Category Archives: Politics

Gandhi’s message

Rajmohan Gandhi (Picture courtesy: vishvarupa.com)

By Zubeida Mustafa

THE fifth edition of the Karachi Literature Festival was like a gust of fresh air in the environment of despair and gloom that now engulfs the country. It came, it thrilled us and it left. All the sessions were food for the soul and did serve to drive away — even if momentarily — the depressing thoughts that seem to have come to stay permanently.

Of course, laughter is said to be the best medicine and there was plenty of it around. The halls were packed where satire, humour and comedy ruled. But what was more healing were the words of wisdom we received from sages such as Prof Rajmohan Gandhi each day of the festival. Continue reading

6 Comments | Posted in Economy, Education, New, Politics, Social Issues, Terrorism and Violence, War and Peace |

The Past Was My Country Once

By Nikhat Sattar

guest-contributorSherlock Holmes is credited with the saying ‘the past is another country’. In my case, it was mine, to begin with. Forty two years later, I still find it difficult to comprehend that I am no longer a citizen of the place that reared me and instilled in me the love of all that is beautiful in God’s world. I had to leave it as a child, vowing to return, as I looked at its receding coastline. Return I did, as an adult, several times, and each time as if I had never left. I was frozen in time, 1971 and space, in Chittagong, the second largest city in what is now called Bangladesh.

Chittagong is thousands of years old, and has a rich history of Roman, Arab and East Asian trading by sea. Indeed, its name is supposed to be an Arabic derivative of Shetgang, which comes from Shatt-al-Ganga, meaning Mouth of the Ganges. There are other sources that claim that the name comes from the Bengali Chatt-Gaon, meaning rock and village, referring to the hilly landscape. A sleepy town-village of outstanding beauty, it was a magical place of winding streets going up and down the hills, huge lakes, dense foliage, large fields and pristine beaches. The overwhelming colour was green, but with heavy rains and salty sea, buildings often took on a dark hue that somehow attached itself to my memory. The Kaptai Dam, Foy’s lake, Rangamati, Faujdarhat and Karnaphuli Paper Mills , each a few hours heavenly drive away from settlements are etched into my mind like fairy tales. Continue reading

3 Comments | Posted in Foreign Policy of Pakistan, Guest Contributor, Politics, 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 |

Houbaras at risk

Houbara-Bustard (Picture Courtesy: Wikimedia)

By Zubeida Mustafa

LAST Wednesday, a little over 20 Karachiites gathered in front of the Sindh Wildlife Office to raise their voices to prevent the extinction of the houbara bustard, the elegant and colourful bird that makes its appearance in parts of Sindh and Balochistan in the winter months.

The houbara story in this country is a long one and the size of the demo in that context was not big enough to attract public attention. But being in the designated Red Zone (the Governor’s House is in the vicinity of the Sindh Wildlife Office) the protest was at once noticed by the custodians of the law.

Deeming the protesters to be harmless the police allowed them to stand there for a while before they moved on to the Karachi Press Club on the suggestion of the law enforcers. That was a clever step as anything happening at the KPC has a better chance of getting some media coverage. Continue reading

3 Comments | Posted in Economy, Foreign Policy of Pakistan, Politics, 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 |

Telling it as it is

What’s Wrong with Pakistan? (Photo: Dawn.com)

By Zubeida Mustafa
AS Pakistan’s problems multiply, publications on Pakistan receive a corresponding boost. Never before have so many books on the country hit the shelf. Hence an author has to come up with something really new to justify writing about the country. Not many can do it and that is why many books appear to be a rehashed version of the same old story.

Seen from that perspective, journalist Babar Ayaz’s book, What’s Wrong with Pakistan?, might at first glance appear to be a narrative of Pakistan’s history that one would take up with a yawn. But once you start reading it, you find a freshness of approach to the issues that have nagged historians for many years. More so, Ayaz’s focused style makes this book a compelling read. Continue reading

Leave a comment | Posted in Book Reviews, History, Islamisation, Politics |

Abbottabad revisited

Abbottabad Map courtesy Google Maps

By Zubeida Mustafa

THE dust raised by the Abbottabad Commission’s report took long to settle. Each time it seemed the matter was settled, some new issue would emerge to stir ripples of excitement.

Now it is time to sit back and reflect calmly on what happened. The fact that the report was leaked and Al Jazeera posted it on its website is nothing unusual in this age of whistleblowers and hackers. After WikiLeaks, Abbottabad seemed child’s play in this context.

Since it has been claimed that the leaked draft is not the final and authentic one, I shall not go into the nitty-gritty of who was responsible for the intelligence failure in not detecting Osama bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad and not stopping the American helicopters’ incursion into Pakistani territory in May 2011. The leaked version of the report calls on the country’s leadership — “political, military intelligence and bureaucratic” — to formally apologise to the people of Pakistan for “their dereliction of duty”. This in all probability must have been retained in one form or another in the final version. Continue reading

5 Comments | Posted in Defence and Disarmament, Education, Politics, Social Issues |

Licence to kill?

By Zubeida Mustafa

ANNIVERSARIES are a time for reflection. And if they are also marked with celebration, the idea is to reaffirm the spirit of the event that is being commemorated. That is what Pakistan’s independence day anniversary means to most of us.

There would be barely two million people left in Pakistan who would have any memory of the partition of India. Those who were old enough in 1947 to comprehend what was happening would be even fewer. Soon those who were witness to this momentous event will be gone and partition will live only in history books. Given our distorted historiography our progeny may never learn the truth.

I was too young to understand the wider implications of the political events of 1947. But I could feel the excitement of living in a new country in a state of fear generated by the bloodletting. There was, however, no sense of the ‘other’ who had to be hated and destroyed. The massacre that accompanied the events of 1947 had more of a political dimension than a religious one. Continue reading

12 Comments | Posted in Books, History, Islamisation, Politics |

Where we went wrong

By Zubeida Mustafa

IT was supposed to be an occasion to felicitate Malala on her birthday and use her speech at the UN Youth Assembly to inspire the audience. Party representatives were to be brought together on a common platform to renew their pledge to educate Pakistan’s children, especially girls.

In this context the South Asian Women in Media, with the support of the South Asian Free Media Association, took the step of convening a seminar on ‘Women’s education and terrorism’ at the Karachi Press Club the other day.

Regrettably, the seminar failed to achieve the objective it had set out to do. It became a forum for politicking rather than focusing on the issues at stake in education. I was hoping to hear the party representatives spell out the strategies they were planning to promote education in the country. Instead we heard a lot of loud talk extolling the virtues of education, as though we didn’t know. Do our leaders believe we still have to be persuaded about the advantages of education? Continue reading

3 Comments | Posted in Education, Politics, Terrorism and Violence, Women |