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Category Archives: Guest Contributor
by Rifaat Hamid Ghani
TV started out in Pakistan as a government monopoly dressed up as a semi-autonomous corporation. There was every reason for PTV to be a disaster, yet it was an enviable success.
President Field Marshal Ayub loved it for its power as a propaganda tool that dispensed with literacy requirements and had more magnetism than the radio. Aslam Azhar, PTV’s defining and trail-blazing station-manager, loved it for what it could do to educate and inform. That was the idealist in him. The actor in him loved it because it was a creative medium. The PTV he nurtured with a board of imaginative mandarins to back him, had an egalitarian working environment and it changed norms and mores.
All within the parameters of the Ministry of Information’s most stringent rules the new medium empowered women, dignified the artiste, and changed social conventions. PTV gave the artistes and creators of drama, music, dance, a place to go and be and earn. It gave the entertainment industry a respectability which assured parents their young could participate despite the amazingly irregular working hours and rather low grade recognition granted the programme producer, bureaucratically speaking. Of course the outreach of PTV’s state propaganda was soul-deadening – but even so programmes like Alif Noon redeemed much. And in terms of professionalism and entertainment value the quality of PTV programming and production and technical transmission dominated the region and was an exemplar.
Cut to now. Continue reading
By Rifaat Hamid Ghani
SOMEWHERE buried under multitudinous leaders lie we the people. What is it like to be a citizen of Pakistan, a plain ordinary citizen who does not want or cannot aspire to dual nationality? An anonymous citizen unlikely to be granted asylum or residence in Dubai, London, Saudi Arabia; or green cards in greener pastures:Citizens with horizons so narrow as to be nationally rather than globally oriented. Citizens threatened by terrorism.
None of us want to be bossed around by the foot soldier with an officer behind him. But neither do we enjoy being served the way we are by civil politicians, be they with the opposition or the government of the day. There is a limit to the amount of tomfoolery that can be endured in the name of democratic dissent and freedom of speech. Or perhaps there is not for we remain easy prey to demagogues and fallacy-mongering. Continue reading
By Nikhat Sattar
Sherlock Holmes is credited with the saying ‘the past is another country’. In my case, it was mine, to begin with. Forty two years later, I still find it difficult to comprehend that I am no longer a citizen of the place that reared me and instilled in me the love of all that is beautiful in God’s world. I had to leave it as a child, vowing to return, as I looked at its receding coastline. Return I did, as an adult, several times, and each time as if I had never left. I was frozen in time, 1971 and space, in Chittagong, the second largest city in what is now called Bangladesh.
Chittagong is thousands of years old, and has a rich history of Roman, Arab and East Asian trading by sea. Indeed, its name is supposed to be an Arabic derivative of Shetgang, which comes from Shatt-al-Ganga, meaning Mouth of the Ganges. There are other sources that claim that the name comes from the Bengali Chatt-Gaon, meaning rock and village, referring to the hilly landscape. A sleepy town-village of outstanding beauty, it was a magical place of winding streets going up and down the hills, huge lakes, dense foliage, large fields and pristine beaches. The overwhelming colour was green, but with heavy rains and salty sea, buildings often took on a dark hue that somehow attached itself to my memory. The Kaptai Dam, Foy’s lake, Rangamati, Faujdarhat and Karnaphuli Paper Mills , each a few hours heavenly drive away from settlements are etched into my mind like fairy tales. Continue reading
by Rifaat Hamid Ghani
It is more than a decade since the post 9/11 invasion of Afghanistan.
America now intends to withdraw from there, leaving only a token presence. If the elimination of the prospect of Taliban rule and extirpation of ‘Talibanism’ was the objective of that invasion it has not been achieved. It is also unlikely that America will subsequently be indifferent to Taliban resurgence becoming truly effective, or complaisant about its consolidating. So whose boots will stay on the ground to keep Taliban foothold from gaining space? There is a certain rationale to the speculation that America may find proxy warfare serves its unattained ends. Mercenaries cost, and international peace-keeping too has a running upkeep. Also, factor in that the world’s great powers past and present, collectively and separately, in competition as well as alliance, have more than a century’s working experience of strategic use of the porous borders between Afghanistan India and what in 1947 became Pakistan. Pakistan is in the middle whatever the perspective.
