Category Archives: Development and Poverty

The human touch

By Zubeida Mustafa

A SPARK has been lit in a 3,500-strong community living in the backwaters of Larkana district. Known as Khairo Dero, the place was the antithesis of what its name implies: it was one of the most depressed goths in the area. A turning point came in 2004. A young female journalist touring rural Sindh was deeply moved by the neglect and apathy she witnessed, especially in Khairo Dero, her ancestral village.

That was Naween Mangi, today the Pakistan bureau chief of Bloomberg, a premier American business and financial news channel. It took her four years to internalise the despondency of her people and think of a strategy to breathe new life into their existence. Thus she hoped to bring about the ‘silent revolution’ she had begun to dream of. Continue reading

3 Comments | Posted in Development and Poverty, Economy, Education, Housing, Labour, New, Social Issues, Women |

Dignity, not charity

Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

By Zubeida Mustafa

ONE problem with our poverty alleviation strategies is that they benefit the givers more than the recipients. Yet another problem is that they generally involve doling out in public view money to the underprivileged which is demeaning and robs them of their dignity.

The government itself has reduced us to a nation of beggars by going around the world with a begging bowl. As a quid pro quo it willingly sells its sovereignty.

Against this backdrop, it is immensely satisfying to see people in our midst who believe in meeting the needs of the poor without hurting their self-esteem. I met one such couple, Ali Raza and his wife Shibli, who founded Waseela in 2010 with the idea of bringing about a change in society. Continue reading

8 Comments | Posted in Development and Poverty, Economy, Labour, New, Social Issues |

Restoring childhood

Picture courtesy Wikimedia Commons

By Zubeida Mustafa

  1. WHEN Khalil Gibran, the Lebanese-American poet, wrote his famous poem Pity the Nation he probably could not in his wildest dreams imagine the excesses a nation can commit against children, whose souls, according to him, “dwell in the house of tomorrow”. Had he sensed man’s brutality towards his own offspring, Gibran would have added, ‘Pity the nation that robs its children of their childhood’.
  2. The shocking murder of a child in Lahore allegedly by her employer is a small example of how Pakistan treats its children. According to Arshad Mahmood, a child’s rights activist, 24 children engaged in domestic labour have been killed in Pakistan since January 2010 when Shazia Masih was reported to have been brutally killed in the lawyer’s home where she worked.
  3. It must be noted that domestic labour is only one sector where children go to earn a living. Equally deplorable are the Worst forms of child labour as described by the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler) in two districts of Sindh — Tando Allahyar and Badin.
  4. Researched painstakingly by Zeenat Hisam and her team, these two slim volumes are eye-openers. They highlight the magnitude and various dimensions of child labour in these areas of Sindh. The idea is to keep the public focus on this problem and design interventions to eradicate child labour. The reports also identify the socio-economic factors that have created conditions in which hazardous forms of child labour thrive.

Continue reading

5 Comments | Posted in Children and Youth, Development and Poverty, Economy, Education, Labour, New, Social Issues |

As bleak as ever

education_policybrief

By Zubeida Mustafa

THE new year has brought with it the report card on education in Pakistan that ASER (Annual Status of Education Report) has been issuing without fail since 2009. It is disappointing that the situation in the education sector remains as dismal as ever.

Last week, ASER again had bad news for the nation when it launched its annual report. The latter was based on tests given to 249,832 children in 138 rural districts. A few urban areas were also surveyed.

Today, when Article 25-A of the Constitution is in place making education free and compulsory for all those from six to 16 years of age, it is a tragedy that 21pc of Pakistan’s rural children are still not enrolled in school. While that is a sad reflection on the missing political commitment to education in various provincial governments, one cannot turn a blind eye to other factors. Continue reading

6 Comments | Posted in Children and Youth, Development and Poverty, Education, New |

Why they don’t drop dead

Food Absorption in Pakistan (Image courtesy: Dawn.com)

By Zubeida Mustafa

LAST Friday the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) organised a ‘March against Hunger’ to demand that the government and civil society enhance people’s awareness of their right to basic nutrition and food security through combined efforts.

I think this event was most timely given the utter lack of public understanding of the issue. One example of poor knowledge of the subject was an observation on my column ‘Whose land is this?’ (Nov 20) where I had pointed out the adverse impact of our failure to introduce land reforms as being the “rise in food insecurity” leading to nearly 50pc of Pakistan’s population suffering from malnourishment.

