There is much speculation these days about the impending change in the status of the St Joseph’s and the St Patrick’s Colleges in Karachi. The Sindh government’s move to “retransfer” or “denationalize” these colleges has angered the teachers’ community and their association has launched a protest movement.
Given the state of college education – in fact the entire education sector – in the country it is important that the issue be discussed dispassionately and objectively in all sections who feel concern for the future of the younger generation. Continue reading Denationalization controversy→
The Speaker of the West Bengal Assembly, Mr Hashim Abdul Halim, who is also acting chairman of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, had a brief stopover in Karachi on his way to Islamabad.
He is a suave man, a competent parliamentarian and has been the Speaker for 23 years. He says he wants to step down and resume his legal ractice but his party, the CPI-M, would not let him go. The party itself has been in power in Kolkata for 24 years. Continue reading Where political parties failed→
The process of change in Afghanistan is so subtle and the violence so pervasive that not many seem to have noticed the fact that the Afghan women are slowly emerging from the oblivion and coming into their own. According to one report nearly 40 per cent of the voters who have registered themselves for the October presidential elections are women.
That is an impressive figure given the fact that until recently women were not even allowed out of their homes, because of the obscurantist policies of the Taliban who were ruling the roost in Kabul until the end of 2001. Continue reading Afghan women’s new role→
The world population day was observed on July 11 and all the leaders involved with the population programme in Pakistan one way or the other expressed their concern at the country’s demographic profile on this occasion. The official voices which were raised this year were somewhat louder than before.
The president sent a message calling for a balance between population and resources. More importantly, he emphasized a close link between population and the social development of the people especially in the areas of health, education and women’s development. Continue reading Complexities of population issue→
The population factor has become quite an enigma in Pakistan. Given the widespread realization that the population growth rate of a country is closely related to its economic prosperity, social advancement and political stability, the government has been inclined to project a rosy demographic picture.
Unsurprisingly, this leads to many contradictions as various government functionaries are at times talking at cross purposes. Take the case of the newly-installed chief minister of Sindh, Dr Arbab Ghulam Rahim, who was the chief guest at the concluding session of the population welfare department’s seminar held in Karachi last week. Continue reading Anatomy of numbers→
May was a bad month for Karachi. Two bomb blasts in two Shia mosques took a toll of 50 or so lives. Many more were wounded. In between these two devastating events came the assassination of Mufti Shamzai, the head of the Binori mosque, who is said to have had at one time close links with Osama bin Laden and Mulla Umar. Continue reading The blasts of hatred→
President Pervez Musharraf got it right when he told the inaugural session of a security conference in Islamabad the other day that the world was in a turmoil because of inequalities in economic development. He pointed out that the world was divided between the haves and the have-nots and that there was need to wage a war against illiteracy, hunger, sickness, backwardness, poverty, and social injustice.
This might appear to be stating the obvious. This has been iterated so very often that now it fails to make an impact. The fact is that the gulf between the rich and the poor of the world is so great today that it is difficult to fully comprehend its implications. Continue reading The battle against backwardness→
On May 12 as Muttahida and Jamaat-i-Islami workers were busy attacking each other on the day of the by-elections, some citizens of Karachi gathered to honour Mr Mehmood Futehally for his “significant contribution to civil society”.
Mr Mehmood Futehally who is 89 and still active was presented the Citizen’s Award 2003. Mr Ardeshir Cowasjee, the first recipient of this award in 2001, was invited to make the presentation. As is his brusque style the first thing he demanded to know from Mr Futehally was which of them was older. Mr Futehally turned out to be senior by 10 years, though he hardly looks it.
But age was not the reason for the admiration given to Mr Futehally that evening. A self-employed farmer, he has made an outstanding contribution to low-cost farming by devising natural and indigenous methods that inspired the five-member jury to select him from about 20 or so nominees that evening.
Mr Futehally developed a windmill way back in 1973. A small sized windmill can pump 18,000 litres of water from a depth of 30 feet. Since the fields are irrigated by the drip system, very little water is used to cover a substantial area. He makes fertilizer with his own technology using organic waste and earthworms.
In the heart of Gulshan-i-Iqbal stands Suhana farm. Its lush green beauty is a living testimony to Mr Futehally’s ingenious farming methods. A short documentary by Nazli Jamil vividly captured the low-cost technology devised by this champion of organic farming. His goal? To form Kashtkar (Cultivators’) Trust and through that help small farmers learn his low-cost technology to grow food.
Mr Futehally is also a poet. He read out a poem he had written 35 years ago but which is still relevant. “I dreamt a dream,” said Mr Futehalley, “A man arose, equipped by nature herself to save our hapless globe.” His weapon was “human love” and “shining truth” because of which “human hearts began to thaw, love and brotherhood blossomed everywhere”.
“True, it was but a dream, but we can, we shall, make it also true,/ Though it was futile to wait for such a man, of a thousand times our stature,/ Yet a thousand of us can strive, and acquire each a thousandth of his power,/ And, joined each to each by steely bonds of faith, make the dream come true.”
What a pity, the students of the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture who had been expected to fill the hall and be inspired were absent because the administration had declared it a holiday because of the by-elections.
Recently, the government of Sindh’s education and literacy department (presumably re-named in recognition of the appalling rate of our illiteracy) inserted half page ads in the newspapers on two occasions to proclaim its commitment to the spread of learning.
One appeared on May 1 and read, “Education brings honour to the country. Labour earns glory for the nation.” The second was inserted on Eid-i-Milad-un-Nabi reminding people that the Holy Prophet (PBUH) had repeatedly advised the ummah to acquire knowledge from wherever possible. Continue reading Plight of adopted schools→
The message carried year after year by WHO’s World Health Reports is that “progress in health depends largely on viable national and local health systems”. The 2003 report speaks of the need for “effective health promotion and disease prevention services” to give people a chance to lead a long and healthy life. The 2002 report focused on the reduction of risks to health and held this to be the primary responsibility of the government. Continue reading Prevention is still better than cure→