Author Archives: Web Editor

O the rankings again

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By Zubeida Mustafa

THE Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings released last week offers some food for thought — that is, if we do not dismiss this annual exercise as a Jewish conspiracy. For Pakistan the bad news is that none of our universities figure in the first 400 institutions of higher education ranked globally. Pakistan failed to make it even to the top 100 Asian institutions.

Using carefully selected criteria, THE ranks universities across the globe according to their “core missions — teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook.” As can be expected, American and European universities have the highest ranking — the California Institute of Technology, Harvard University and the University of Oxford are the top three. Asia also boasts of 20 universities that are part of this prestigious global list — the University of Tokyo was judged as the best in the continent, and China, Korea and Singapore are making remarkable headway. Continue reading

2 Comments | Posted in Children and Youth, Economy, Education, Information |

How the women of Pakistan cope with war, honor killing and prejudice

By Zubeida Mustafa

How do women cope in Pakistan? This is a question I am very frequently asked by people in the West who are flooded by news of all the incessant outrageous happenings in my country. One cannot deny that in times of crisis that have global bearings—as in the Afghan war of the 1980s and the post-9/11 years—Pakistan receives more than its share of publicity in the international media. Regrettably, most of it is negative. And quite a lot of it is also true.

However, like the proverbial half-empty or half-full glass, the impression one forms depends on the context in which one sees a situation. Since the reporting tends to be heavily based on received wisdom, the truth does not emerge fully. As a result, only the bad news of the half-empty glass is reported, which reinforces the fears of skeptics: The fires of violence in Pakistan will engulf the world and destroy it. But there is no mention of the half-full glass that gives many of us hope. Continue reading

Leave a comment | Posted in Development and Poverty, Education, Human Rights, War and Peace, Women |

Somewhere buried

guest-contributorBy Rifaat Hamid Ghani

SOMEWHERE  buried under multitudinous leaders lie we the people. What is it like to be a citizen of Pakistan, a plain ordinary citizen who does not want or cannot aspire to dual nationality? An anonymous citizen unlikely to be granted asylum or residence in Dubai, London, Saudi Arabia; or green cards in greener pastures:Citizens with horizons so narrow as to be nationally rather than globally oriented. Citizens threatened by terrorism.

None of us want to be bossed around by the foot soldier with an officer behind him. But neither do we enjoy being served the way we are by civil politicians, be they with the opposition or the government of the day. There is a limit to the amount of tomfoolery that can be endured in the name of democratic dissent and freedom of speech. Or perhaps there is not for we remain easy prey to demagogues and fallacy-mongering. Continue reading

1 Comment | Posted in Guest Contributor, Law & Order, Politics, Terrorism and Violence |

A silent revolution

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By Zubeida Mustafa

HOW does one profile a woman who has the academic qualifications and 19-year work experience of a financial journalist, but is not attracted by the aura of glamour many lesser media people like to create around themselves? Her commitment lies with the rural community in her ancestral village in Sindh but she modestly refuses to describe herself as an expert in development work. “I am still learning on the job,” she tells me.

Meet Naween A. Mangi, the Pakistan Bureau Chief of the New York based Bloomberg News since 2006. She may be a novice – albeit a devoted one – in development but in financial journalism her expertise and experience are unmatched. She has the intricacies of the stock market at her finger tips and is well-versed in the ups and downs in the corporate sector in the country. She works diligently planning coverage, filing important stories when she is required to and training and managing younger journalists, a job she excels in by virtue of her considerable experience in launching news organizations, working on the lay-out and injecting new ideas in old publications.
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Leave a comment | Posted in Development and Poverty, Economy, Education, Health, Housing, Media, Notable Personalities, Women |

A life journey or a travelogue?

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By Zubeida Mustafa

A question very often asked of writers is why do they write. Khushwant Singh, India’s best known author and journalist, said he wrote to inform, amuse and provoke. The author of Pearls from the Ocean , Parvin Shere, quotes the American writer and poet, Maya Angelou to answer this  question.  “There is no agony greater than bearing an untold story inside you,.” Says Angelou.

For Shere this untold story has to find expression and it does in three forms, prose, poetry and painting. She could not have been more articulate in giving expression to the discovery she made when she submitted to her  urge to penetrate the barriers of faiths, languages and cultures: the Earth  is home to all humans and their  oneness binds them together, but…

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Leave a comment | Posted in Book Reviews, Culture and the Arts, View from Abroad |

Magic of a teacher

By Zubeida Mustafa
A WITTY quote runs, “Doctors bury their mistakes. Lawyers hang them. But journalists put theirs on the front page.” I would add, “And teachers exhibit theirs for generations to come.”

Take the case of Pakistan where the malaise in education runs deep. It began decades ago and has increased as poor education for one generation has ensured a worse batch of teachers for the next.