A reader noted that if high levels of malnutrition in the country were a fact, people would be dropping dead in their hundreds, and that villagers produced enough food for themselves and the country. Continue reading

8 Comments | Posted in Development and Poverty, Economy, Health, Human Rights, Politics |

A basic truth

mandala-6-1177969-m

By Zubeida Mustafa

IF there is a basic truth we still have to learn with regard to improving the lives of people it is that development can take place only when a holistic and integrated approach is adopted. It is not possible to concentrate on only one aspect of people’s socio-economic lives and expect poverty to be eliminated and growth to take place uniformly.

It would be pertinent to study the approach of the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative, a think tank working on strategies to address poverty issues.

The OPHDI emphasises that poverty is more than a lack of income. It is a multi-dimensional phenomenon. Even if a person is earning a reasonable amount, he may not be able to improve his life if health and education facilities are skewed in favour of the very wealthy. Violence is another factor which affects people unequally and its impact on the poor is greater. The OPHDI cites a UNDP study to point out that “successful countries have addressed different deprivations together”. Continue reading

6 Comments | Posted in Development and Poverty, Population, Women |

Whose land is this?

Picture courtesy: NordNordWest / Wikimedia

By Zubeida Mustafa

MR Abid Hasan Minto, president of the Awami Workers’ Party, has done well to go before the Supreme Court to challenge the 1990 judgement of the Federal Shariat Court’s appellate bench declaring land reforms to be un-Islamic.

After that judgement it became fashionable to pronounce the demise of feudalism in Pakistan. Some economists of repute challenged leftist views on the subject. It was widely propagated that Pakistan is no more an agrarian economy. It was also said that the country was urbanising fast and the rural-urban divide was not sharply delineated any more.

I will not get into semantic arguments about the definition of feudalism or the social changes that are used as indicators in support of the argument that ours is not a feudal society now. What is more worrisome is that food insecurity in Pakistan is on the rise and rural poverty can be linked to a great extent to the size of landholdings and the relationship between the person who owns the land and the one who cultivates it. Also a matter of concern is the nexus between big landowners and political power.

In this context, the study on landholdings conducted by Dr Kaiser Bengali, an economist and government adviser, is extremely instructive. It reminds us that land reform is an issue that is as relevant today as it was in 1959, 1972 and 1977 when half-hearted attempts were made to change the pattern of landholding in Pakistan. Continue reading

11 Comments | Posted in Development and Poverty, Economy, Human Rights, Politics |

Who suffers more?

By Zubeida Mustafa

ANALYSING the anatomy of violence in Karachi, Kaiser Bengali, a former adviser to the Sindh chief minister, wrote in this paper (Sept 8) about the breakdown of the social contract in the city.

He defines this as the essential, implicit agreement between all interest groups on the broad contours of governance. On the basis of this, all societies function, he writes.

Kaiser Bengali is spot on. He lists demographic changes, joblessness of the Lyari youth and the rise of religious militancy as the major battlefronts of the war resulting from the end of the social contract. Continue reading

6 Comments | Posted in Children and Youth, Development and Poverty, Education, Law & Order, War and Peace |

How Perween Rehman Crossed Over

I was in class when I got the text message: “Perween Rahman shot dead.”

My hands started shaking and I could hear my heart beating. I found a computer, and clicked around so I could scan the online news sites, and see if it was true. “On March 13, 2013, Perween Rahman was shot dead near a Banaras fly-over by armed gunmen as she made her way back home from Orangi.”

News of the dead and the dying hardly shocks the way it used to. But this was different. This was Perween Rehman. Continue reading

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A Gentle Heart Has Been Stopped

Perween

Aquila Ismail
Karachi, Pakistan

The butterfly counts not months but moments and has time enough…Tagore

***

“Apu! You’re here! Great!” That’s how my little sister Perween would greet me every time I arrived at her door from Abu Dhabi at 3:00 in the morning, followed by hugs and kisses. The fragrance of her embrace would right every little grievance that I had with the world. She had a habit of doing this smile with a tilt of her head that renewed life and plunged me into a world of twinkling eyes, melodious chimes of her bangles, peals of laughter, and high fives.

The sentence that invariably followed was,

“Apu, I have to meet someone from the KWSB/Goth [village]/Union council/etc. in the morning, so I will leave early and come back early.”

Knowing fully well the answer, I would ask, “How early?” Continue reading

3 Comments | Posted in Development and Poverty, Perween Rahman, Terrorism and Violence, Women |