Category Archives: Social Issues

The human touch

By Zubeida Mustafa

A SPARK has been lit in a 3,500-strong community living in the backwaters of Larkana district. Known as Khairo Dero, the place was the antithesis of what its name implies: it was one of the most depressed goths in the area. A turning point came in 2004. A young female journalist touring rural Sindh was deeply moved by the neglect and apathy she witnessed, especially in Khairo Dero, her ancestral village.

That was Naween Mangi, today the Pakistan bureau chief of Bloomberg, a premier American business and financial news channel. It took her four years to internalise the despondency of her people and think of a strategy to breathe new life into their existence. Thus she hoped to bring about the ‘silent revolution’ she had begun to dream of. Continue reading

3 Comments | Posted in Development and Poverty, Economy, Education, Housing, Labour, New, Social Issues, 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 |

Magic of a teacher

By Zubeida Mustafa
A WITTY quote runs, “Doctors bury their mistakes. Lawyers hang them. But journalists put theirs on the front page.” I would add, “And teachers exhibit theirs for generations to come.”

Take the case of Pakistan where the malaise in education runs deep. It began decades ago and has increased as poor education for one generation has ensured a worse batch of teachers for the next.

Mercifully, this flaw has now come to be recognised and an effort is under way to rectify the wrongs of the past. The focus has shifted to teachers. All schools worth their salt are now providing for the training of their teachers on an ongoing basis. Workshops and seminars are held regularly. The concept of lifelong education is catching on. Continue reading

3 Comments | Posted in Children and Youth, Education, Social Issues |

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 |

A leading light

Ambassador Saidullah Khan Dehlavi Picture courtesy: www.aku.edu

By Zubeida Mustafa

HENRY Wotton famously said, “An ambassador is an honest gentleman sent to lie abroad for the good of his country.” Leave aside the pun in this quote, not many of the ambassadors we have produced have lied for the country and maintained a discreet silence about their subterfuge. Many have gone further and lied to promote themselves.

Yet in this complex world of diplomacy there was one ambassador who was too principled a man to lie, yet found ways to safeguard his country’s interests. And he chose not to boast about it. That was Saidullah Khan Dehlavi — Said to family and friends — who lost his battle with death last week in Karachi.

Said was the chairman of the board of trustees of the Aga Khan University, an honorary position he assumed in 2001 after his retirement from the Pakistan Foreign Service. In the obituary announcement issued by the AKU, he was referred to as Ambassador Dehlavi and it is an ambassador in the true and best sense of the word that he remained till the end. In a condolence message, the Foreign Office described him as the leading light and a role model. Continue reading

7 Comments | Posted in Foreign Policy of Pakistan, International Politics, New, Notable Personalities, Social Issues |

Dignity, not charity

Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

By Zubeida Mustafa

ONE problem with our poverty alleviation strategies is that they benefit the givers more than the recipients. Yet another problem is that they generally involve doling out in public view money to the underprivileged which is demeaning and robs them of their dignity.

The government itself has reduced us to a nation of beggars by going around the world with a begging bowl. As a quid pro quo it willingly sells its sovereignty.

Against this backdrop, it is immensely satisfying to see people in our midst who believe in meeting the needs of the poor without hurting their self-esteem. I met one such couple, Ali Raza and his wife Shibli, who founded Waseela in 2010 with the idea of bringing about a change in society. Continue reading

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

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 |

Restoring childhood

Picture courtesy Wikimedia Commons

By Zubeida Mustafa

  1. WHEN Khalil Gibran, the Lebanese-American poet, wrote his famous poem Pity the Nation he probably could not in his wildest dreams imagine the excesses a nation can commit against children, whose souls, according to him, “dwell in the house of tomorrow”. Had he sensed man’s brutality towards his own offspring, Gibran would have added, ‘Pity the nation that robs its children of their childhood’.
  2. The shocking murder of a child in Lahore allegedly by her employer is a small example of how Pakistan treats its children. According to Arshad Mahmood, a child’s rights activist, 24 children engaged in domestic labour have been killed in Pakistan since January 2010 when Shazia Masih was reported to have been brutally killed in the lawyer’s home where she worked.
  3. It must be noted that domestic labour is only one sector where children go to earn a living. Equally deplorable are the Worst forms of child labour as described by the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler) in two districts of Sindh — Tando Allahyar and Badin.
  4. Researched painstakingly by Zeenat Hisam and her team, these two slim volumes are eye-openers. They highlight the magnitude and various dimensions of child labour in these areas of Sindh. The idea is to keep the public focus on this problem and design interventions to eradicate child labour. The reports also identify the socio-economic factors that have created conditions in which hazardous forms of child labour thrive.

Continue reading

5 Comments | Posted in Children and Youth, Development and Poverty, Economy, Education, Labour, New, Social Issues |

Reading for sharing

Photograph by Marcus Quigmire, sourced from Wikimedia Commons

By Zubeida Mustafa

FEW people now read for pleasure. Therefore, to meet a person who loves to read books can be a fascinating experience. And if there are people who read for pleasure and then drive down miles every Friday evening without fail to participate in discussions on books, then it is time to learn more about them.

I have had the privilege of meeting such bibliophiles — about 20 or 25 of them — who describe themselves as members of the Readers Club. On Jan 10, the club will complete 13 years of its low-profile existence. Two years ago it was registered as a trust to ensure its permanence.

The brainchild of Abbas Husain, the well-known director of the Teachers Development Centre who claims to have reached out to 40,000 teachers in 20 years, and Azmat Khan, a management trainer professional, the Readers’ Club has held over 500 meetings so far. Continue reading

9 Comments | Posted in Books, Children and Youth, Education, New, Social Issues |

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 |