Category Archives: War and Peace

Rules of the game

book

By Zubeida Mustafa

It was quite an extraordinary way of celebrating the 67th anniversary of Pakistan’s independence last week. Believing that they could usher in freedom/revolution by bringing their supporters out on the street, Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri succeeded only in creating polarisation and instability in a crisis-ridden country.

The two marches organised by these leaders have evoked strong reactions from political observers. A large segment of pro-democracy opinion views this show of force as an extra-parliamentary move by the opposition that could derail the democratic process and open the door for military intervention. There have also been allegations of collusion between the agitators and elements in the military. Others have defended the people’s right to protest against government excesses. The speculation of regime change has been intertwined with an ongoing discourse on the military-civilian role in politics. Continue reading

3 Comments | Posted in Books, Constitution, Defence and Disarmament, History, Kashmir, New, Politics, War and Peace |

A cry for help

By Zubeida Mustafa

WITH the Pakistan Army’s attack on the militants in North Waziristan, a human tragedy of gargantuan proportions has been unfolded. Unsurprisingly, the government failed to anticipate the consequences of this move and did not act in time to avert a catastrophe. It has only compounded the crisis the country faces.

The latest avoidable disaster to visit us is that of the internally displaced people or IDPs — the hapless victims of Operation Zarb-i-Azb — who have been forced to leave their homes in North Waziristan. This was inevitable if Pakistan is to be saved from our self-created Frankenstein that was intended to provide the country with the questionable advantage of strategic depth. The crackdown has come, belatedly though, with no preparations for the aftermath.

As a result we have the suffering of nearly 450,000 IDPs on our conscience. This phenomenon could have been anticipated. It just required greater sensitivity from those whose responsibility it is under international humanitarian law — specifically the Geneva Convention IV, 1949 — to protect the rights of civilians displaced by hostilities in war-affected areas. Under this convention one doesn’t even have to cross an international boundary to become an IDP. And 75pc of those who have fled their homes are women and children. Continue reading

3 Comments | Posted in Defence and Disarmament, Development and Poverty, Human Rights, New, War and Peace |

How the women of Pakistan cope with war, honor killing and prejudice

By Zubeida Mustafa

How do women cope in Pakistan? This is a question I am very frequently asked by people in the West who are flooded by news of all the incessant outrageous happenings in my country. One cannot deny that in times of crisis that have global bearings—as in the Afghan war of the 1980s and the post-9/11 years—Pakistan receives more than its share of publicity in the international media. Regrettably, most of it is negative. And quite a lot of it is also true.

However, like the proverbial half-empty or half-full glass, the impression one forms depends on the context in which one sees a situation. Since the reporting tends to be heavily based on received wisdom, the truth does not emerge fully. As a result, only the bad news of the half-empty glass is reported, which reinforces the fears of skeptics: The fires of violence in Pakistan will engulf the world and destroy it. But there is no mention of the half-full glass that gives many of us hope. Continue reading

Leave a comment | Posted in Development and Poverty, Education, Human Rights, War and Peace, Women |

Dance away the war

Suhaee Abro (Picture: soundcloud.com/suhaee-abro)

By Zubeida Mustafa

HOW does one get one’s message across to a large audience when a cacophony of sounds drowns out one’s voice before it is heard? Politicians scream into microphones making aggressive gestures before a captive audience that has been assembled for their benefit by their minions. Extremists and militants hire killers and suicide bombers to drive home their point. Television talk show hosts broadcast their inanities.

At the other end, artists draw pictures to tell their story, while authors and poets play with words. In fact, there is another medium that can be employed to win the hearts and minds of people. Last week, Suhaee Abro demonstrated effectively that dance can be used to convey the message of love and peace.

Having seen this talented child blossom into a charming dancer-cum-choreographer, I was fascinated by the ease with which Suhaee and the 44 dancers she brought together captivated a crowd of more than 2,000 people with their message of harmony and beauty blended with a lot of colourful cheer. Continue reading

6 Comments | Posted in Balochistan, Culture and the Arts, Human Rights, Law & Order, New, War and Peace |

Clash of the titans

Sumo Wrestlers (Picture courtesy: sportsgamesrules.com)

By Zubeida Mustafa

MUCH has been written about the media crisis that has gripped Pakistan in recent weeks. It should not take anyone by surprise considering the environment we live in. These are not normal times and there are political cracks in the economic and social systems that conventionally hold state and society together. Thus the institutions and their functionaries have lost the coping capacity that is supposed to keep them going in times of crises and that helps them emerge from them unscathed.

Had corrective mechanisms been in place, corrective measures would have been taken a long time ago — when the first stone was cast. Matters have now come to a head. We have seen a running battle between a media house and the premier security intelligence agency. The government is trapped in the crossfire of its own making.

The need of the hour is to protect the lives of journalists and to resist arbitrary methods to suppress the media. On this we must be united. Having said this, I would add that we also need to revisit our history so that we do not make blunders again. We have always responded so belatedly to a long-brewing problem that we have allowed interested parties to exploit the situation. Continue reading

5 Comments | Posted in Human Rights, Law & Order, Media, New, Politics, Terrorism and Violence, War and Peace |

Bridging the abyss

Abyss picture by Ville Miettinen, Helsinki, Finland. Source: Wikimedia

By Zubeida Mustafa

DESCRIBING his experience of blindness, Prof John Hull of Birmingham University and author of On Sight and Insight, says that people see blindness as an attribute. Hull, who lost his vision more than 30 years ago, thinks differently. According to him, the blind have their world as the sighted have theirs. But those who can see exclude the blind from the world of the sighted. The two worlds do not meet. Hull has a strong yearning to “overcome the abyss which divides the blind from the sighted”.

This fact is something not everyone understands. Those who do are inclusive and work to bridge this gap. One such institution that is exemplary in this context is the Almaktoom Centre in Islamabad. Since 1982 this school has been enrolling children with visual disability to provide them education to enable them to become self-reliant adults. Continue reading

1 Comment | Posted in Children and Youth, Education, Human Rights, New, War and Peace |

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 |

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 |

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 |

Oh those Taliban!

by Rifaat Hamid Ghani

guest-contributorIt is more than a decade since the post 9/11 invasion of Afghanistan.
America now intends to withdraw from there, leaving only a token presence. If the elimination of the prospect of Taliban rule and extirpation of ‘Talibanism’ was the objective of that invasion it has not been achieved. It is also unlikely that America will subsequently be indifferent to Taliban resurgence becoming truly effective, or complaisant about its consolidating. So whose boots will stay on the ground to keep Taliban foothold from gaining space? There is a certain rationale to the speculation that America may find proxy warfare serves its unattained ends. Mercenaries cost, and international peace-keeping too has a running upkeep. Also, factor in that the world’s great powers past and present, collectively and separately, in competition as well as alliance, have more than a century’s working experience of strategic use of the porous borders between Afghanistan India and what in 1947 became Pakistan. Pakistan is in the middle whatever the perspective.

It has consistently and unabashedly been a facilitator of America’s Afghan activities and objectives. Before 9/11 it complemented CIA’s furtherance of the ethos of jihad to contain the ‘godless’ Soviet Union. Post 9/11 it too re-orientated itself and deprecated ‘jihadism’ as potentially terroristic. In 2001 it endorsed toppling the Taliban regime it had earlier furthered and rushed to recognize. Continue reading

2 Comments | Posted in Foreign Policy of Pakistan, Guest Contributor, Terrorism and Violence, War and Peace |