Category Archives: Guest Contributor

Cultural Diversity: Life in Karachi

 By Rumana Husain

geust-contPlease note: This paper was presented at the Second Silk Road International Cultural Forum in Moscow, Russia on September 15, 2015, in the session on Cultural diversity contributes to innovation, and later with slight modifications as The Tangible and Intangible Aspects of Cultural Diversity at a Roundtable Discussion in the Rumi Forum where the overriding theme was Respect Difference and Diversity to Foster Peace and Harmony, on October 14, 2015.

Cultural diversity, tangible and intangible, affects and influences our lives, wherever we may be living. We imbibe diversity, consciously or unconsciously. The result is perhaps more significant in cultures which are still predominantly traditional, within today’s modern urban condition.

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Sick to the teeth

By Rifaat Hamid Ghani

geust-contFortunately, not everyone is sick to the teeth of the democratic process; however, far too many are of the electoral process. Pakistanis have been subjected to ceaseless blustering repetitive electoral campaigning for more than two years.

The last national election took place in 2013. Losers complained: Probably a probe would have revealed some irregularities; but far from a general outcry about extensive rigging there was public relief that the verdict was being respected:

People have unhappy memories of caretaker governments and military intervention precipitated by agitational politics. Does the PTI think that deterrent apprehension has faded?

There has been general acclamation of the electoral transition from one democratically elected government to another. The emphasis has been on the completion of the previous government’s mandated term, The PTI did not set itself apart by rejecting the mandate in its entirety. It contented itself with demanding a probe into a handful of seats. Continue reading

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14 August: A Day for Sombre Reflection

By Adil Zareef
guest-contributorAugust 14, is traditionally a day for rejoicing, much fanfare, military parades, display of firepower and nukes. Symbolically, the patriotic chest thumping and feet stomping at the Wagah border between the erstwhile “traditional enemies” touch a feverish pitch as hysterical crowds on either side cheer their highly charged and battle ready soldiers, hoisting their national flags amid fierce expressions in a crescendo of sloganeering at sunset – the climax of the existential confrontation refuses to ease or ebb with time, despite the epoch making history that has transformed the greater part of our world.

Perhaps we are condemned by history or by geopolitics, or both, keeping us embroiled in a state of perpetual confrontation as other regions have prospered and progressed and long buried the hatchet of hate. Meanwhile, both India and Pakistan are competing in exclusion and exploitation of their respective population, as their state policy inch towards nihilism.

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Comments Off | Posted in Constitution, Defence and Disarmament, Foreign Policy of Pakistan, Guest Contributor, History, International Politics, Kashmir, Minorities, Politics |

Handle with care

By Rifaat Hamid Ghani

geust-contOur media feeds us news-shockers and pop intellectual celebrity responses to the latest political sin of omission or commission on a daily basis. The storm of noise obscures (perhaps unintendedly) that the root problem for national authorities in Karachi is the approach to Bilawal House and the PPP: How different can it remain from the approach already taken to 90 and the MQM? Thorny difficulties arise when handling principled and pragmatic aspects of the matter, whether deterrent authority dons a political velvet glove or shows a military iron hand.

The nettle will have to be plucked though, for Karachi truly is a cosmopolitan city: Its populace might not count for much other than statistically, but what happens there and to it has high visibility. Continue reading

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Wily Politics


By Rifaat Hamid Ghani

Ethnic politics, dynastic politics, and perhaps most ill-advised of them all – cultist politics.

But it would be false to identify Bhutto himself as the trail-blazer of Bhutto-ism: He was no cultist. Bhutto-ism could become a cult because of what Bhutto actually achieved and signified despite his catastrophic flaws. He founded a political party that reoriented national politics and revitalized the democratic grammar Field Marshal Ayub Khan’s basic democracy had rubbished. Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party had a meaningfully persuasive popular ideology. Unfortunately he betrayed its democratic manifest: Once empowered, he sought the mode of a one-party state. Pakistanis were too pluralistic to accept that; but long after his death the party infrastructure he constructed remains viable. Continue reading

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NA-246: bye-‘by?

By Rifaat Hamid Ghani

geust-contWILL the bye-election in Karachi’s NA-246 yield a significantly different result from the one last obtained? Already there are signs of using any changes further to impugn the conduct of the national elections of 2013 and psychologically underwrite Imran’s allegations. And what does Imran Khan have to say when he stops ranting about electoral fraud and corruption and intimidation? Well the party is having a try at talking about liberating the ladies and caring for the street-child. If PTI is thinking of reaching hearts and minds in Karachi NA-264 the new tack needs a different pitch.

