Why us?

pakistan-mpi-squareBy Zubeida Mustafa

SINCE June, the Pakistan government has been patting itself on the back. Multidimensional poverty (MP) has fallen from 55pc to nearly 40pc in the country since 2004, we are being told. Of course it is admitted that there are districts where poverty is as high as over 90 per cent (Qila Abdullah in Balochistan) today. But in Punjab only 31pc are impoverished. Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi have an MPI (multidimensional poverty index) of 10pc. Continue reading “Why us?”

Insecure rights

By Zubeida Mustafa

A WEEK before Sabeen Mahmud, the ever-smiling ‘active’ human rights activist was gunned down in Karachi, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan launched its annual State of Human Rights report for 2014.

It is widely believed that Sabeen’s decision to host a seminar on Balochistan invited a terrible retribution from the powers-that-be. It is indeed saddening that this staunch defender of all the rights covered by the HRCP report is no more amongst us to act as society’s conscience to remind us that each of us becomes an abettor when the state violates any right the citizen is entitled to and we remain silent onlookers. Continue reading “Insecure rights”

Dance away the war

By Zubeida Mustafa

HOW does one get one’s message across to a large audience when a cacophony of sounds drowns out one’s voice before it is heard? Politicians scream into microphones making aggressive gestures before a captive audience that has been assembled for their benefit by their minions. Extremists and militants hire killers and suicide bombers to drive home their point. Television talk show hosts broadcast their inanities.

At the other end, artists draw pictures to tell their story, while authors and poets play with words. In fact, there is another medium that can be employed to win the hearts and minds of people. Last week, Suhaee Abro demonstrated effectively that dance can be used to convey the message of love and peace.

Having seen this talented child blossom into a charming dancer-cum-choreographer, I was fascinated by the ease with which Suhaee and the 44 dancers she brought together captivated a crowd of more than 2,000 people with their message of harmony and beauty blended with a lot of colourful cheer. Continue reading “Dance away the war”

2008-2013 Democratic Annals

by Rifaat Hamid Ghani

The government and the Parliament of 2008 completed a full term: a democratic first. But it could be more because interventionists have matured than because politicians demonstrated a reassuring capacity to learn on the job.

If we step outside the trite paradigm of democracy and dictatorship and the polarities of the civil and military public political interest, we might not see any polarities: Both want power and there is a competition for it. For most Pakistanis Pakistan is home, not a cow to be milked dry. They need and want their country. The touchstone for legitimacy then becomes pragmatic for them: How is the power of government being used?

guest-contributorIf asked about the 2008-onwards use of democratically mandated power there would be more than carping complaints about law and order and safety in daily life. The common perception is the state itself is increasingly endangered by the vice and folly of the politically empowered. In 2013 despite democratic freedom a question is suppressed: Is it a myth, which local democratic experience exposes each time, that democracy is invariably the better formula? As soon as there was no self-perpetuating incentive in maintaining or reaching a consensus, political rivals needed arbitration on the caretaker PM. When mainstream parties so evidently mistrust each other’s motives and nominees they also need unusually skilled spin masters to tell the electorate why it may place faith in their candidatures and avowals. Continue reading “2008-2013 Democratic Annals”

The genesis of violence

By Zubeida Mustafa

IN his excellent keynote address at the fourth Karachi Literature Festival, Urdu fiction writer Intizar Husain, one of the 10 finalists for the Man Booker International Prize for 2013, eloquently reflected on a dilemma.

Should we be celebrating literature in the catastrophic times we live in when people are being killed by the hundreds?

Intizar Sahib said he first delved into the wealth of Urdu and Persian poetry but could not find an answer to his question. To his credit, the speaker turned to prose and the legendary One Thousand and One Nights provided him an insight into how literature could be turned to one’s advantage in adverse circumstances. Didn’t Scheherzade buy her reprieve from execution by her storytelling gift? “Literature can change human nature,” Intizar Sahib concluded in support of the literature festival. Continue reading “The genesis of violence”

Books in times of war

By Zubeida Mustafa

A CHILDREN’S Literature Festival in Quetta sounds like a contradiction in terms. Quetta is in Balochistan and one doesn’t have to be reminded that the province is in the grip of a violent insurgency.

When I went there last week I could feel the tension in the air. Fear was palpable. So how could a festival — that too for children — be held in a place not considered very safe?

For me the festival amounted to making a political statement: children need peace. We knew that whatever the state of security, life has to go on. Yet one could not turn a blind eye to the tight security which in turn made one feel insecure. The event was not advertised and was reported in the media only after the show was over. Continue reading “Books in times of war”

After Akbar Bugti, what?

By Zubeida Mustafa
Source: Dawn

NAWAB Akbar Khan Bugti is dead. His violent death at the hands of the Pakistan army in a targeted military operation has given Balochistan the martyr that it needed at this hour to rally people round the nationalist movement and inject fresh vigour into it. Ironically, in his death Bugti’s contribution to Baloch nationalism may prove to be greater than his role in life.

His oppressive tribalism and brutal style of ruling over his clan drove terror in the heart of many of his tribesmen and earned him enemies among his own Baloch people. He was accused of not doing enough for his people though he had been at the helm in his province — once as governor under Z.A. Bhutto and then as chief minister under Nawaz Sharif. Regarded as Islamabad’s point man in the province, Bugti could have brought prosperity and development to Baloch society if he had wanted to — until he fell out with the rulers. But all his failings will now be erased from public memory as he is mourned as the hero who fought for Baloch nationalist autonomy and honour.
Continue reading “After Akbar Bugti, what?”

What next in Balochistan?

By Zubeida Mustafa
Source: Dawn

ISLAMABAD knows the art of messing up situations that could be used to its advantage. Take the case of Balochistan. Backward, under-developed and impoverished, Pakistan’s largest province has been reduced to that state by the sardars who have ruled it for ages without doing anything for the uplift of their people.

They themselves received hefty sums from the Pakistan government. All the federal government had to do was to pump in development funds and reach out to the people directly who would then have responded by standing on their own feet and marginalising the feudal leadership.
Continue reading “What next in Balochistan?”

What next in Balochistan?

By Zubeida Mustafa
Source: Dawn

THE situation in Balochistan is going from bad to worse. Every day the newspapers carry reports of rocket attacks by unknown people and shelling and firing by the security forces. The government has now openly declared that it will take recourse to force to restore law and order in the province. This is a dangerous approach because when the army decides to use military means, it inevitably turns a crisis into a do or die issue.

We have been through this before in 1971 when the army was at the helm in Islamabad and refused to sort out the constitutional crisis in East Pakistan through a political dialogue. Regrettably, a similar story is being repeated in Balochistan. As we have learnt from past experience, a military crackdown of the kind we see today will not resolve the problem in this turbulent province.
Continue reading “What next in Balochistan?”