Category Archives: Economy

‘Seedy’ business

By Zubeida Mustafa

COTTON growers in southern Punjab are facing a serious crisis. Their crop production has shrunk drastically. The reasons stated, among others, are poor quality seeds and severe pest attack.

These factors can be addressed, provided the will exists. Poor seeds and pest attacks that are interconnected have a causal link with the rapid spread of genetically modified organisms (GMO) that have begun to shake public confidence the world over.

The tide is now turning as demonstrations have been held against GMOs, which shot to fame when they were promoted as the miracle seed to eliminate hunger. But the fact is that hybrid plants in which genomes from different species are mixed are too new and untested a technology to win universal acceptance. Continue reading

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Peace women

By Zubeida Mustafa

THE Tehreek-i-Niswan and Sheema Kermani have always been at the forefront when matters of peace are at stake. Many performances by the Tehreek have been directed at protesting the brutality of violence against and oppression of women. Hence it was quite in keeping with its character that the group convened a ‘peace table’ on Oct 15, at the Karachi Arts Council. Here hundreds of women and also men assembled to reinforce the widely held, but unimplemented, belief that female involvement in peacemaking improves the chances of lasting security.

A landmark resolution (1325) was adopted by the UN Security Council 15 years ago calling for women to be included in decision-making positions at every level of peacemaking. It has so far made a nominal impact. The head of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, admits that globally “women’s participation at peace tables is still symbolic or low”. Continue reading

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Myths and reality

By Zubeida Mustafa

Sindh24-13-06-1986THE census is one of the trickiest issues in Pakistan today because of its political and economic implications. Our policymakers have found a way around the problem. They adopt an ostrich-like approach thus hoping to wish away the challenge that the 190.3 million (World Population Review) people pose.

No census has been held in Pakistan since 1998 — the preliminary housing survey that was undertaken in 2011 was aborted when it became too controversial. Now it has been reported that the census planned for 2016 and announced in March is unlikely to be held.

The government cannot be condoned for its negligence. Policymaking has to go on and some numerical guidelines always help. Despite the apathy of the official sector, demographic statistics have registered an improvement — but not enough to make an impact. Continue reading

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Over to ‘Urdish’

By Zubeida Mustafa

LANGUAGE continues to be an enigma in Pakistan. For the umpteenth time education is being ‘reformed’ in this country. Federal Minister of Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal has now announced that ‘Urdish’ will be used as the medium of education in the country.

This is the first time Urdish (not Urlish) is being introduced officially. According to the minister, this initiative will rid the country of the “English medium-Urdu medium controversy that has damaged education standards and adversely affected the growth of young minds.” Continue reading

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Who pays the bill?


By Zubeida Mustafa

ELECTRICITY and the energy sector have been in the news for a long time now in Pakistan. The enormous shortfalls in power generation have been the most talked about issue. The corruption factor has also figured prominently with circular debts and illegal connections drawing a lot of flak against the government. The heatwave in Karachi in June leading to the death of about 1,200 people and the proposal for a Heat Health Action Plan that came in its wake should focus public attention on a number of core issues.

Against this backdrop, I asked Yadullah Husain, a Canadian-Pakistani journalist, how he perceives the crisis. Husain was my colleague in Dawn 17 years ago and is today the energy editor at the respected Canadian paper, Financial Post. He has recently won the Newsmaker of the Year award given by the Global Petroleum Survey recognising the services of a journalist covering the oil and gas sector. Continue reading

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Interview with Yadullah Hussain

yadYadullah Hussain joined Dawn as a trainee sub-editor in 1993, working at what was then called the Tuesday Review. He says, “I had the unique privilege of working under Ahmed Ali Khan, editor in chief of Dawn at the time. Through my frequent interactions with him I learnt the value of journalism and the quest for the truth. He once said to me, ‘I don’t want geniuses, I want hard working people.’ I took that to heart and it worked well for me as I am not the sharpest tool in the shed! The only way I could get ahead was to work hard.

“I also had the pleasure of working with extremely talented individuals at Dawn, but foremost was the Tuesday Review editor Uneza Akhtar, who gave me tremendous freedom to write on varied subjects and express myself. I would like to believe that at The Review we created a very special literary haven that showcased Pakistan’s artists and literary figures. Continue reading

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Trapped in poverty


By Zubeida Mustafa

MIGRANTS are in the news all over the world. Recently, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) released in Rome a report titled Sending Money Home which focused on the remittances — $436 billion in 2014 — transferred by migrant workers to their families. This received positive publicity. The countries that provided jobs to such workers were seen as helping alleviate poverty in the Third World.

In Canada, where I am on a visit, I chanced upon a local paper The Golfi Team Real Estate Market Watch which carried an article against immigrants blaming the latter for many economic woes of the country, including the escalation of property prices and suppression of wages. It sarcastically accused the political parties of seeking to capture immigrant votes by adopting pro-immigration policies while pretending to benefit the rest of the world. Continue reading

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Paper chase

By Zubeida Mustafa

IN May the World Economic Forum issued the Human Capital Report 2015 that facilitates a comparative assessment of the education systems of various countries. For that purpose the WEF has created an index that uses four criteria (termed pillars) as a measure. They are education, health and wellness, employment and enabling environment. The idea is to judge the productive capacity of the workforce

Where does Pakistan stand in this league? With a score of 52.63, we rank 113th out of a total of 124 countries assessed. In other words, only 11 countries are in a worse state than us. Finland which tops the list has a score of 85.78. Continue reading

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Effects of nutrition on educational standards of school children of a developing country

By Zubeida Mustafa 

In the age of specialization we have become so focused on specific areas and issues that we fail to take a holistic approach to problems. The fact is that human life comprises several integrated sectors. The impact of one on another is profound and symbiotic. Hence effective solutions to various problems call for a comprehensive strategy. Here I shall take up two very important areas of a child’s life that are closely interrelated though they are not treated as such by the policymakers. They are education and nutrition.
Both of these pose a major challenge to the people as well as the authorities in Third World countries. While education requires the government to provide facilities to enable children to enroll in school to study, nutrition is related to the health of a child without which education can prove to be a daunting task. A child who falls ill frequently has a high incidence of school absenteeism. That affects his education because irregularity in attendance causes her to miss her lessons and lowers her standards. While this is a phenomenon that is pretty visible, there is an insidious feature of children’s health that has an impact on education which does not find general mention in literature on paediatric health or education issues.
This is the impact malnutrition and various deficiencies make on the cognitive and mental growth and development of a child. It actually affects her intelligence, memory and capacity to learn. While the side-effects of the deficiency of various vitamins and iodine on the physical health of children have been documented not much is known generally about the impact of malnutrition and micronutrient deficiency on the intelligence and mental capacities of a child.
This is significant considering the widespread prevalence of malnutrition in Pakistan. According to the National Nutrition Survey (2011) nearly 43.7 percent of all children under five years of age in Pakistan are severely or moderately stunted. The same survey found 15.1 percent under-5 suffered from wasting and 31.5 percent were underweight.1 There is a lot of regional disparity in and within the provinces. Continue reading

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Save Karachi


By Zubeida Mustafa

RUMANA Husain’s recently published Street Smart: Professionals on the Street comes as a reminder of how we are losing the city where many of us have lived and worked for most of our lives. Karachi is no more what I remember of it when I was a child.

Some categories of the blue-collar workers, as Rumana calls the people who are the subject of her book, no longer exist. Mechanisation, technology and lifestyles have made them redundant. That is change, as the new replaces the old. But the tragedy is that the street professionals no longer knit the community together as they once did. Continue reading

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