Category Archives: Human Rights

An unequal battle

no-weapons

By Zubeida Mustafa

WHILE going to the Karachi Press Club to attend a press conference called by the Citizens Trust Against Crime, I noticed heavy traffic moving in the wrong direction on a one-way street. When I asked Amjad, who was driving me, about this waywardness, he succinctly commented, “Bibi, aap ko pata naheen yeh Pakistan hai. Yahan koi poochnay wala naheen.” (This is Pakistan. No one checks).

A while later this was confirmed by the CTAC, a not-for-profit trust, when speaking of infringements of the law that are common in Karachi. What is worrying is the nexus between crime and the instruments of crime. The key facilitators are unlicensed weapons, illegal vehicles and untraceable SIMs.

According to the CTAC, these three often come together “to form a lethal arrangement that breeds and promotes crimes of all shades”. Continue reading

6 Comments | Posted in Defence and Disarmament, Human Rights, New, War and Peace |

At people’s doorstep

Picture courtesy: sukkurblog.blogspot.com

By Zubeida Mustafa KHALID, who lives in Shikarpur, suffers from end-stage kidney failure. His ailment was diagnosed at the Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation, Karachi. I met Khalid at SIUT, Sukkur, where he was on dialysis. He is fortunate … Continue reading

3 Comments | Posted in Health, Human Rights, New, SIUT |

Revisiting the Women’s Movement

Photo courtesy newslinemagazine.com

By Zubeida Mustafa

PAKISTAN is a dichotomous world. This is a country that has produced a woman prime minister – the first to be elected in a Muslim state. Its predominantly male parliament – the lower house – unanimously adopted a bill against domestic violence four years ago, but it failed to become law because the upper house refused to take it up. Its academia are now overflowing with female students – many of them in hijab. But this is also a country where women are murdered for marrying a man of their own choice, where little girls like Malala are shot in the head for going to school and where law makers defend their ‘right’ to bury women alive in the name of honour and refuse to condemn a colleague who has had his daughter killed for wanting a divorce. Continue reading

1 Comment | Posted in Children and Youth, Human Rights, Women |

Celebrating women’s leadership

By Zubeida Mustafa

The time has come to celebrate women’s leadership in Pakistan because so many of them are in that role to justify a memorable celebration. When I look back to the days when I entered professional life more than five decades ago, I remember that there were so few of us around that it could be quite a lonely spot to be in. Besides, with a few notable exceptions, there were few who could claim to be playing a leadership role. We were the followers until we found our bearings and gained confidence.

It was, however, realized even then that once the barriers are down women who are enterprising will inevitably refuse to hold themselves back and would proceed to seize the opportunity. And they did, with many of them rising to the top on the basis of merit.

In the middle decade of the last century, Pakistan’s statistics stated that only two per cent of the women were in the workforce. Among them the majority was in menial jobs. The picture has changed considerably today. The World Bank estimates that 28 per cent of the women in Pakistan are engaged in what economists  call productive labour. In absolute numbers this is a big jump, but nothing compared to many other countries. If in this scenario there are women in leadership positions it is something to be proud of. Continue reading

1 Comment | Posted in Economy, Human Rights, Labour, Women |

One year ago…

Demo2_Fotor

By Zubeida Mustafa

ON Thursday, March 13, it will be exactly a year to the day when a brutal killer snatched away from us a gentle, soft-spoken soul whose love for humanity was almost legendary.

Perween Rehman has been described as a caring, versatile development worker, a brilliant teacher, an architect who used her professional skills for the poor, an irreplaceable friend and an amazing woman who broke barriers from below. Above all, she was a woman of courage who defied her detractors.

