Category Archives: Books

Breaking the cycle

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By Zubeida Mustafa

PSYCHIATRISTS in Pakistan have been crying themselves hoarse about the rise of mental illness in the country. Ever since militants and religious extremists have unleashed their terror on the hapless population, the incidence of anxiety and depression has been on the rise. But these disorders are stigmatised and are not publicly discussed.

There is much talk about poor governance, corruption and even the falling level of tolerance in society but no one wants to mention the impact of these problems on the mental health of the people and how the latter’s attitudes and mindsets reinforce the conditions that gave birth to the problems in the first place.

  In an article in the New Internationalist Magazine, Samah Jabr, a psychiatrist and psychotherapist in Jerusalem, pointed out that worse than the 2,133 deaths, 11,000 injuries and the destruction of countless homes caused by Israel’s brutal attacks on Gaza in July-August 2014 was the psychosocial damage inflicted by the war. She said, “the destruction of life at a physical and material level is also the destruction of a way of life, the destruction of a point of view: physical warfare brings with it psychological warfare”. She warned that violence will “beget an unending spiral of victimhood and revenge, of polarisation … [and] of further trans-generational trauma”.

Also read: Psychiatrists concerned about plight of IDPs

This is precisely what is happening in Pakistan. Most upsetting is the psychological warfare taking place and the ground has been softened for it by the ineptitude and corruption of successive governments. The destruction of our education system, moral Continue reading

Comments Off | Posted in Books, Children and Youth, Culture and the Arts, Development and Poverty, Education, Health, Islamisation, Law & Order, Mental health, Social Issues, Terrorism and Violence, Women |

Rules of the game

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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 |

Protected: Fear, pride and folly

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Enter your password to view comments. | Posted in Books, Children and Youth, Defence and Disarmament, Development and Poverty, Foreign Policy of Pakistan, International Politics, New, Nuclear weapons, Social Issues, Terrorism and Violence |

Book, not Facebook

Bar-e-Shanasaee

By Zubeida Mustafa

IN his newly published book, Baar-i-Shanasaee, Karamatullah Ghori, a retired Pakistani diplomat, recounts incidents from his professional life that make an interesting read. The book comprises character sketches of nine personalities who are dubbed in the book’s sub-title as the “history makers and history breakers” of Pakistan.

The book is by no means an objective historian’s analysis of its subjects — all of whom were politicians/military rulers, with the exception of Faiz Ahmad Faiz, the Lenin Prize winning poet, and Prof Abdus Salam, the Nobel Laureate scientist. The publication is more in the nature of reminiscences and the author vouchsafes for their authenticity as he was witness to or participant in the events narrated.

An anecdote from Ghori’s account of his encounter with Gen Pervez Musharraf struck me as worth recalling. Soon after seizing power in October 1999, the general visited Turkey where he had spent seven years of his childhood. The author was at that time Pakistan’s ambassador in Ankara. On seeing the ambassador’s personal library and on being told that Ghori was an avid reader, the general commented, “Mujhay parhnay ka shauq naheen”. (I am not interested in reading.) Continue reading

6 Comments | Posted in Books, Foreign Policy of Pakistan, New, Politics |

Battle of ideas

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By Zubeida Mustafa

AS it has gathered steam, the Children’s Literature Festival (CLF) — a unique event in Pakistan — has collected around itself a band of devoted supporters sharing the ideals of the founders. A key objective of the festival is to encourage children to read books so that they develop the faculty of critical thinking. Recently Karachi hosted the 11th CLF and on this occasion the question asked was what purpose books would serve in these testing times. Ahmad Shah, the president of the Karachi Arts Council, who generously opened up the KAC’s premises for the children of the city, had the answer.

