Category Archives: Development and Poverty

To trust or not

By Zubeida Mustafa

THE underlying cause of what is currently termed as ‘confusion’ in our political discourse is a deficit of trust. Simply put, it is the paranoia that has subsumed people from all walks of life, causing them to distrust others. Can you blame them when they have been deceived so often?

Take the case of the pandemic. On June 19, a very eminent infectious diseases specialist, Dr Naseem Salahuddin, wrote an excellent article in this paper explaining the pandemic, the emergence of the novel coronavirus, Covid-19 and the need for a lockdown. According to her, we have already crossed the Rubicon. She attributes the failure to win the full cooperation of the masses on SOPs to “poverty, illiteracy and dense populations” as well as “ingrained habits”. Hence she appeals for specialists to be given the opportunity to explain what the pandemic really is.

Continue reading To trust or not

How we survive

By Zubeida Mustafa

IN these trying times of lockdowns, I have found relief in books. Currently, Michelle Obama has brought me the comfort I was looking for. America’s former first lady’s memoir, Becoming, grips your attention with its lucid style. It also gives you a graphic insight into the life of the African-American community, whose struggle has fascinated me since Martin Luther King made his famous ‘I have a dream’ speech more than 50 years ago.

Continue reading How we survive

Pandemicitis

By Rifaat Hamid Ghani

VIRAL fear is experienced by young and old alike globally – but not uniformly. Viral pandemic, it is certified, Covid-19 is also a search engine on the stratifications of globalization. The impact is manifold and varied culturally and economically, and we may only learn empirically if there are any impermeable layers. There is interaction and adaptation; yet there may be responses and outcomes that will never be felt in common and so a separate-ness be reaffirmed.

Which language?

By Zubeida Mustafa

THE medium of instruction in school is once again being hotly debated, not that the issue had ever been resolved. But now that the pro-mother language lobby has gained more leverage over the years, its voice is being heard. That is why passions generated by the language issue cannot be slapped down.

What provoked the controversy this time? It was a report prepared by a subcommittee of the National Curriculum Council on the medium of instruction that caused the ruckus. Later, a member of the NCC described the report as a piece of ‘misreporting’. The so-called wrong report had prescribed English as the medium for quite a few subjects from primary to Grade XII. The regional languages had been omitted totally. It was the latter omission that had led to the deafening furore on social media — and quite understandably so. Mercifully, a clarification was later issued by the government explaining that the question of the languages to be used as the medium had been left to the provincial governments to decide.

Continue reading Which language?

Awaran, O Awaran

By Zubeida Musrafa

IF a child of seven is separated from his family to be sent to a village 50 kilometres away to attend school, how would it affect him? Obviously, it would be traumatic. The pain and anguish of separation would be deep for him as well as his mother.

Such a situation would also make me feel a surge of anger against those responsible for creating such oppressive conditions that leave parents with no choices but ugly ones: send the child away for the sake of his future or keep him home to remain illiterate for life. That is what Balochistan has been reduced to.

Continue reading Awaran, O Awaran

A forest or more?

By Zubeida Mustafa

KARACHI is a concrete jungle which could do with a more generous touch of nature. But this is wishful thinking on my part considering the neglect and corruption that characterises the city’s administration.

According to a report, the KMC has 152 parks — rather plots earmarked for parks, most of them undeveloped — under its control. District South alone is said to have 71 amenity plots that include parks and open spaces. Amber Alibhai, secretary general of Shehri, gives me details of District South. She says that KDA’s idea was to develop this district as a natural recreation area for the citizens of Karachi who visit the adjoining sea beaches. The KMC failed to do its job.

Continue reading A forest or more?

Saving mothers

By Zubeida Mustafa

TWENTY years ago, nearly 400 mothers out of 100,000 giving birth in Pakistan died. This phenomenon, referred to as the maternal mortality rate, has come down to 178 per 100,000 today. This is remarkable progress when seen in our own context. One may attribute this to better childbirth practices and immunisation of expectant mothers.

Continue reading Saving mothers

Of cuts and balancing

By Zubeida Mustafa

Was it a coincidence? Or a case of action and reaction? To a casual  observer of the scene, there may have been a connection. That is how the scene played itself out. It was a balmy Sunday afternoon two days before Eid, and the occasion was a panel discussion on the economy  at the T2F. Former PTI Finance Minister, Asad Umar, was being grilled rigorously about his government’s policy vis-à-vis the IMF.  His interrogators were Pakistan’s two top-ranking economists, Kaiser Bengali and Akbar Zaidi.

Continue reading Of cuts and balancing

Luring readers


By Zubeida Mustafa

A DISCUSSION on libraries always leads to the chicken-and-egg debate. We have few libraries because there are no readers. Or people do not read books as there are no libraries. In Karachi, both are in inadequate numbers.

Belonging to a literary family, the newly appointed commissioner of Karachi, Iftikhar Ali Shallwani, has rightly decided not to get trapped in this debate. He has proceeded to address the issue of the state of libraries by setting up a Council of Karachi Libraries comprising 12 members. These councillors have been tasked with the “restoration, revival and revamping” of the public libraries of the city and upgrading them. For this, the members will visit every library and prepare a report on its working. Hopefully, they will also make suggestions on how libraries can promote the book culture in our society.

Continue reading Luring readers

The dream house

By Zubeida Mustafa

AFTER Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Naya Pakistan Housing Programme had received considerable publicity, I asked Sakina Bibi if she would apply for it. Sakina is a housemaid, and her family income amounts to Rs20,000 per month. She lives in a rented house (Rs8,000 a month) in a squatters’ settlement. Hers is a small family of four, and her economic status should qualify her for a house under the PTI’s ambitious scheme of building five million houses for the poor in five years. Above all, her lifelong dream has been to have a roof she owns above her head. Continue reading The dream house