It was after she was no more and the outpouring of grief wouldn’t cease that the world realised what it had lost and how many lives she had touched in the three decades of her professional association with the Orangi Pilot Project. She is still grievously missed. And there has been no closure for us — her family, friends and colleagues. Continue reading

4 Comments | Posted in Human Rights, Law & Order, New, Notable Personalities, Perween Rahman, Social Issues, Terrorism and Violence, War and Peace, Women |

Where students come last

By Zubeida Mustafa

If education in Pakistan in 2013 were to be described in a nutshell, it could appropriately be said: “More of the same.”

Nothing really changed in the education sector this year, in spite of the noise made about it. Two years ago an education emergency was announced but it is now plain that nothing came out of it. The claims by the various provincial governments and political parties were no more than hot air.

There is no doubt about the fact that awareness at the popular level about the importance of education for income generation and upward social mobility has grown. Regrettably there is not sufficient realisation of the need for education to be of good quality to create an impact.
Continue reading

1 Comment | Posted in Education, Human Rights, Social Issues |

Victory in Delhi

Badri Raina

guest-contributorThe 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

2 Comments | Posted in Economy, Guest Contributor, Human Rights, Politics, Social Issues, View from Abroad |

Opportunities for all

Graduates of SIMS at the convocation with Dr Adib Rizvi, director, SIUT (in white coat)

By Zubeida Mustafa

ONE major flaw in the education sector in Pakistan that hardly ever figures in popular discourse is the deeply rooted inequity which denies underprivileged children access to academic excellence. This is not a one-time phenomenon. It is a self-perpetuating one.

The offspring of middle-class parents face a formidable challenge when they seek admission to a public-sector medical university, let alone the elite private institutions which charge a forbidding fee. Even government institutions now impose heavy tuition charges that are unaffordable for the majority of the people. Denied education of good quality, can these children ever hope for upward mobility which comes with a good job? Continue reading

9 Comments | Posted in Education, Health, Human Rights, SIUT, Social Issues |

Why they don’t drop dead

Food Absorption in Pakistan (Image courtesy: Dawn.com)

By Zubeida Mustafa

LAST Friday the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) organised a ‘March against Hunger’ to demand that the government and civil society enhance people’s awareness of their right to basic nutrition and food security through combined efforts.

I think this event was most timely given the utter lack of public understanding of the issue. One example of poor knowledge of the subject was an observation on my column ‘Whose land is this?’ (Nov 20) where I had pointed out the adverse impact of our failure to introduce land reforms as being the “rise in food insecurity” leading to nearly 50pc of Pakistan’s population suffering from malnourishment.

A reader noted that if high levels of malnutrition in the country were a fact, people would be dropping dead in their hundreds, and that villagers produced enough food for themselves and the country. Continue reading

8 Comments | Posted in Development and Poverty, Economy, Health, Human Rights, Politics |

Whose land is this?

Picture courtesy: NordNordWest / Wikimedia

By Zubeida Mustafa

MR Abid Hasan Minto, president of the Awami Workers’ Party, has done well to go before the Supreme Court to challenge the 1990 judgement of the Federal Shariat Court’s appellate bench declaring land reforms to be un-Islamic.

After that judgement it became fashionable to pronounce the demise of feudalism in Pakistan. Some economists of repute challenged leftist views on the subject. It was widely propagated that Pakistan is no more an agrarian economy. It was also said that the country was urbanising fast and the rural-urban divide was not sharply delineated any more.

I will not get into semantic arguments about the definition of feudalism or the social changes that are used as indicators in support of the argument that ours is not a feudal society now. What is more worrisome is that food insecurity in Pakistan is on the rise and rural poverty can be linked to a great extent to the size of landholdings and the relationship between the person who owns the land and the one who cultivates it. Also a matter of concern is the nexus between big landowners and political power.

In this context, the study on landholdings conducted by Dr Kaiser Bengali, an economist and government adviser, is extremely instructive. It reminds us that land reform is an issue that is as relevant today as it was in 1959, 1972 and 1977 when half-hearted attempts were made to change the pattern of landholding in Pakistan. Continue reading

11 Comments | Posted in Development and Poverty, Economy, Human Rights, Politics |