It has consistently and unabashedly been a facilitator of America’s Afghan activities and objectives. Before 9/11 it complemented CIA’s furtherance of the ethos of jihad to contain the ‘godless’ Soviet Union. Post 9/11 it too re-orientated itself and deprecated ‘jihadism’ as potentially terroristic. In 2001 it endorsed toppling the Taliban regime it had earlier furthered and rushed to recognize. Continue reading
The 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
By Amna Pathan
We are all aware of how much the Christian community has done for Pakistan. It has established schools such as ours – the St Joseph’s Convent — all over the country. Hospitals, orphanages, trust funds, even entire villages were founded by the Christians as early as the late nineteenth century.
The Church of England established the Karachi Grammar School in 1847. Thomas French, the first bishop of Lahore, founded the Agra College in 1853. Three years later, The Convent of Jesus and Mary was set up in Sialkot. In 1861 the St. Patrick’s High School and in 1862 the St. Joseph’s Convent School were established. These were the first of many schools and universities set up by the Christians, who, for the last 160 years have been educating people all over Pakistan. Their students, have in turn, grown up to educate others and spread their teachings. These missionary schools have moulded lives, and that in turn have shaped our country’s history and its future.
By Asif Noorani
The success story of the SIUT (Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation), starting on a modest scale and growing into a state-of-the-art medical and surgical hospital with impressive research and training facilities, gives you the feeling that all is not lost with this country. It is heartening that here is a government institution, run by a qualified and well-trained team of inspired and dedicated personnel, which offers free treatment to thousands of poor patients. What is more, they are all treated with the respect and dignity they deserve and are made to feel that medical treatment is their birth right.
The SIUT and its journey is documented by Zubeida Mustafa in the coffee table book, The SIUT Story: Making the ‘Impossible’ Possible. During the research for the book, Mustafa spoke not just with medical practitioners but also with kidney donors and many patients who have been treated successfully. With donations and help in cash and kind flowing from individuals and corporate bodies who have trust in the integrity and capability of the people running the institution, not many plans had to be dropped owing to lack of finances. Continue reading
By Nikhat Sattar
In 1947, a well known and educated gentleman, Yousuf Dehlvi started a publishing house in Delhi along with his three sons. Shama Publications as it was named, catered to the growing educated class in both India and Pakistan, and had an office in London through which it reached out to readers of Urdu and Hindi in Europe. Yousuf Dehlvi was a man of letters, highly religious, well connected with politicians and what would now be called the “elite”, as well as a sound business man.
He recognised the signs of an awakening among writers post independence, and realised too the huge market of readers that could be further stimulated and developed. This was also the time when the film industry was just beginning to produce films having social messages.
Shama Publications brought out three monthlies in Urdu: Shama, a film cum literary magazine that focused on Indian films and film stars and had Urdu short stories and poems from authors many of whom owe the beginning of their career and popularity to the magazine; Bano which targeted the educated woman, but again contained gems of the Urdu short story, and Khilona, for children. Khilona was edited by the youngest son, Ilyas Dehlvi, assisted by his elder brother Idrees Dehlvi. The Hindi magazine was called Sushma. Continue reading
By Rifaat Hamid Ghani
ONE could well say Pakistan’s democracy suffers from a president problem. Ghulam Ishaq was adept at dismissing Parliaments. Farooq Leghari, popularly doubted for the party status he enjoyed till assuming office, let down the party, if not the public. Tarrar, unofficially renowned for carrying a briefcase, drifted through the crosscurrents of a countercoup without a hiccup. Presidents Musharraf and Zardari though are in a class by themselves; and who would you send to the top of the class? If one posed a conceptual challenge as a COAS president, the other posed a more empirical one as an active party promoter and controller.
And now, perhaps the thorniest nettle the incoming premier, Mian Nawaz Sharif, will have to grasp: Should the government he is to lead press treason charges on the former President Musharraf? Continue reading
By Fozia Qureshi
An extraordinarily talented and dedicated human, Perveen was a friend and a colleague who was unfailingly cheerful, helpful and supportive. I first met her in 1983 when I started working at the AKU and had the amazing good luck to interact with Dr Akhtar Hameed Khan of the Orangi Pilot Project (OPP) while developing the Primary Health Care field programs for the Department of Community Health Sciences. Continue reading