Polio emergency

By Zubeida Mustafa

A FIRM stand by WHO has jerked the Pakistan government into action. Since Sunday all travellers going abroad are required to take polio drops. Last month WHO’s director general had declared the international spread of polio a “public health emergency of international concern” warranting “temporary recommendations for coordinated international efforts”.

Since Pakistan was named as one of the three ‘polio-exporting countries’ the matter made banner headlines in the media at home. Ironically, the prospects of a country with an inordinately large number of crippled children had not caused much alarm. Continue reading

6 Comments | Posted in Children and Youth, Development and Poverty, Health, New |

A silent revolution

A-silent-revolution

By Zubeida Mustafa

HOW does one profile a woman who has the academic qualifications and 19-year work experience of a financial journalist, but is not attracted by the aura of glamour many lesser media people like to create around themselves? Her commitment lies with the rural community in her ancestral village in Sindh but she modestly refuses to describe herself as an expert in development work. “I am still learning on the job,” she tells me.

Meet Naween A. Mangi, the Pakistan Bureau Chief of the New York based Bloomberg News since 2006. She may be a novice – albeit a devoted one – in development but in financial journalism her expertise and experience are unmatched. She has the intricacies of the stock market at her finger tips and is well-versed in the ups and downs in the corporate sector in the country. She works diligently planning coverage, filing important stories when she is required to and training and managing younger journalists, a job she excels in by virtue of her considerable experience in launching news organizations, working on the lay-out and injecting new ideas in old publications.
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Leave a comment | Posted in Development and Poverty, Economy, Education, Health, Housing, Media, Notable Personalities, Women |

Protected: Fear, pride and folly

chagai

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Enter your password to view comments. | Posted in Books, Children and Youth, Defence and Disarmament, Development and Poverty, Foreign Policy of Pakistan, International Politics, New, Nuclear weapons, Social Issues, Terrorism and Violence |

A life journey or a travelogue?

pearl-from-the-ocean

By Zubeida Mustafa

A question very often asked of writers is why do they write. Khushwant Singh, India’s best known author and journalist, said he wrote to inform, amuse and provoke. The author of Pearls from the Ocean , Parvin Shere, quotes the American writer and poet, Maya Angelou to answer this  question.  “There is no agony greater than bearing an untold story inside you,.” Says Angelou.

For Shere this untold story has to find expression and it does in three forms, prose, poetry and painting. She could not have been more articulate in giving expression to the discovery she made when she submitted to her  urge to penetrate the barriers of faiths, languages and cultures: the Earth  is home to all humans and their  oneness binds them together, but…

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Leave a comment | Posted in Book Reviews, Culture and the Arts, View from Abroad |

Motivating the teacher

Garage-School-in-2000

By Zubeida Mustafa

A NUMBER of reports on education in Pakistan confirm what has been long suspected. Without improving the quality of our teachers, quality education for all will remain a pipe dream. Howsoever much their economic status may be boosted, it will have no impact on education for children from the low socio-economic classes if teachers are not taught how to teach and what to teach.

Many well-meaning, no-profit NGOs that are entering the school sector are learning this the hard way through experience and after much experimentation. The Garage School in Karachi that was opened by Shabina in her garage in 1999 to teach the children of the underprivileged the three Rs is a case in point. It is in the process of launching a teachers’ training project to upgrade its teachers. Continue reading

4 Comments | Posted in Children and Youth, Development and Poverty, Education, Human Rights, New |

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 |

Book, not Facebook

Bar-e-Shanasaee

By Zubeida Mustafa

IN his newly published book, Baar-i-Shanasaee, Karamatullah Ghori, a retired Pakistani diplomat, recounts incidents from his professional life that make an interesting read. The book comprises character sketches of nine personalities who are dubbed in the book’s sub-title as the “history makers and history breakers” of Pakistan.

The book is by no means an objective historian’s analysis of its subjects — all of whom were politicians/military rulers, with the exception of Faiz Ahmad Faiz, the Lenin Prize winning poet, and Prof Abdus Salam, the Nobel Laureate scientist. The publication is more in the nature of reminiscences and the author vouchsafes for their authenticity as he was witness to or participant in the events narrated.

An anecdote from Ghori’s account of his encounter with Gen Pervez Musharraf struck me as worth recalling. Soon after seizing power in October 1999, the general visited Turkey where he had spent seven years of his childhood. The author was at that time Pakistan’s ambassador in Ankara. On seeing the ambassador’s personal library and on being told that Ghori was an avid reader, the general commented, “Mujhay parhnay ka shauq naheen”. (I am not interested in reading.) Continue reading

6 Comments | Posted in Books, Foreign Policy of Pakistan, New, Politics |

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 |