some of them. There I was introduced to a man who told me that he had 19 children. He had two wives. I was awestruck by his virility.

He may have been an exception. But we should not underestimate the reproductive capacity of Pakistanis. According to the Population Council in Islamabad, in 2012 Pakistan had nine million pregnancies of which 4.2m were unintended. Of these 2.25m ended in induced abortions. In other words, over six million babies were born that year. Continue reading

Comments Off | Posted in Children and Youth, Development and Poverty, Economy, Education, Health, Human Rights, Population, Social Issues, Women |

Elusive goals


By Zubeida Mustafa

WITH Pakistan more concerned about the existential threat it faces, one is hardly surprised that not much is heard of the MDGs — those elusive eight points called the Millennium Development Goals adopted by the UN in 2000 to be met in 15 years. The deadline is approaching and it is time for scrutiny of the report card.

How has the world fared on this count? The UN MDG report of 2014 observes that these goals have made a “profound difference in people’s lives and the first goal of halving poverty was achieved five years ahead of the 2015 time frame. Ninety per cent of children in developing regions now enjoy primary education, and disparities between boys and girls in enrolment have narrowed”.

It speaks of remarkable gains having also been made in all health indicators. According to the UN, the target of halving the proportion of people who lack access to improved sources of water has also been met. The UN, however, concludes that a lot more still needs to be done to accelerate progress. As it is, the goals did not seek universal coverage in all sectors. Every goal had varying targets. If the global results pleased the UN it is understandable. Some countries performed infinitely better than others. Continue reading

Comments Off | Posted in Children and Youth, Education, Health, Politics, Social Issues, Terrorism and Violence, War and Peace |

Scottish referendum

Glasgow voted YES in the referendum.- Photo by Shamima Hasan​

By Zubeida Mustafa

LAST week Scotland decided its destiny. It came to the brink of independence and then pulled back. In the closing days of campaigning it was estimated that several thousands of the 4.2 million voters were undecided till the last. When the ballots were cast on Sept 18 over 55pc voted to stay in the union.

The 45pc who voted for change were overruled by the majority and conceded defeat. Alex Salmond, the first minister of Scotland whose Scottish National Party spearheaded the movement for an independent Scotland, announced his decision to step down.

Negotiations will follow in the coming months as more devolution of power is on the cards as has been promised by the Westminster parties in a last-ditch attempt to lure the Scots back from an irrevocable breach. Continue reading

3 Comments | Posted in Constitution, Economy, Education, Health, Human Rights, Justice, Labour, Politics, Social Issues, View from Abroad |

IS and the youth


By Zubeida Mustafa

A MAJOR issue being debated in Britain today concerns the Muslims — men and women. It is what is termed the radicalisation of their youth.

Concerns were sparked off by the Islamic State (formerly Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham) when its militants beheaded James Foley, an American journalist covering the war in Syria, and circulated a video of the bestial act. Even before this incident grabbed the headlines, media reports had been suggesting that authorities in London believed that as many as 500 Muslim men with British nationality had left the UK to join the IS ‘jihad’. Continue reading

1 Comment | Posted in Children and Youth, Human Rights, Islamisation, Social Issues, Terrorism and Violence, View from Abroad, War and Peace |

Our own Berridales?

Image courtesy

By Zubeida Mustafa

DEMOCRACY is a misunderstood term that has been overused in the discourse surrounding the ongoing political drama in Islamabad.

There have been repeated references to democracy and human rights by the dharna leaders and legislators in parliament, which have only increased myths about these political concepts. No one speaks about the empowerment of the people which should be the aim of democracy — to enable citizens to help themselves and win their rights. This idea appears alien to Pakistan. People’s empowerment is possible without actually bringing about a revolution.

Thousands of miles away from home, I find business to be as usual in Glasgow, a city at present in the grip of Scotland’s independence referendum debate. For me this was an opportunity to observe the Scottish way of life. Last Saturday, courtesy Irene, to whom I had been introduced earlier, I spent some time at the ‘Open Day’ of the Berridale Allotments and Gardens which is a project that can be emulated by us with due indigenisation to empower urban women. Continue reading

5 Comments | Posted in Development and Poverty, Economy, Health, Human Rights, Justice, Labour, New, Politics, Women |

Berridale Gardens and Allotments: What are they

Photo Courtesy: Shamima Hasan

By Zubeida Mustafa

In the UK, Allotments – small plots of lands given to a number of individuals for cultivation — are said to have been around for centuries. But it was only in the nineteenth century when this concept was regularized by law to give industrial workers land to grow their own food. In 1908 the Small Holdings and Allotments Act made it mandatory for the local authorities to provide allotments to the people when a demand exists. Continue reading

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