Category Archives: Labour

Trapped in poverty


By Zubeida Mustafa

MIGRANTS are in the news all over the world. Recently, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) released in Rome a report titled Sending Money Home which focused on the remittances — $436 billion in 2014 — transferred by migrant workers to their families. This received positive publicity. The countries that provided jobs to such workers were seen as helping alleviate poverty in the Third World.

In Canada, where I am on a visit, I chanced upon a local paper The Golfi Team Real Estate Market Watch which carried an article against immigrants blaming the latter for many economic woes of the country, including the escalation of property prices and suppression of wages. It sarcastically accused the political parties of seeking to capture immigrant votes by adopting pro-immigration policies while pretending to benefit the rest of the world. Continue reading

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Save Karachi


By Zubeida Mustafa

RUMANA Husain’s recently published Street Smart: Professionals on the Street comes as a reminder of how we are losing the city where many of us have lived and worked for most of our lives. Karachi is no more what I remember of it when I was a child.

Some categories of the blue-collar workers, as Rumana calls the people who are the subject of her book, no longer exist. Mechanisation, technology and lifestyles have made them redundant. That is change, as the new replaces the old. But the tragedy is that the street professionals no longer knit the community together as they once did. Continue reading

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Changing mindsets

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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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Karachi seeks peace

Logo of I am Karachi

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

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Justice in jobs


By Zubeida Mustafa

WHEN human rights are in the news, the focus is invariably on civil and political rights such as life, liberty and democracy. Their violation causes explosive reactions. Rights that are not of a political nature are not so visible though their continued denial has a profound and insidious impact on the lives of a far greater number of people. They are like slow death that kills society itself.

These are the rights that have a role to play in sustaining human life with dignity which is no less than the right to life itself. Yet strangely enough, these seemingly mundane issues such as jobs, education and housing do not receive the same attention in public forums globally. Mercifully, realisation is now dawning in some quarters that there is a solution to the problems caused by the absence of social justice.

If awareness were to be created about these issues, enough pressure could be generated to force the powers that be to take positive measures. With this goal before it, Poster for Tomorrow was formed in 2009 in Paris by a group of artists led by Hervé Matine. Continue reading

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Scottish referendum

Glasgow voted YES in the referendum.- Photo by Shamima Hasan​

By Zubeida Mustafa

LAST week Scotland decided its destiny. It came to the brink of independence and then pulled back. In the closing days of campaigning it was estimated that several thousands of the 4.2 million voters were undecided till the last. When the ballots were cast on Sept 18 over 55pc voted to stay in the union.

The 45pc who voted for change were overruled by the majority and conceded defeat. Alex Salmond, the first minister of Scotland whose Scottish National Party spearheaded the movement for an independent Scotland, announced his decision to step down.

Negotiations will follow in the coming months as more devolution of power is on the cards as has been promised by the Westminster parties in a last-ditch attempt to lure the Scots back from an irrevocable breach. Continue reading

3 Comments | Posted in Constitution, Economy, Education, Health, Human Rights, Justice, Labour, Politics, Social Issues, View from Abroad |

Our own Berridales?

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By Zubeida Mustafa

DEMOCRACY is a misunderstood term that has been overused in the discourse surrounding the ongoing political drama in Islamabad.

There have been repeated references to democracy and human rights by the dharna leaders and legislators in parliament, which have only increased myths about these political concepts. No one speaks about the empowerment of the people which should be the aim of democracy — to enable citizens to help themselves and win their rights. This idea appears alien to Pakistan. People’s empowerment is possible without actually bringing about a revolution.

Thousands of miles away from home, I find business to be as usual in Glasgow, a city at present in the grip of Scotland’s independence referendum debate. For me this was an opportunity to observe the Scottish way of life. Last Saturday, courtesy Irene, to whom I had been introduced earlier, I spent some time at the ‘Open Day’ of the Berridale Allotments and Gardens which is a project that can be emulated by us with due indigenisation to empower urban women. Continue reading

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Helping oneself


By Zubeida Mustafa

LAST week was World Humanitarian Day. It came as a simple reminder that the world is not a welcoming place any longer for a large number of people in countries beset with crises. Conditions have deteriorated to such an extent globally that the need for humanitarian help has been growing. Yet, at the same time, brutality against aid workers is also on the rise making them more vulnerable. In 2013 alone, 155 aid workers were killed and 134 kidnapped.

Why this need for humanitarian aid? The fact is that frequent emergencies are being created due to ever-increasing conflict and also natural disasters — many of them manmade — such as floods and droughts. Pakistan has experienced these in abundance in recent times. We seem to be living from crisis to crisis. Such an abnormal pattern of existence pre-empts economic and social development and growth while whatever progress had been achieved in the preceding period has been undone. Continue reading

5 Comments | Posted in Development and Poverty, Economy, Labour, New, Population, Social Issues |

Human side of jobs


By Zubeida Mustafa

A MAJOR challenge faced by Pakistan’s economy today is one of providing opportunities for income generation to the fast-growing manpower. With the country’s population escalating at the rate of 2 per cent per annum and three million young people coming of age every year the first priority is obviously job creation. But barely 700,000 new jobs are generated annually.

According to statistics given by Michael Kugelman of the Woodrow Wilson International Centre, Washington, this has led to a massive exodus of young people to cities and this has caused rapid urbanisation in the country which, in turn, has created difficulties of its own. Continue reading

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