Mercifully, this flaw has now come to be recognised and an effort is under way to rectify the wrongs of the past. The focus has shifted to teachers. All schools worth their salt are now providing for the training of their teachers on an ongoing basis. Workshops and seminars are held regularly. The concept of lifelong education is catching on. Continue reading

3 Comments | Posted in Children and Youth, Education, Social Issues |

The Past Was My Country Once

By Nikhat Sattar

guest-contributorSherlock Holmes is credited with the saying ‘the past is another country’. In my case, it was mine, to begin with. Forty two years later, I still find it difficult to comprehend that I am no longer a citizen of the place that reared me and instilled in me the love of all that is beautiful in God’s world. I had to leave it as a child, vowing to return, as I looked at its receding coastline. Return I did, as an adult, several times, and each time as if I had never left. I was frozen in time, 1971 and space, in Chittagong, the second largest city in what is now called Bangladesh.

Chittagong is thousands of years old, and has a rich history of Roman, Arab and East Asian trading by sea. Indeed, its name is supposed to be an Arabic derivative of Shetgang, which comes from Shatt-al-Ganga, meaning Mouth of the Ganges. There are other sources that claim that the name comes from the Bengali Chatt-Gaon, meaning rock and village, referring to the hilly landscape. A sleepy town-village of outstanding beauty, it was a magical place of winding streets going up and down the hills, huge lakes, dense foliage, large fields and pristine beaches. The overwhelming colour was green, but with heavy rains and salty sea, buildings often took on a dark hue that somehow attached itself to my memory. The Kaptai Dam, Foy’s lake, Rangamati, Faujdarhat and Karnaphuli Paper Mills , each a few hours heavenly drive away from settlements are etched into my mind like fairy tales. Continue reading

3 Comments | Posted in Foreign Policy of Pakistan, Guest Contributor, Politics, Social Issues |

Oh those Taliban!

by Rifaat Hamid Ghani

guest-contributorIt is more than a decade since the post 9/11 invasion of Afghanistan.
America now intends to withdraw from there, leaving only a token presence. If the elimination of the prospect of Taliban rule and extirpation of ‘Talibanism’ was the objective of that invasion it has not been achieved. It is also unlikely that America will subsequently be indifferent to Taliban resurgence becoming truly effective, or complaisant about its consolidating. So whose boots will stay on the ground to keep Taliban foothold from gaining space? There is a certain rationale to the speculation that America may find proxy warfare serves its unattained ends. Mercenaries cost, and international peace-keeping too has a running upkeep. Also, factor in that the world’s great powers past and present, collectively and separately, in competition as well as alliance, have more than a century’s working experience of strategic use of the porous borders between Afghanistan India and what in 1947 became Pakistan. Pakistan is in the middle whatever the perspective.

It has consistently and unabashedly been a facilitator of America’s Afghan activities and objectives. Before 9/11 it complemented CIA’s furtherance of the ethos of jihad to contain the ‘godless’ Soviet Union. Post 9/11 it too re-orientated itself and deprecated ‘jihadism’ as potentially terroristic. In 2001 it endorsed toppling the Taliban regime it had earlier furthered and rushed to recognize. Continue reading

2 Comments | Posted in Foreign Policy of Pakistan, Guest Contributor, Terrorism and Violence, War and Peace |

Where students come last

By Zubeida Mustafa

If education in Pakistan in 2013 were to be described in a nutshell, it could appropriately be said: “More of the same.”

Nothing really changed in the education sector this year, in spite of the noise made about it. Two years ago an education emergency was announced but it is now plain that nothing came out of it. The claims by the various provincial governments and political parties were no more than hot air.

There is no doubt about the fact that awareness at the popular level about the importance of education for income generation and upward social mobility has grown. Regrettably there is not sufficient realisation of the need for education to be of good quality to create an impact.
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1 Comment | Posted in Education, Human Rights, Social Issues |

Victory in Delhi

Badri Raina

guest-contributorThe performance of the  Aam  Aadmi Party  in  the  just concluded  Assembly elections in the Capital  city of India has been, however you look at it, a phenomenal event, and very likely a watershed departure in the political culture of Indian democracy.  Indeed, India’s Left parties must wonder at the circumstance that where they have failed election after election to make a dent in Delhi’s  hitherto customary two-party political structure, a fledgling new force should have out of nowhere succeeded with the aplomb it has the very first time it chose to wet its feet.

This for the reason that  the credibility of its appeal did not remain limited to the yuppie sections of metropolitan society but, indeed, penetrated to sections of the hoi polloi who have traditionally belonged to a habitual Congress party vote-bank.   In that sense, pundits who had imagined that the campaign of the AAP would not cut across classes have been proved wrong.  One reason why Narendra Modi’s trumpeted interventions in Delhi fell equally flat—notice that the vote-share of the BJP, instead of sky-rocketing owing to the Modi infusion, has actually gone down to its lowest ever in the Capital—has been that many falanges of the petty bourgeois class, for example, auto drivers, switched to  the Kejriwal persona that seemed palpably more intimate   and more  quotidian in its temperament and quality of touch. Continue reading

2 Comments | Posted in Economy, Guest Contributor, Human Rights, Politics, Social Issues, View from Abroad |