Monthly Archives: August 2012

Education pitfalls

By Zubeida Mustafa

HEALTH or education? Which should be the government’s first priority? I would say education and health. Both have a symbiotic relationship. A government that recognises the importance of its social capital and the value of its human resources will address both sectors.

Good health facilitates good education, just as good education should promote health by teaching people the basics of preventive medicine and health care. But when a state is strapped for cash and focuses on other matters that it erroneously believes to be important for its national security, it tends to neglect ‘frivolous’ issues like education and health. Continue reading Education pitfalls

A Voice from Pakistan: Of Martyrs and Marigolds

Aquila Ismail
Aquila Ismail
Karachi, Pakistan

“Each survivor owes it to those who do not survive to account for them.”


For forty years I wanted to write of the one bloody spring day when the land of my birth was no more mine. That soft, misty February morning dawned forty-five days after the sixteenth of December 1971, when East Pakistan, the land my parents had chosen as their home following the great partition of the Indian subcontinent, had become Bangladesh. And all those who had come to this land from India or had, like me, been born to parents who had made the trek to this land in 1947, were no longer of it.

Living in Karachi since August 1972, I willed my mind to only remember the golden land’s offerings of the scent of mango blossoms, of the delicate shefali, of the perfectly formed gardenias, the sweet happiness of childhood, the trembling ecstasy of first love, the smell of the earth when the first slanting monsoon raindrops fell on the waiting plains. But the odor of that spring day! The damned odor! The odor of the brown-red stain on white flowers growing among green grass, the odor of crushed marigold petals, of the damp moss covered walls, the smell of burnt globs of rice and lentil, and the rank smell of rotting hyacinth – all indistinguishable from what was gentle and what was not – always took over my soul and made me not want to remember.
Continue reading A Voice from Pakistan: Of Martyrs and Marigolds

Aboard the Democracy Train Reviewed in Pakistan Link newspaper

By Syed Arif Hussaini –

Nafisa Hoodbhoy’s book “Aboard the Democracy Train – A Journey through Pakistan’s Last Decade of Democracy” is a gripping account of the two-terms each of Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif during 1988 to 1999. Both ascended the Prime Minister’s office through elections and both were sacked by the President of the time on charges of corruption.

Nafisa serving as the only female reporter with the premier English daily of Pakistan, Dawn, for sixteen eventful years, 1984-2000, had the advantage of covering for her paper all major developments of that period and taking mental notes to be incorporated in a book after the turmoil settled down and admitted of an objective evaluation of the events that continue to cast their shadow even to this day. Objectivity of a news reporter, particularly of a staid and sober paper like Dawn, has remained her forte even after a decade of departure from the paper.
Continue reading Aboard the Democracy Train Reviewed in Pakistan Link newspaper

The accidental journalist

Zubeida Mustafa - Photo
Zubeida Mustafa – Photograph by Arif Mahmood/White Star.
Marylou Andrew meets Zubeida Mustafa.

Winner of the International Women Media Foundation’s (IWMF) 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award, veteran journalist Zubeida Mustafa is humble and down to earth. A 33-year tenure as Assistant Editor at DAWN, a book on Pakistan’s education sector and awards for contributions to journalism and promoting a stronger book and reading culture in Pakistan (a result of her work for DAWN’s in-paper magazine Books & Authors) haven’t made Mrs Mustafa (as she is popularly known) supercilious or condescending in any way. As we sat down for a chat in front of the large balcony at her sea-facing apartment with the balmy sea breeze blowing in, her humour, candour and quiet confidence conveyed more passion and proficiency than mere words ever could.
Continue reading The accidental journalist

Courage in Journalism

Zubeida Mustafa, Pakistan
2012 Lifetime Achievement Award


Zubeida Mustafa speaks modestly about her 33 years as a journalist in Pakistan, where she worked through extreme political instability, media censorship, gender barriers and social upheaval as the assistant editor of Dawn, a widely-respected English-language daily newspaper.
Continue reading Courage in Journalism

Enigma of voters’ list

By Zubeida Mustafa

PRIME Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf has said that fair and free elections offer the only way out of the present constitutional crisis. He is right, but only if the elections are truly fair and free.

Given the state of the recently released electoral rolls it is difficult to believe that the exercise will be flawless. No one doubts the integrity of Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Fakhruddin Ebrahim, who has an impeccable reputation. But how much can he do? The mantle of the CEC has fallen on his shoulders so late in the day. I.A. Rehman of the HRCP had a point when he reminded us that authentic electoral rolls are basic to adult franchise. The numbers game is baffling and political parties are disinterested. Continue reading Enigma of voters’ list

Politicians and education

By Zubeida Mustafa

ELECTION season is here. The political leaders know no form of canvassing other than that of mud-slinging. Most of them can produce no documented evidence, but it is enough to start a vitriolic debate.

What betrays the low level of our electioneering is that no one has so far discussed any substantive issues. There have been attacks on the government in terms of the numerous crises that engulf the country today. Yet no party leader has actually analysed official policies on any burning questions or tried to offer his own solution. In other words, no one has shown us the light at the end of the tunnel. No party has announced a plan and the old manifestos that lay gathering dust have been dusted off and brought out where needed. Continue reading Politicians and education

Are Pakistanis extremists?

By Zubeida Mustafa

THERE are two ways of effecting a change in a society: from top to bottom or from bottom to top. Conventionally, it has been believed — and development and political strategies are based on this notion — that changes at the top and the trickle-down effect will create an impact at the bottom, where it is needed.

Unfortunately, this approach has failed in our case for two reasons. First, in the absence of statesmanship in the leadership and its corruption, the vested interests at the top support the status quo. Hence they obstruct changes in the system or their policies for the benefit of the majority. Second, there is no pressure or demand from below to force those at the helm to reform themselves and the system they administer. Continue reading Are Pakistanis extremists?