A plague of saviours

By Rifaat Hamid Ghani

  •  Musharraf’s specific contribution to the toxic cauldron in which Pakistan’s polity stews and bubbles was the imposition of his military will without a declaration of martial law. The visible outcome a bit more than a decade later is a widespread non-perception of any infallibly observed and consistently applicable laws at all. Civil law was clearly treated as of no consequence in the ‘countercoup’ and it died without a whimper. No one heard justly esteemed legal personae renowned as civil rights champions and constitutional experts haranguing military trespass.

The simple fact on the ground was that Nawaz Sharif was using his party’s once popular absolute parliamentary majority (there had been extensive disgust with the presently hallowed Benazir in her second tenure) to make legal nonsense of its origin: The legislature or rather too many of its members were on the verge of legislating the PM’s office repugnant dictatorial political powers. Musharraf averted Sharif’s obtaining these legally by appropriating them for himself unlawfully. Why was the interventionist COAS more representative of popular as well as intellectual sentiment at that juncture than the democratically elected prime minister? Because he blocked the misapplication of Islam in politics that Nawaz Sharif was using to whitewash his proposed 15th Amendment.

The point to be made here is that it is not just a COAS Vs PM tussle our political experiences have familiarised us with, but a religious practice Vs democratic practice choice that is constantly if variously posed us. There is a lingering and misleading assumption that a martial law or fidelity to the supremacy of civil authority choice is mirrored in what we view as an Islamization or parliamentary democracy option. Civil politicians and military dictators have, as demanded by the times, been exponents of either. Continue reading

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Riding a pousse-pousse in Lyon

Pousse-pousse in Lyon

By Zubeida Mustafa

LYON (France) is not exactly new to me. Having visited this quaint town of 1.4 million a number of times since 2009, I have already been through the routine exercises a first time tourist is expected to go through. The city tour in the bus, visits to museums that bring a smirk on my daughter’s face, long walks in the parks, look at archaeological sites and buildings protected under the heritage law and so on. Even the novelty of a ride in the ‘driverless’ metro run by a computerized system has worn off.

So I wanted my trip to Lyon in the wintry February of 2015 to be different. The weather with temperatures ranging between -5 and 5 degrees Celsius provided a new topic of conversation but that changed fast when for a week it was bright and sunny as the day temperature touched 12 degrees Celsius. The dry weather more than the sunshine became an inducement for me to venture out for walks. Continue reading

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Shattered dreams

population

By Zubeida Mustafa

A FEW years ago, when the army operation took place in Swat and many families were displaced, I went to Baldia in Karachi to meet some of them. There I was introduced to a man who told me that he had 19 children. He had two wives. I was awestruck by his virility.

He may have been an exception. But we should not underestimate the reproductive capacity of Pakistanis. According to the Population Council in Islamabad, in 2012 Pakistan had nine million pregnancies of which 4.2m were unintended. Of these 2.25m ended in induced abortions. In other words, over six million babies were born that year. Continue reading

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Language fracture

By Rifaat Hamid Ghani

geust-contTHE importance of education is reiterated so passionately that the phrase has become an end in itself: We stop dead after asserting its importance. Duty has been done and homage offered.

There has not been a single attempt at government – civil or military – that has not set up its own national education reform commission, taskforce, or whatever rubric the jargon of its moment favours. The labels change but one may comfortably hazard a guess that the substance of reports, the diagnosis and prognosis of the malady, are rather similar. The same sage recommendations and prescriptions have been heard over and over again, and whatever is attempted never really gets going. Yet, outstanding blunders perpetrated in the field resonate despite policy change or retraction – think Bhutto’s nationalisation and Zia’s madressas.

This article’s purported focus is higher education and language: the medium of instruction. I will forbear – but only after reminding clichés survive because they are valid – from the clichés as to the advantages of instruction in the mother tongue and the advantages of English as a global language. Look instead at what we have and what we want – not from the perspective of the arbiters, the consultant expert advisers on system – but from the point of view of their captives – Pakistan’s students and teachers: For students approaching higher education, and teachers as they receive and dispatch them, Continue reading

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Linguistic dilemma

Hello_World_In_Several_Languages

By Zubeida Mustafa

WE do have a language dilemma on hand, whether we admit it or not.

I attend a ceremony at a school of journalism in Buffer Zone in Karachi where 49 girls are awarded a certificate for the three-month course they had completed supported by scholarships from donors. The language of the proceedings is English and it is plain that few in the audience really understand what was being said. A translator comes to their rescue. I decide to speak in Urdu as I want to connect with these young ladies who have aspirations of joining my profession.

