Category Archives: Economy

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 |

Celebrating women’s leadership

By Zubeida Mustafa

The time has come to celebrate women’s leadership in Pakistan because so many of them are in that role to justify a memorable celebration. When I look back to the days when I entered professional life more than five decades ago, I remember that there were so few of us around that it could be quite a lonely spot to be in. Besides, with a few notable exceptions, there were few who could claim to be playing a leadership role. We were the followers until we found our bearings and gained confidence.

It was, however, realized even then that once the barriers are down women who are enterprising will inevitably refuse to hold themselves back and would proceed to seize the opportunity. And they did, with many of them rising to the top on the basis of merit.

In the middle decade of the last century, Pakistan’s statistics stated that only two per cent of the women were in the workforce. Among them the majority was in menial jobs. The picture has changed considerably today. The World Bank estimates that 28 per cent of the women in Pakistan are engaged in what economists  call productive labour. In absolute numbers this is a big jump, but nothing compared to many other countries. If in this scenario there are women in leadership positions it is something to be proud of. Continue reading

1 Comment | Posted in Economy, Human Rights, Labour, Women |

Gandhi’s message

Rajmohan Gandhi (Picture courtesy: vishvarupa.com)

By Zubeida Mustafa

THE fifth edition of the Karachi Literature Festival was like a gust of fresh air in the environment of despair and gloom that now engulfs the country. It came, it thrilled us and it left. All the sessions were food for the soul and did serve to drive away — even if momentarily — the depressing thoughts that seem to have come to stay permanently.

Of course, laughter is said to be the best medicine and there was plenty of it around. The halls were packed where satire, humour and comedy ruled. But what was more healing were the words of wisdom we received from sages such as Prof Rajmohan Gandhi each day of the festival. Continue reading

6 Comments | Posted in Economy, Education, New, Politics, Social Issues, Terrorism and Violence, War and Peace |

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 |

The Chinese way

China. Picture courtesy: Wikimedia

By Zubeida Mustafa

I BEGIN with a prayer for 2014. May our rulers realise the importance of good education for all and may they acquire the wisdom to know how to go about providing it. Amen.

The concern expressed the other day by the federal minister of education about discrepancies in standards of students from different provinces on account of the lack of uniformity in the curriculum all over the country shows why the above prayer is so timely. It is not quite clear what is upsetting the honourable minister.

If he is worried about diversity in the syllabi, which is inevitable in view of the autonomy the provinces now enjoy, he must guard against our traditional love for conformism. Let a hundred flowers blossom, Mr Minister. Continue reading

6 Comments | Posted in Children and Youth, Economy, Education, New, Social Issues |

Victory in Delhi

Badri Raina

guest-contributorThe performance of the  Aam  Aadmi Party  in  the  just concluded  Assembly elections in the Capital  city of India has been, however you look at it, a phenomenal event, and very likely a watershed departure in the political culture of Indian democracy.  Indeed, India’s Left parties must wonder at the circumstance that where they have failed election after election to make a dent in Delhi’s  hitherto customary two-party political structure, a fledgling new force should have out of nowhere succeeded with the aplomb it has the very first time it chose to wet its feet.

This for the reason that  the credibility of its appeal did not remain limited to the yuppie sections of metropolitan society but, indeed, penetrated to sections of the hoi polloi who have traditionally belonged to a habitual Congress party vote-bank.   In that sense, pundits who had imagined that the campaign of the AAP would not cut across classes have been proved wrong.  One reason why Narendra Modi’s trumpeted interventions in Delhi fell equally flat—notice that the vote-share of the BJP, instead of sky-rocketing owing to the Modi infusion, has actually gone down to its lowest ever in the Capital—has been that many falanges of the petty bourgeois class, for example, auto drivers, switched to  the Kejriwal persona that seemed palpably more intimate   and more  quotidian in its temperament and quality of touch. Continue reading

2 Comments | Posted in Economy, Guest Contributor, Human Rights, Politics, Social Issues, View from Abroad |

Houbaras at risk

Houbara-Bustard (Picture Courtesy: Wikimedia)

By Zubeida Mustafa

LAST Wednesday, a little over 20 Karachiites gathered in front of the Sindh Wildlife Office to raise their voices to prevent the extinction of the houbara bustard, the elegant and colourful bird that makes its appearance in parts of Sindh and Balochistan in the winter months.

The houbara story in this country is a long one and the size of the demo in that context was not big enough to attract public attention. But being in the designated Red Zone (the Governor’s House is in the vicinity of the Sindh Wildlife Office) the protest was at once noticed by the custodians of the law.

Deeming the protesters to be harmless the police allowed them to stand there for a while before they moved on to the Karachi Press Club on the suggestion of the law enforcers. That was a clever step as anything happening at the KPC has a better chance of getting some media coverage. Continue reading

3 Comments | Posted in Economy, Foreign Policy of Pakistan, Politics, Social Issues |

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 |

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 |