Going solar

Sharing the cool
Sharing the cool

By Zubeida Mustafa

ONE of the promises which every government that comes into office in Pakistan holds out to the people is that it will end load-shedding. Deadlines are announced but not met. Waiting for uninterrupted power supply from the grid is like waiting for Godot.

The government continues to reiterate its pledge to provide sustainable, affordable and reliable electricity to the people and hopes to add 10,400 megawatts to the national grid by 2017. Will it? The circular debt keeps mounting and the promised level playing field is nowhere in sight. Heavy load-shedding continues to be the lot of the low-income areas. Continue reading “Going solar”

Why us?

pakistan-mpi-squareBy Zubeida Mustafa

SINCE June, the Pakistan government has been patting itself on the back. Multidimensional poverty (MP) has fallen from 55pc to nearly 40pc in the country since 2004, we are being told. Of course it is admitted that there are districts where poverty is as high as over 90 per cent (Qila Abdullah in Balochistan) today. But in Punjab only 31pc are impoverished. Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi have an MPI (multidimensional poverty index) of 10pc. Continue reading “Why us?”

Enemies of the poor

By Zubeida Mustafa

EIGHT years ago, a young woman from Khairo Dero (Larkana district) was so touched by the plight of her people that she decided to work for their uplift.

She had been fortunate to receive a privileged education abroad, was doing a lucrative job and had all that one could wish for in life. Today, she has renounced these privileges to work for her people. .

Thus Naween Mangi set out on her journey of creating a model village for development in Khairo Dero. Continue reading “Enemies of the poor”

Unsilenced voice

By Zubeida Mustafa

JAN 22 was Perween Rahman’s birthday. Had she escaped the assassin’s cruel bullets she would have turned 59. But that was not to be and this devoted social worker, a friend of the poor, was snatched away from us three years ago on March 13, 2013.

Not that she has receded into oblivion. The poor are not ungrateful. Nor have those who feared her mended their ways. OPP-RTI, the organisation she headed, wanted to observe Perween’s birthday and celebrate her life and achievements. Such events help imprint on the public memory the work of selfless and lovable personalities who have made an impact on the lives of those they worked for. Thus alone will many Perweens be born. This is absolutely necessary if this society is to be saved from the avarice of the selfish. Continue reading “Unsilenced voice”

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 “Who pays the bill?”

Insecure rights

By Zubeida Mustafa

A WEEK before Sabeen Mahmud, the ever-smiling ‘active’ human rights activist was gunned down in Karachi, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan launched its annual State of Human Rights report for 2014.

It is widely believed that Sabeen’s decision to host a seminar on Balochistan invited a terrible retribution from the powers-that-be. It is indeed saddening that this staunch defender of all the rights covered by the HRCP report is no more amongst us to act as society’s conscience to remind us that each of us becomes an abettor when the state violates any right the citizen is entitled to and we remain silent onlookers. Continue reading “Insecure rights”

Karachi seeks peace

By Zubeida Mustafa

JO dil par haath rakho tau/ faqat itna hee kahta hai/ Woh Isa Chowk ho ya Das Manzil ka koi mandir/ Lohari Gate ho ya Goth Qasim ki koi basti/ Woh Babul Ilm ho ya Masjid-i-Siddiq-i-Akbar ho/ Hussainabad ho ya woh meri Farooq Nagri ho/ Jahan bhi golian chalti hain meray dil pe lagti hain/ Har ek woh ghar jahan maatam bapa hai mera apna hai. — Ishrat Afreen

(I place my hand on my heart/ and all it says is/ whether it be Isa Chowk or some temple of Das Manzil/ be it Lohari Gate or a neighbourhood of Goth Qasim/ be it Babul Ilm or the Siddiq-i-Akbar mosque/ be it Hussainabad or my Farooq Nagri/ where bullets fly they strike my heart/ every home in mourning is my very own.)

These verses draw a startling picture of Karachi torn by sectarian/communal violence. The picture is of a fragmented city. The verses also poignantly capture the poet’s pain and sense of shared grief with the victims irrespective of their caste or creed. This theme — horror and empathy — has recently found resonance in the numerous conferences held under the banner of the ‘I am Karachi’ peace campaign. This is the need of the hour in a city that lost over 1,100 of its citizens to violence in 2014. Continue reading “Karachi seeks peace”

Worth of a life

By Zubeida Mustafa

HOW much is a human life worth in Pakistan? Not more than peanuts, given the impunity with which people are being killed in this benighted country of ours. The state’s failure — or lack of will — to protect the life of its citizens is at the root of this tragedy.

In this context, I am reminded of two women — one dead, the other on death row. One was a dear friend. The other is a stranger whose community has been my benefactor. I owe my education to Christian missionaries who gave me knowledge and taught me, by example, to respect and be tolerant of all faiths.

Perween Rahman and Asiya Bibi have nothing in common except that they are symbols of our quest for justice and sanctity of life in a society that thrives on hate and violence. Continue reading “Worth of a life”

People’s power

By ZubeidaMustafa

THE buzzword these days is ‘empowerment’ and there is a lot of talk about empowering the people. The most vocal are political leaders who use the term randomly as a strategy to empower themselves politically.

True empowerment, however, envisages equipping people with tools they can use to achieve a decent life for themselves and their families which can be got through education, employment, healthcare, a roof above their heads and the sense of dignity they acquire when they do not have to be permanently dependent on others to sustain themselves. An example of how people are empowered pertains to the Ali Hasan Mangi Memorial Trust which was set up by Mr Mangi’s granddaughter Naween to draw out the innate capacity of the 3,500-strong community of Khairo Dero to uplift itself.

The main tools that have been identified by the trust for empowerment are education, literacy, healthcare, microcredit for income generation and building homes and getting water supply and sanitation on a self-help basis. The fact is that until the basic needs of a people are met and a sense of security provided to them, they cannot strive for higher goals. AHMMT works, as its vision statement says, with the aim of building a “model village that can be replicated”. Continue reading “People’s power”

A mini Pakistan

By Zubeida Mustafa

Ten years ago when I decided to downshift and move into an apartment from an independent house, I was warned by a friend that I should think twice about the change. She said every apartment dweller she knew was constantly complaining of the difficulties caused by the non-cooperation of residents.

I didn’t heed her advice as I thought Karachi living had its problems, whether one’s abode was a mansion, a townhouse, or a flat in a complex. One had to figure out how to cope.

In retrospect, I feel apartment-living was the microcosm of life in Pakistan — and full of pitfalls. When I moved in, I was in a state of bliss. Having experienced two armed robberies in my home — when living in an independent house — I felt secure after a long time. The flat was bright and airy and had a view of the sea. Continue reading “A mini Pakistan”