Category Archives: Social Issues

Child marriages

By Zubeida Mustafa

OUR society seems to have been obsessed for long with the idea of matrimony. Mercifully, the growing trend towards female education has to an extent weakened this obsession — but not in communities still deprived of the benefits of education and enlightenment.

In these underprivileged classes, which constitute the majority, it is a common practice for mothers to start planning their child’s marriage soon after birth. They informally decide who will be whose life partner. Termed ‘baat pukki karna’, the arrangement is irrevocable. The girl’s mother even starts collecting her daughter’s jahez. Obscurantist parents even consider it a sin if the child is not married before puberty.

Continue reading Child marriages

Broken promises

By Zubeida Mustafa

THE current issue of the Journal of the Pakistan Medical Association carries a supplement sponsored by Pathfinder and titled ‘Keeping the FP promise alive’. This will no doubt be a formidable challenge. A look at the family planning data contained in the supplement gives rise to a sense of hopelessness about the promise ever being kept. In 2012, Pakistan had promised at the family planning conference in London to double the contraceptive prevalence rate to 55 per cent by 2020.We are nowhere close to it.

Continue reading Broken promises

Unequal and ill

By Zubeida Mustafa

THE world could not have been more unequal in contemporary history than what it is today. It has always been unequal but the present trend set in when the Cold War ended with the fall of the USSR giving neoliberal forces a free rein. With the countervailing force of the socialist bloc withdrawn and respectability granted to elitism and the exercise of unabashed corporate power, inequality became rampant. Not that inequities did not exist before. But today, inequality and its discontents are unparalleled.

Continue reading Unequal and ill

Serving society

By Zubeida Mustafa

THE contradiction is intriguing. It is a story of a woman of royal lineage who passed away recently and will be remembered fondly for her services to the poor. Her work should be seen in the context of ‘social security’. That is what made ‘Rajkumari’ Kaniz Sakina Wajid Khan (1920-2021) exceptional.

It was not charity she was doling out, as social work is often considered to imply today, but a service she saw herself providing to the indigent. It additionally had the underpinnings of old-time values.

Continue reading Serving society

Love of nature

By Zubeida Mustafa

HOW many of Pakistan’s 225 million like to habitually connect with nature? Unsurprisingly, not many. Most of the urban population lives in man-made subhuman conditions while those in the villages lead a brutish life of want imposed on them by feudal leaders. Not being educated, people are unaware of their own rights, let alone the significance of the environment.

Continue reading Love of nature

Activism in verse

By Zubeida Mustafa

ONE aspect of I.A. Rehman’s priceless legacy was his restless spirit that drove him to champion the cause of freedom and human rights in Pakistan. The huge community of human rights activists in the country drew inspiration from his rational and encouraging leadership.

Many of us — his juniors — were constantly turning to him to draw from his limitless pool of knowledge and saw him as a pillar of strength. In the gloom that followed his death I felt comforted when I received a book of poetry that resonated with me. It touched the same causes Rehman Sahib had inspired us to espouse. Titled Eik Subh Aur Aaygi and containing 103 poems by Anis Haroon, the book is a powerful statement on the sad state of human rights in Pakistan that has brought the country to the brink of a catastrophe.

Continue reading Activism in verse

Our rural areas

By Zubeida Mustafa

ACCORDING to the 2017 census report, nearly 63 per cent of Pakistan’s population lives in the rural areas. For a developing country, this poses many challenges in terms of equity and disparity in the distribution of resources and development funds and planning expertise. As is economically feasible, more attention is paid to the development of urban areas. They are the seat of government where population density makes the development process more cost-effective due to the economies of scale. Since the rural areas don’t offer similar advantages they suffer, notwithstanding their larger population.

But that doesn’t justify the neglect of the rural hinterland. Such an approach has a damaging impact on the lives of more people. Given the government’s limited resources, it cannot divert huge amounts from the cities to disadvantaged regions where the population is scattered. As a result, the country is experiencing a high urbanisation rate as people move in large numbers to the cities from villages, creating problems of another kind. Moreover, this unplanned transfer of population upsets planning.

Continue reading Our rural areas