Yearly Archives: 2013

The trauma of rape

By Zubeida Mustafa

DO we have increasing incidents of rape in Pakistan? Recently a large number of cases were reported of young women — even little girls — being assaulted by men. Some were brutally murdered. There has been an outcry from some women’s groups but the government has remained silent.

The Women’s Action Forum (WAF), which was born in 1981 as a reaction to the punishment announced against a young couple under the Hudood Ordinances, has generally been quick to take note of rape cases. In fact War Against Rape (WAR) was created in 1989 as an offshoot to address this devastating crime.

As a first measure in quest of solutions, WAF organised earlier this month a roundtable at Szabist, the educational institute, with the idea of creating awareness among the youth so that they also get involved in a movement to confront rape. Continue reading The trauma of rape

Give the gift of life

By Zubeida Mustafa

HAS the illicit organ trade that gave Pakistan such a bad name in the world of medicine made a comeback? We do know that for about a year after the Transplantation of Human Organs and Tissues Act was adopted in 2010 there was a lull and we were celebrating the end of this crime against humanity in our country. But one cannot be sure about that now.

Today reports trickle in that the clandestine sale of human organs is thriving. The scale of the operation is not known but the exploitation of the poor remains unabated.

With such a reputation, it was not really surprising when five days after the bombing of the All Saints Church in Peshawar last month, a website, Agenzia Fides, that has been described as the news agency of the Vatican, carried a shocking report linking the incident with the problem of organ trafficking. Continue reading Give the gift of life

Theatre: the way out

By Zubeida Mustafa

THERE is despondency in the air in Karachi. The violence in the city that has resulted in almost 3,000 deaths so far this year has left the youth brutalised.

Many are desensitised and the unnatural degree of violence and terrorism has become something normal for them. Too many will imbibe the criminality they witness around them — unless, of course, something happens to pre-empt this possibility. Others are so terrorised that it is doubtful whether they will ever be able to lead a normal and well-adjusted life. Continue reading Theatre: the way out

Pakistan’s social development: the Christians’ role

By Amna Pathan
Guest Contribution

imgWe are all aware of how much the Christian community has done for Pakistan. It has established schools such as ours – the St Joseph’s Convent — all over the country. Hospitals, orphanages, trust funds, even entire villages were founded by the Christians as early as the late nineteenth century.

The Church of England established the Karachi Grammar School in 1847. Thomas French, the first bishop of Lahore, founded the Agra College in 1853. Three years later, The Convent of Jesus and Mary was set up in Sialkot.  In 1861 the St. Patrick’s High School and in 1862 the St. Joseph’s Convent School were established. These were the first of many schools and universities set up by the Christians, who, for the last 160 years have been educating people all over Pakistan. Their students, have in turn, grown up to educate others and spread their teachings. These missionary schools have moulded lives, and that in turn have shaped our country’s history and its future.

Continue reading Pakistan’s social development: the Christians’ role

Remembering Sister Zinia

By Zubeida Mustafa

LAST Saturday was World Teachers’ Day. It is now universally recognised that teachers — their ability, integrity, competence and compassion — are the key determinants of the quality of education a country offers to its children.

A good teacher is an asset and to a great extent atones for the flaws in a system that produces shoddy textbooks, schools lacking decent infrastructure and missing library and laboratory facilities. Above all a teacher — who cares, inspires, and is innovative— can transform a child’s life.

So the idea of a Teachers’ Day is a brilliant one. Teachers also deserve appreciation and what better way can there be to boost their morale than recognition from their students? Continue reading Remembering Sister Zinia

Making social capital

By Zubeida Mustafa

WHAT should be a matter of concern for educators, parents and civil society in Pakistan is the failure of our education system to produce social capital.

The public sector institutions that cater to the needs of the majority leave much to be desired in terms of quality, access and performance. But the private schools, even the upscale elite ones which produce academic achievers, do not necessarily teach their pupils the skills of community living. Continue reading Making social capital

That is how they lived

By Zubeida Mustafa

THERE has been much talk of late about the distortion of history in Pakistan. Another feature of our historiography that our eminent historian Dr Mubarak Ali has lamented is the excessive focus on rulers and not enough being written about the ruled. We need more of ‘popular history’.

In that context I have found the Citizens Archive of Pakistan an innovative and commendable enterprise that should fill this void that has been growing as the primary sources of history — the people who lived through an era — are drying up. Founded by the Oscar-winning filmmaker, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, CAP, to use its acronym, describes itself as the “first ever youth-led private initiative to collect, archive, study, disseminate and exhibit all aspects of Pakistan’s history both before and after partition”. Continue reading That is how they lived

Sister Zinia Pinto and all the others … Sorry

By Zubeida Mustafa

When I learnt of the church bombing in Peshawar last Sunday, it pained me to the core of my heart. “How could they do it?” was the question that came to my mind immediately. “How could they do it to a people who are known for their service to humanity?” I asked again. “And they are also human beings like any of us and better in many ways.”

A part of me died with those who died in the church in Peshawar on Sunday. So many of the advantages that I and millions of others like me have managed to achieve in life is by virtue of the good education imparted by the Christian missionaries and teachers in Pakistan in the last 65 years. Their passion for education and their love for humanity is legendary. By trying to destroy them, the monsters are trying to destroy us all. Continue reading Sister Zinia Pinto and all the others … Sorry


By Tasneem Ahmar

Seeing what a humble individual like me can achieve with self-belief and determination gives me the most satisfaction. When I reflect on my journey, I am happy that I was able to be an agent, a catalyst for change in how the Pakistani media reports more seriously and sensitively on issues ranging from media portrayal of women to reporting disasters through the gender lens or how to talk about HIV/AIDS without going into denial.

I am Tasneem Ahmar, Director of Uks (an Urdu word for reflection), a research, resource and publication centre dedicated to gender equality and women’s development. In 1997, I founded this organisation in Islamabad (Pakistan) with a clear focus on how women were treated in the media, A concern that has remained poorly represented by organisations working on women’s rights. Continue reading WOMEN IN THE EYES OF THE PAKISTANI MEDIA

Who suffers more?

By Zubeida Mustafa

ANALYSING the anatomy of violence in Karachi, Kaiser Bengali, a former adviser to the Sindh chief minister, wrote in this paper (Sept 8) about the breakdown of the social contract in the city.

He defines this as the essential, implicit agreement between all interest groups on the broad contours of governance. On the basis of this, all societies function, he writes.

Kaiser Bengali is spot on. He lists demographic changes, joblessness of the Lyari youth and the rise of religious militancy as the major battlefronts of the war resulting from the end of the social contract. Continue reading Who suffers more?