Category Archives: Human Rights

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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Arms and the man


By Zubeida Mustafa

THE sense of insecurity that hangs heavy in the air in Karachi is almost palpable. Even when life is following its near normal routine — the jostling crowds, the unruly traffic and the noise — the uneasy feeling persists.

For me this normality is not reassuring. Unpleasant memories of traumatic experiences of yore lie hidden in the subconscious. The sight of an armed guard reminds me of the gun-driven violence that stalks the city. It is the gun that has been held twice to my head to rob me when the day was so beautiful. The last time this happened was a few years ago when my peaceful morning walk was interrupted by three armed youths on a motorbike, out to steal my pedometer — worth not more than Rs100. Everyone I meet has a ‘gun story’ to tell. Continue reading

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Teacher in exile

By Zubeida Mustafa


Bernadette Dean

CAN we hope to hear news from Pakistan that brings some light to the end of the tunnel? It is a red-letter day when we do and one such day came recently when I read about a group of creative artists who have shown the courage to counter Pakistan’s biggest existential challenge — the indoctrination of youth by religious extremists and militants.

These artists have ventured to produce rational literature which they are disseminating among young readers to inspire some soul-searching within them. The graphic novel titled Pasban is designed to encourage the readers to ask questions on basic issues of the day and help them seek sensible answers.

This no doubt will be an uphill task considering the government’s own failure to counter the extremist threat. All it was required to do was to introduce liberal values through curricula reforms. The primary need is to teach children tolerance and 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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Changing mindsets

Image courtesy:

By Zubeida Mustafa

TALKING about prisons, the chief justice of Sindh said last Saturday that more than retribution and deterrence the main purpose of imprisonment should be reform and rehabilitation. In Pakistan, where the prison system is by no means in ideal shape — Karachi jail has 6,000 prisoners when its capacity is for under 2,000 — the need to address the moral correction dimension is conspicuously inadequate.

To step into this unsavoury situation with the idea of bringing about reform is in itself an act of courage. Saleem Aziz Khan, the founder of the Society for Advancement of Health, Education and Environment (SAHEE), has nevertheless decided to meet the challenge. Along with Azhar Jamil, he launched the four-step Criminon Programme in the Karachi jail in 2007. The two now want to expand the project as they feel they are making an impact.

Having borrowed the concepts from internationally recognised and tried projects, Azhar defends the project as being “a secular programme that teaches common-sense values”. Continue reading

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Insecure rights

Sabeen Mahmud (Photo credit @almaspk)

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

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Education disaster

Credit: UNESCO/Amina Sayeed

By Zubeida Mustafa

THE story goes back to the year 2000 when 1,100 participants from 164 countries assembled in Dakar (Senegal) for the World Education Forum.

The Dakar moot set for itself the goal of ‘Education for All’ and underpinned it with six specific targets to be achieved by 2015. Unesco stepped forward to monitor progress on these goals annually.

Thus an independent team was constituted and the Global Monitoring Report was born. GMR 2015 was launched last week and summed up the achievements of countries in the education sector. Continue reading

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Mind-Boggling Conundrums in the Middle East

By Zubeida Mustafa

The Obama administration has decided to go slow on its troop withdrawal program in Afghanistan. A substantial American military presence is expected to remain in this strife-stricken country until the end of 2015. President Obama said that this was necessary to make Afghanistan more secure.

However, geopolitics in this region is more complex than the American media make it out to be. Now is the time to set the record straight before a new conflict erupts in the Afghanistan-Pakistan (AfPak) area and ill-conceived explanations are offered to confuse public perceptions. To begin with, Americans should know that many of the wars in Asia have their roots in American geostrategic shenanigans. Continue reading

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Justice for Perween


By Zubeida Mustafa

THE  text message is still saved in my mobile phone. It was sent at 9.30 am on Wednesday March 13, 2013. It was signed “Thanks n Cheers PR”. That was the last time I heard from Perween Rahman, director of the OPP-RTI

For years she had made it a habit when in Karachi to read my column in the morning when it appeared in this paper and would send a comment by sms/email or call me up for a brief chat on her way to work. On that fateful day in 2013, less than 12 hours later, she was dead. The following week I wrote, ‘Rest in peace little sister’.

Continue reading

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