All posts by Zubeida Mustafa

No guns, please

By Zubeida Mustafa

QAMAR Zaman is the father of an infant boy. He works in Karachi’s Defence Authority’s Phase 4 Commercial Area. He had just finished his duty at 6pm on June 10 and had stopped to purchase vegetables for his wife to cook for dinner, when he was knocked out by a hail of gunshots. For him everything went black thereafter.

He later learnt that a guard before a mobile shop close by had accidentally pulled the trigger claiming that he did not know that his gun was loaded. He had just received the weapon from his colleague who was going off-duty.

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GMO tug of war

By Zubeida Mustafa

WHY should an official of the US Embassy, representing the Department of Agriculture, be going overboard to ‘collaborate’ with Pakistan on projects involving genetically modified maize? This unwanted advice seems to be seedy business at a time when there is a tug of war taking place between various lobbies in the agricultural sector.

Even more regrettable is that in the past such dubious overtures by biotech giants have been extended to too many people whose integrity is in doubt. Quite a few were elected representatives of the people who went ahead to change the Seed Act in 2016. The legality of this move has now been challenged by the farmers in a court of law. The amendments in the act paved the ground for introducing GM seeds in the country.

Moves are now afoot to win over opinion in the quarters that matter. This time the target is maize, one of our best food crops next to wheat and rice. The battleground is in the highest quarters. Pakistan produced 6.1 million tonnes of maize in 2018 showing a yield per hectare of 5MT (about 2MT per acre). This was 2MT in 2003. The Philippines which switched over to GM corn in 2003 could increase its yield per hectare from 2MT to only 3MT in the same period.

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Twitter diplomacy

By Zubeida Mustafa

The battle of tweets we have been witnessing of late, reminds us that we have certainly come a long way from the style in which diplomacy was conducted since 1648. That was the year when the Peace of Westphalia launched the modern secular sovereign state system. It introduced new guidelines for states in their dealings with one another. They demanded “accuracy, calm, patience, good temper, modesty” from an ideal diplomat, as defined by Harold Nicolson, the British diplomat famous for his books and diaries.

Donald Trump’s twitter page in Washington, DC using a Game of Thrones-styled montage. In April 2019 the US President tweeted “Game Over” declaring himself fully vindicated in the investigation into Russian election meddling and alleged collusion in the 2016 presidential elections.

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Development with dignity

By Zubeida Mustafa

Asad Ali teaches an arts and crafts class in Khairo Dero. (Courtesy of Zubeida Mustafa)

Asad Ali, a young man in his 20s, has a passion for teaching. He is a high school graduate and has no teacher’s training degree, but he has compassion and inborn pedagogic skills that endear him to his students. His father wanted him to join the army, but Ali preferred his classroom to the battlefield. If Pakistan had more teachers with his commitment, the country would be a different place altogether.

Ali would be a failure in the postmodern education system the Pakistan government is making futile attempts to create for a people still stuck in the medieval ages. Had Ali managed to adjust to the prescribed system, his students in Khairo Dero—the village in Sindh where he lives and works—would be unable to relate to him as they do now.

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Health inequity

By Zubeida Mustafa

THE recently launched report of the National Human Rights Commission’s Karachi chapter on health as a human right is indeed timely. The report seeks constitutional changes to make the citizens’ right to health justiciable.

Of great significance is the report’s redefinition of the term ‘healthcare’ which has conventionally been interpreted very narrowly in Pakistan as providing treatment for the illnesses that afflict people in the country. Preventive medicine and the social factors leading to diseases (termed as social determinants of health) are generally ignored by those managing the health sector. The fact is that healthcare in Pakistan is dominated by the pharma-driven allopathic medicine.

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Arts or science?

By Zubeida Mustafa

ADD ‘or commerce?’ to the question in the title. With the examination season in full swing, to be followed by college admissions a few months later, this is naturally the question being asked by many young people aspiring to higher education.

Gone are the days when the choice was more or less evenly spread across all disciplines, with arts having a slight edge over the others. Individual aptitude, the job market and the capacity available in colleges determined the ultimate picture that emerged.

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by whom, for whom and, most of all, for what?

: By Rifaat Hamid Ghani

Our ‘education’ — going to school, coming out of home, learning to be with ‘others’, making and losing friends — might well be the most significant as well as broadest range of social interaction for an individual in his lifetime. It prepares and defines the person for non-familial contact and the process of continuous learning that accompanies life. In that sense education is essentially non-finite.

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Rising goodness

By Zubeida Mustafa

KHAIRO Dero, gulan jo sehro/ Sajay dunya jo khair/ Khairo Dero maan theendo (Khairo Dero, a garland of flowers/ The whole world’s goodness will/ Start from Khairo Dero. (Nazar Husain Shah)

So sang the devotees of Nazar Husain (fondly called Jabal Shah) when they performed for me on a hot summer evening in Khairo Dero where I was on a short visit recently. Nazar Hussain, a Sufi, came to Khairo Dero from Layyah when he was 14 years old, after he fell into a well and was rescued. The legend says he received instructions to make Khairo Dero his home, and his dargah now stands here.

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The Missing Narrative

By Zubeida Mustafa | |

Nasim Zehra

When twice within a span of 10 days you are reminded of the ‘freedom of expression’ Pakistanis supposedly enjoy, it makes you wonder. First, it was a retired ambassador, Karamatullah Khan Ghori, who reminded the audience at his lecture on the Middle East at the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA), that in Pakistan the press is more free than in the Arab world. He was right, but it irked me. If we need a yardstick, does it have to be a region which is the worst model of democratic freedoms?

Then came the Adab Festival’s debut in Karachi last month. In the session on Nasim Zehra’s outstanding book, From Kargil to the Coup: Events that Shook Pakistan, we were told by a retired general – Wasim Ghazi – that civil society had failed to present alternative narratives to the conventional stand adopted by the army on various issues. That was very surprising.

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Spread the word

By Zubeida Mustafa

THERE is a problem with our health sector. It has been heavily ‘medicalised’. Taking their cue from the pharmaceutical companies, many physicians and surgeons tend to adopt the curative approach preponderantly, depending on diagnostic technology and drugs. Preventive medicine has been pushed aside, as have been its essentials — public health awareness, nutrition, personal hygiene, lifestyle and sanitation.

As a result, healthcare has become so costly that it is increasingly out of reach of the masses. Only the rich and privileged can hope to obtain satisfactory treatment when they are ill, while the country’s national health indicators are shockingly dismal.

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