THE judiciary in Pakistan has traditionally been viewed as a rubber stamp for coup-makers who intrude into politics. Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry showed the courage to defy Gen Pervez Musharraf — albeit seven years after the army chief had entrenched himself as head of state. In the words of The Economist (August 2009), “Most people do not care to remember that Mr Chaudhry and his colleagues also took their oaths after Mr Musharraf’s first coup … and owe their promotions to him”. Justice Chaudhry won popularity as a David who took on Goliath.
Today Chief Justice Saqib Nisar’s judicial activism has found some supporters too. And one can understand why. When a vacuum is created in any area of national life, it is inevitable that it will be filled by one or the other force. Matters of governance have deteriorated to such an extent in all sectors that people here are in a state of despair. Continue reading Justice for all→
A SHORT skit and a poster exhibition by children of the Behbud School on World TB Day came as a stark reminder that the scourge of tuberculosis continues to menace our society.
I wondered how many of those young artists and performers had had a personal encounter with the disease. This was likely because the incidence of TB in Pakistan continues to be pretty high, with 518,000 new cases being diagnosed every year, making it the fifth largest TB-infected country in the world. There is no way of knowing how many cases are not even detected. Continue reading Cure or perish→
IT disconcerts political interventionists that political parties—be they cultist or ideological—do not come and go by virtue of registration paper alone. They have a ground reality. Disqualify the leader, even ban the party, but adherents adhere. Popular support—overt or covert; subverted or repressed—will always remain a challenge for reformists who need to oust superfluous leaders/parties that have yet to be democratically nullified by the voter. Continue reading The party goes on→
THE recently released UN-sponsored World Happiness Report 2018 ranks Pakistan 75th out of 156 countries in terms of how happy their citizens are. That is progress. Last year, we stood at the 80th position. There has been rejoicing at what is seen as Pakistan’s superiority in the ranking table above all its neighbours which includes China and India.
This made me wonder because statistics — objectively compiled one presumes — have a different story to tell. The Sustainable Development Solutions Network, the author of the report, bases its findings on six indicators, namely, income per capita, life expectancy, social support, generosity, freedom and corruption. At least two of these are calculated objectively by many UN agencies (World Bank and UNDP). Continue reading Illusory happiness→
A book review of Zubeida Mustafa’s My DAWN Years – Exploring Social Issues.
I recently told Zubeida Mustafa that I had an issue with the subtitle of her memoirs. I feel her years at DAWN were more meaningful than simply the pursuit of social issues, important as they are and clearly close to her heart. With over 30 years at DAWN, many of which were in the position of a senior editor, Zubeida had a more significant impact on the newspaper than perhaps she cares to lay claim to – out of her inherent modesty. Her years at DAWN did see a shift in editorials, from ambivalence to clear positions on issues that matter – democracy, pluralism and rights of the marginalised, to name a few. If Ahmad Ali Khan (the editor for most of her years at DAWN), was her mentor, Zubeida too, in her own quiet way, exercised a significant influence on the newspaper’s journey. Continue reading A woman of quiet influence→
THE infamous legacy of ‘enforced disappearances’ that the Chilean military dictator Augusto Pinochet left behind has, unfortunately, been picked up by Pakistan. This phenomenon is today a source of great human agony in the country with thousands believed to have been abducted, many for political reasons.
Balochistan has suffered much. One cannot be certain about who is behind this torturous form of suppression of the freedom of expression. One hears of the ‘agencies’, Baloch dissidents, RAW agents, religiously inspired militants and others being involved. Continue reading Guns or books?→
IS Pakistan’s political process moving in the direction of Ayub’s basic democracy with its manageable electoral college of basic democrats? Senate elections– as quite dramatically opposed to results in bye-elections to PA and NA seats post-Panama– have shown how readily political satisfaction may be obtained for and by the wise who are convinced they know better than the broader mass when it comes to picking appropriate parliamentary personnel. Democratic purists may not describe senators as public reps, but perhaps the intention is to revamp the manufacture of suitable public representation.
Thus, given the shortcomings embarrassingly apparent in parliament, some have been touting proportional representation and party lists. Others recommend reducing the minimum voting age: the young have such a fresh untutored approach. A like-minded school would facilitate expat voters who are away from it all and so can be trusted to be more objective about things back home than locals with antiquated party preferences who live too close to the ground for the right perspective. Then take electoral procedure and preliminaries: Delineating constituencies afresh should be understood as necessary updating and revision: Not gerrymandering to compensate for earlier gerrymandering. Continue reading ‘The moving finger . . . ‘→
DIAGNOSIS of cancer in any patient is not only stressful to the patient but also the family who looks after the cancer patient. Here in our country the patient and the attendants receive no counselling. When the oncologist suggests the line of treatment — surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy depending on the type and stage of the cancer — the patient and his family have no inkling of the outcome. They are not told about the suffering the patient will undergo or his/her survival rate. Continue reading The dilemma of cancer caregivers→
AS the forces of feminism grow in strength, it is heartening to see women mobilising themselves and rising to fight their own battles. It is clear that the seeds of awareness that were sown in the 1980s are now bearing fruit.
We see many young faces taking up the cudgels. They are the generation which reacted to the oppression of their mothers in Zia’s Pakistan and the heightened misogyny of the post-9/11 years. Continue reading March of women→
THE disputes between India and Pakistan have cast a long and dark shadow over their relationship since the two countries stepped out of colonial bondage in 1947. The circumstances surrounding their birth made it inevitable that ill feelings would mar ties and make coexistence difficult.
But did it have to be so forever? This question is now being asked by sane and rational people on both sides of the border. Even after seven decades that saw a major reconfiguration of the map of South Asia through three wars and the breakup of Pakistan, this question has a strange urgency to it. Continue reading Love thy neighbour→