Author Archives: Raza Jaffri

Elusive goals

mdg

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

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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

liftarn_Person_with_molotov_cocktail

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 mcmom-ents.com

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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Helping oneself

help

By Zubeida Mustafa

LAST week was World Humanitarian Day. It came as a simple reminder that the world is not a welcoming place any longer for a large number of people in countries beset with crises. Conditions have deteriorated to such an extent globally that the need for humanitarian help has been growing. Yet, at the same time, brutality against aid workers is also on the rise making them more vulnerable. In 2013 alone, 155 aid workers were killed and 134 kidnapped.

Why this need for humanitarian aid? The fact is that frequent emergencies are being created due to ever-increasing conflict and also natural disasters — many of them manmade — such as floods and droughts. Pakistan has experienced these in abundance in recent times. We seem to be living from crisis to crisis. Such an abnormal pattern of existence pre-empts economic and social development and growth while whatever progress had been achieved in the preceding period has been undone. Continue reading

5 Comments | Posted in Development and Poverty, Economy, Labour, New, Population, Social Issues |

Rules of the game

book

By Zubeida Mustafa

It was quite an extraordinary way of celebrating the 67th anniversary of Pakistan’s independence last week. Believing that they could usher in freedom/revolution by bringing their supporters out on the street, Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri succeeded only in creating polarisation and instability in a crisis-ridden country.

The two marches organised by these leaders have evoked strong reactions from political observers. A large segment of pro-democracy opinion views this show of force as an extra-parliamentary move by the opposition that could derail the democratic process and open the door for military intervention. There have also been allegations of collusion between the agitators and elements in the military. Others have defended the people’s right to protest against government excesses. The speculation of regime change has been intertwined with an ongoing discourse on the military-civilian role in politics. Continue reading

3 Comments | Posted in Books, Constitution, Defence and Disarmament, History, Kashmir, New, Politics, War and Peace |

Legacy unbounded

Anita Ghulam Ali (Photo source: dawn.com)

By Zubeida Mustafa

Do icons really pass away? They can’t, because being iconic makes them immortal in the public collective consciousness. And it is an icon that Anita Ghulamali had become. What made her so outstanding was her will to take on the most powerful enemies of education in Pakistan.

Her constituency comprised the common people. Her battles were fought for them and the only battle she lost was with death on Aug 8. The outpouring of admiration and affection for her that has followed testifies to her sincerity.

She is being eulogised most for her contribution to education and rightly so. But the difference she made to this key social sector has yet to make an impact. I am confident her ideas will prevail, though it may take time. In education the decay begins insidiously and reform is a long-drawn process that spans generations. Continue reading

8 Comments | Posted in Children and Youth, Education, New, Notable Personalities, Social Issues |

Education: A victim of expediency

By Zubeida Mustafa
From Dawn Archives Library 9 & 16 Oct 1987

Education in Pakistan is in a state of crisis. Not only has the government failed to fulfil this basic need of the citizens by establishing educational institutions in sufficient numbers, the quality of the education available is also deplorably poor. Given the weaknesses in the education system, it is not surprising that only 26 per cent of Pakistanis are literate (taking a technical definition of literacy), only 50 per cent of the primary school-age children are enrolled in schools and 50 per cent of them drop out before they complete five years of schooling.

The statistics for women are even more depressing. Only sixteen per cent of them are literate — seven per cent in the rural areas — 32 per cent girls in the 5-9 years age group are enrolled in school and eight per cent attend higher secondary school. Continue reading

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Points of order

Professor Anita Ghulam Ali talks about the latest object of her passion

By Zubeida Mustafa
From Dawn Archives Library 28 June 1998

Pakistan is a country which has been ignominiously sliding down the Human Development Index of the UNDP — from 94th in 1990 to 139th in 1997. Today only 13 countries out of the 175 listed have a lower score than Pakistan’s in the education index, which is calculated on the basis of adult literacy rate and gross enrolment ratio in schools. In this dismal scenario when things seem to be falling apart one can get cynical about optimists like Professor Anita Ghulam Ali, the Managing Director of the Sindh Education Foundation.

She says that she feels hopeful that the situation will improve. When you visit her spick and span office in Clifton with its neatly laid out garden patch and are reminded twice by its dynamic MD that this too is a government office, you are forced to concede that the official machinery can work if the will is present. As she proudly shows you round, you note that the environment is too pleasant for it to be the usual kind of government institution one is accustomed to — you make a mental comparison with the decrepit passport office, which you had visited a few weeks ago and which earns a handsome revenue for the exchequer. The SEF’s library, computers, notice-boards with colourful pictures pinned on them, spotless floors free of paan stains makes it more like the office of a private sector organization. Continue reading

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