The ladies in Karachi’s constituencies (even when Burqa clad) are formidably liberated or else entirely articulate about the need thereof. Street-children – ah yes – that is a good note – they should be state-children the party powerful were saying in Peshawar. Ought Karachi’s voters to assume the state just arrived in the PTI-governed KP hasn’t had a chance to get cracking? But street children PTI went on to elaborate Continue reading

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A plague of saviours

By Rifaat Hamid Ghani

  •  Musharraf’s specific contribution to the toxic cauldron in which Pakistan’s polity stews and bubbles was the imposition of his military will without a declaration of martial law. The visible outcome a bit more than a decade later is a widespread non-perception of any infallibly observed and consistently applicable laws at all. Civil law was clearly treated as of no consequence in the ‘countercoup’ and it died without a whimper. No one heard justly esteemed legal personae renowned as civil rights champions and constitutional experts haranguing military trespass.

The simple fact on the ground was that Nawaz Sharif was using his party’s once popular absolute parliamentary majority (there had been extensive disgust with the presently hallowed Benazir in her second tenure) to make legal nonsense of its origin: The legislature or rather too many of its members were on the verge of legislating the PM’s office repugnant dictatorial political powers. Musharraf averted Sharif’s obtaining these legally by appropriating them for himself unlawfully. Why was the interventionist COAS more representative of popular as well as intellectual sentiment at that juncture than the democratically elected prime minister? Because he blocked the misapplication of Islam in politics that Nawaz Sharif was using to whitewash his proposed 15th Amendment.

The point to be made here is that it is not just a COAS Vs PM tussle our political experiences have familiarised us with, but a religious practice Vs democratic practice choice that is constantly if variously posed us. There is a lingering and misleading assumption that a martial law or fidelity to the supremacy of civil authority choice is mirrored in what we view as an Islamization or parliamentary democracy option. Civil politicians and military dictators have, as demanded by the times, been exponents of either. Continue reading

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Language fracture

By Rifaat Hamid Ghani

geust-contTHE importance of education is reiterated so passionately that the phrase has become an end in itself: We stop dead after asserting its importance. Duty has been done and homage offered.

There has not been a single attempt at government – civil or military – that has not set up its own national education reform commission, taskforce, or whatever rubric the jargon of its moment favours. The labels change but one may comfortably hazard a guess that the substance of reports, the diagnosis and prognosis of the malady, are rather similar. The same sage recommendations and prescriptions have been heard over and over again, and whatever is attempted never really gets going. Yet, outstanding blunders perpetrated in the field resonate despite policy change or retraction – think Bhutto’s nationalisation and Zia’s madressas.

This article’s purported focus is higher education and language: the medium of instruction. I will forbear – but only after reminding clichés survive because they are valid – from the clichés as to the advantages of instruction in the mother tongue and the advantages of English as a global language. Look instead at what we have and what we want – not from the perspective of the arbiters, the consultant expert advisers on system – but from the point of view of their captives – Pakistan’s students and teachers: For students approaching higher education, and teachers as they receive and dispatch them, Continue reading

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The neuter gender

By Rifaat Hamid Ghani

geust-contTHE Pakistani woman: can she be defined? For that matter can the Pakistani male? Somehow we don’t think that much about defining the Pakistani male – its women are so much more interesting! Pakistani society is stratified and its cultures mixed; yet its male value stereotype is almost constant. Feudal lordling or serf, bureaucratic grandee or babu, urban or rural, whatever the income bracket or professional tag or social exposure, men are convinced they know better than their women – whether they indulge them or control them. They retain the right to intervene be it as wise men or tyrants.

But the Pakistani woman’s attitude to the male in her orbit varies dramatically depending osocial standing. The plane of stratification and the cultural mix make an enormous difference to her mental attitudes and responses. One could say that women are still evolving and the men have evolved – which is a polite way of saying that they are Continue reading

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A Visit to Vietnam

By Rabab Naqvi

geust-contOnce you step out on the streets of Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, it is hard to believe that this is a country that was devastated by war not long ago. My cousin, Rashida, responded to my email from Vietnam, “I am glad you are having a nice stay in Vietnam. My mind still carries the war ravaged scenes of that country of 40 or 50 years ago”. To find remnants of war today one has to go to the War Museum and the Cu Chi tunnel complex.  Hanoi, which was bombed during the war, buzzes with life. Amidst restaurants, hotels, shopping plazas and bazaars pretty women and handsome men scurry around. Vietnamese are blessed with good looks and good figures. Men and women both drive motorcycles on roads and highways. Vietnam has the highest number of two-wheelers per capita. Whole families somehow manage to fit on one motorcycle. It is amazing how they can carry an incredible amount of stuff of varying shapes and sizes on a motorcycle. It appears to be their main mode of Continue reading

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