A few days later, I go to a conference organised by the Society for Pakistan’s English Language Teachers. I presume the audience at a moot organised by them would expect me to speak in English. But when I begin I am requested to be bilingual. I drop the English bit and stick to Urdu.

Sometimes in between these events, I visit the Ardeshir Cowasjee Writing Centre at the main campus of the Institute of Business Administration, Karachi, (established in 2014). I feel I am on firm ground language-wise. Ardeshir who earned fame as Dawn’s columnist with a distinct style of his own wrote only in English. So English would be the language here and I guess correctly. Continue reading

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Facing challenges in bringing peace to Karachi

i-am-karachi-teach-for-peace-conference

By Zubeida Mustafa

I will not be over stating if I say the challenges to a peacemaker in Karachi are phenomenal and nearly insurmountable. I have been asked to speak on how you as teachers can help your students to cope with stress and trauma that has become the norm for Karachi’s youth. If you want to promote peace and the cause of children you must be familiar with some basic facts yourself, even though the information is for you to enhance your understanding of the dynamics of the Karachi situation. Thus you can become the model that your students so badly need to help them cope with the dilemmas violence creates in their minds. It will also equip you with the knowledge you need to answer your students’ questions which will be inevitable if you follow the approach suggested by experts.

There are numerous factors that have reduced the state of law and order of this megalopolis to what it is today. If you look at the number of people who are killed – and that does not include natural deaths or road accidents – you will be stunned by the humungous loss of life. Continue reading

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‘ASER’ time is here

ASER Pakistan 2014 National Report Card

By Zubeida Mustafa

AN incurable optimist once commented that the good thing about hitting rock bottom is that you then have to move upwards. He probably didn’t believe that one may remain stuck at the bottom and not move at all. We were talking about education in Pakistan.

ASER 2014, released earlier this month, records a mixed bag of achievements. Since 2010, the Annual Status of Education Report, which describes itself as “the largest citizen-led, household-based initiative” has been collecting education-related data predominantly from rural areas to assess the quality of the learning output of children. Continue reading

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The neuter gender

By Rifaat Hamid Ghani

geust-contTHE Pakistani woman: can she be defined? For that matter can the Pakistani male? Somehow we don’t think that much about defining the Pakistani male – its women are so much more interesting! Pakistani society is stratified and its cultures mixed; yet its male value stereotype is almost constant. Feudal lordling or serf, bureaucratic grandee or babu, urban or rural, whatever the income bracket or professional tag or social exposure, men are convinced they know better than their women – whether they indulge them or control them. They retain the right to intervene be it as wise men or tyrants.

But the Pakistani woman’s attitude to the male in her orbit varies dramatically depending osocial standing. The plane of stratification and the cultural mix make an enormous difference to her mental attitudes and responses. One could say that women are still evolving and the men have evolved – which is a polite way of saying that they are Continue reading

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A Visit to Vietnam

By Rabab Naqvi

geust-contOnce you step out on the streets of Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, it is hard to believe that this is a country that was devastated by war not long ago. My cousin, Rashida, responded to my email from Vietnam, “I am glad you are having a nice stay in Vietnam. My mind still carries the war ravaged scenes of that country of 40 or 50 years ago”. To find remnants of war today one has to go to the War Museum and the Cu Chi tunnel complex.  Hanoi, which was bombed during the war, buzzes with life. Amidst restaurants, hotels, shopping plazas and bazaars pretty women and handsome men scurry around. Vietnamese are blessed with good looks and good figures. Men and women both drive motorcycles on roads and highways. Vietnam has the highest number of two-wheelers per capita. Whole families somehow manage to fit on one motorcycle. It is amazing how they can carry an incredible amount of stuff of varying shapes and sizes on a motorcycle. It appears to be their main mode of Continue reading

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‘Najma has gone’

Najma Sadeque (picture courtesy Dawn.com)

By Zubeida Mustafa

HER entire life was a series of battles she fought for the disadvantaged, the empowerment of women, the right of people to land and the preservation of the environment. Many of these were battles that she won. Others were ongoing struggles, as she never gave up hope. That was Najma Sadeque described as the activist who wore several hats.

Her last battle was against death and this one she lost. “Najma has gone,” I was informed by a friend who was in the hospital with Najma when the end came shortly after midnight. With her the courage and inspiration she had instilled in many had also gone, so I thought. Then I knew they hadn’t for Najma has left behind a legacy of courage and integrity embodied so clearly in her daughter Deneb Sumbul. A picture of her mother, Deneb’s dignity in her hour of grief is something only Najma could instil. Continue reading

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