Free from fear

By Zubeida Mustafa

DR Shershah Syed is a gynaecologist with a heart — and his heart has no fear. His claim to fame rests with his monumental services to underprivileged women suffering from fistula who would otherwise have been condemned as outcasts for the rest of their lives. Fistula is caused by prolonged labour in childbirth when the bladder is punctured causing urine to leak all the time.

Shershah’s battles for the cause of medical education in Pakistan have also brought him into the limelight as has his struggle to save the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council from the avarice of the power-hungry.

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Digital vs books

By Zubeida Mustafa

FIRST it was television. Then came the internet. Our old and familiar friend — the book — has had many detractors. When television made its debut in Pakistan in the mid-1960s it was generally said that the idiot box had pulled away readers from their books. Now this charge is levelled against the digital medium. But the fact is that Pakistan has never been famous for its reading culture.

This has been my observation of decades that our society has an aversion for the printed word as testified by our high illiteracy rate. Ask any librarian, bookseller or publisher and s/he will confirm it. The only books that sell are textbooks and the key/guide books, that should actually be banned. What would teachers do then? Believe me, they are the ones who depend on them more than the children.

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Coach Emad

By Zubeida Musrafa

LYARI and Boston. A world separates them. But they have a common connection. Coach Emad. That was the young man of 24 with a passion for football. He passed away in May 2018 leaving his family shattered. He died “of suicide”. That is how his mother, Atia Naqvi, a psychologist, puts it.

Mental illness is on the rise in our society, she tells me. It can lead to suicide. Yet we do not want to talk about it because of the double stigma. Mental illness is “disgraceful” but suicide is worse.

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Religious politics

By Rifaat Hamid Ghani

                    Of course Muslims feel that Islam is one as conveyed by its Holy Prophet (PBUH) in Quranic revelation, and concretized by his exemplary life. But apart from podium oratory, reality demands the qualification that, as apparent in contemporary practice, this singleness emerges in the fact of variously distinct manifold ‘ones’: individual understanding and schools of interpretation are separate and differ.

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A forest or more?

By Zubeida Mustafa

KARACHI is a concrete jungle which could do with a more generous touch of nature. But this is wishful thinking on my part considering the neglect and corruption that characterises the city’s administration.

According to a report, the KMC has 152 parks — rather plots earmarked for parks, most of them undeveloped — under its control. District South alone is said to have 71 amenity plots that include parks and open spaces. Amber Alibhai, secretary general of Shehri, gives me details of District South. She says that KDA’s idea was to develop this district as a natural recreation area for the citizens of Karachi who visit the adjoining sea beaches. The KMC failed to do its job.

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Ambivalence

By Rifaat Hamid Ghani                  

  We have so many regulatory bodies, inquiry commissions, supervisors and monitors, that the only reason we don’t keep nervously looking over our shoulders is that we are also on the watch for what could lie ahead.  The ambience is of unfocused anxiety. The analogy of a police state doesn’t come to mind, for the police force too is under scrutiny. However, PEMRA may soon have TV channels genially tell us ‘Big Brother is watching YOU’ for PEMRA is certainly watching them. If they are naughty or complain there could be recourse to a tribunal and the exercise – for this is civil dictation not military – may not be, like General Zia’s 90-day electoral guarantee, liable to indefinite postponement.

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How we grow

By Zubeida Mustafa

MAHNOOR is 13 years. She studies in the afternoon shift of a school in Neelum Colony. Mahnoor is often late for class because she babysits her six-month-old brother. Her mother is a domestic worker and is away from home the whole day. Mahnoor can go to school only when her nine-year-old sibling returns home from his school to take charge of the baby.

The failure of population planning in Pakistan has robbed many Mahnoors of the joy of childhood and has impacted their education. It has also frustrated our policymakers who have another story to tell. The backlog of 22 million out-of-school children in the country may never be wiped out as 4m new aspirants join the list of admission seekers annually. The government’s capacity to open new schools is limited.

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Trump Leaves Afghanistan and Pakistan at His Mercy

By Zubeida Mustafa

The Doha talks between the United States and the Taliban to work out a peace deal to end Afghanistan’s 18-year conflict began with a whimper a year ago. They ended Saturday with a presidential tweet from the White House that was no less than a bang that resounded around a startled world.

Having come so close to a peace deal, it was difficult to understand why President Donald Trump and thus the U.S. backed off. True, an American soldier was killed in an attack by the Taliban last week along with a Romanian soldier and 10 Afghan civilians. But 15 U.S. soldiers have been killed since the Doha talks began, and the Taliban had yet to formally renounce violence.

Most shaken by the turn of events in the peace process were the Taliban leaders themselves and their patrons in Pakistan.  It had been a Herculean task to bring the killers of 2,300 American and 45,000 Afghan soldiers and 32,000 Afghan civilians to the negotiating table. Then they had to be persuaded to agree in principle to a peace process for power sharing. Some loose ends still had to be tied up, but there was hope. Credit for this goes to the tireless shuttle diplomacy spread over nine months by the Afghan-born American diplomat, Zalmay Khalilzad. He has been strangely silent in the last two days.

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The miseducation of Pakistan

By Zubeida Mustafa

Seldom does one come across any good news about the state of education in Pakistan. In July this year, a UNESCO report stated that one out of every four children in the country do not complete their primary education. Additionally, the government revealed that 23 million out of 55 million children (40 per cent) are out of school.

Unfortunately, those who do attend school are not much better off, for the quality of education imparted at institutions is abysmal.

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PTI rule

By Rifaat Hamid Ghani

‘Corruption’ has been the make and break PTI slogan and the outstandingly ‘corrupt’ leaders of yore have been electorally dis-enabled and the two mainstream grassroots parties left floundering if not quite sunk. Common citizens are gauging what is on the march in the field: Imran Khan (for the party is the man) and his support base. Bear in mind that the mandate to govern was formally conferred by perhaps too gullible an electorate in the framework of the much-amended and sometimes vacillatingly so, as with the 8th amendment, 1973 constitution. It is a landmark consensual constitution that, though unceremoniously stamped upon by boots in 1977 and 1999, has yet to follow Pakistan’s earlier constitutional tomes into the unemptied dustbin of history.

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