The basic aim of education should be to change the mindset of people, he said. This can be done by promoting the reading of books — a habit which gives exposure to a variety of opinions and enlightens the readers in the process. Continue reading

5 Comments | Posted in Books, Children and Youth, Education, New |

Reading for sharing

Photograph by Marcus Quigmire, sourced from Wikimedia Commons

By Zubeida Mustafa

FEW people now read for pleasure. Therefore, to meet a person who loves to read books can be a fascinating experience. And if there are people who read for pleasure and then drive down miles every Friday evening without fail to participate in discussions on books, then it is time to learn more about them.

I have had the privilege of meeting such bibliophiles — about 20 or 25 of them — who describe themselves as members of the Readers Club. On Jan 10, the club will complete 13 years of its low-profile existence. Two years ago it was registered as a trust to ensure its permanence.

The brainchild of Abbas Husain, the well-known director of the Teachers Development Centre who claims to have reached out to 40,000 teachers in 20 years, and Azmat Khan, a management trainer professional, the Readers’ Club has held over 500 meetings so far. Continue reading

9 Comments | Posted in Books, Children and Youth, Education, New, Social Issues |

Zahra Sabri wins Zubeida Mustafa Award

KARACHI, Dec 14: The Dawn Media Group announced the result of the competition for the Zubeida Mustafa Award for Journalistic Excellence on Saturday, with the citation and cash prize going to Zahra Sabri for her article “A Textbook Case”, which was published in the Herald magazine in December last year.

Ms Sabri’s article was amongst the over two dozen investigative news reports and news features submitted for the competition by women writers whose work was published in various accredited, Pakistan-based and English-language publications, said a press release.

The judges were unanimous that Ms Sabri’s work stood out for quality of research, clarity and accessibility of writing, and for being closest to the ideals and ideas for which the figure who inspired the award stands.
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2 Comments | Posted in Books, Education, Media, Social Issues |

Unlocking the mind

Adeel Hashmi at CLF. Picture Courtesy: CLF

By Zubeida Mustafa

AT what age does a child start thinking? Experts believe that children have a mind of their own since they are born. Some even believe that their cognitive abilities are present even when they are in their mother’s womb. That is why they are more at ease with the language they hear their mother speak.

It is a different — though sad — matter that we, as adults, suppress this creative and critical thinking power of children that nature has endowed them with. Since we are comfortable among conformists who do not pose uncomfortable questions we shape our education policies in such a way that children forget how to question. Continue reading

11 Comments | Posted in Books, Children and Youth, Culture and the Arts, Education, Social Issues |

Licence to kill?

By Zubeida Mustafa

ANNIVERSARIES are a time for reflection. And if they are also marked with celebration, the idea is to reaffirm the spirit of the event that is being commemorated. That is what Pakistan’s independence day anniversary means to most of us.

There would be barely two million people left in Pakistan who would have any memory of the partition of India. Those who were old enough in 1947 to comprehend what was happening would be even fewer. Soon those who were witness to this momentous event will be gone and partition will live only in history books. Given our distorted historiography our progeny may never learn the truth.

I was too young to understand the wider implications of the political events of 1947. But I could feel the excitement of living in a new country in a state of fear generated by the bloodletting. There was, however, no sense of the ‘other’ who had to be hated and destroyed. The massacre that accompanied the events of 1947 had more of a political dimension than a religious one. Continue reading

12 Comments | Posted in Books, History, Islamisation, Politics |

Writing for children

By Zubeida Mustafa

AN email circular drew my attention to The ABC of It, an exhibition of children’s books that opened in the New York Public Library last week. The NYPL website announced that literature for young readers is important as through them one learns what books are teaching children. It also added that such books reveal a lot about the societies that produced them.

This observation provides food for thought. If I were asked to devise a yardstick to measure how child-friendly a society is, I would base it on the volume, quality, diversity, content and, above all, authorship of the children’s literature it produces. All authors and poets who have made a name for themselves in the literary world by writing for adults have always found time to write for children.
Continue reading

1 Comment | Posted in Books, Children and Youth, Education |