Category Archives: Book Reviews

REVIEWS: Why they took separate paths?

Reviewed by Zubeida Mustafa

Partition & Convergence by Prof Jamal Naqvi, an eminent scholar, is a most thought-provoking book. While its focus is said to be South Asia in the 21st century, it is actually a summing up of the author’s philosophical analysis of world affairs and its impact on our region.

Identifying the key features of the emergence of the European political system, which determined the course of the history of the continent, the author traces briefly the milestones that carry a lesson for Asia. Thus feudalism and how it disintegrated, the renaissance, the “massive institutionalization” of society and the creation of powerful traders’ and craftsmen’s guilds in the towns and cities ultimately proved to be the major catalyst in creating Europe as a force to be reckoned with in world affairs.

This historical development was responsible for the emergence of capitalism that drove the Europeans in their quest for new markets and a source of cheap raw material and labour. These were found in plenty in the colonies. It was capitalism that led to the successful colonization by the European powers of Asia and Africa.

The thrust towards institutionalization was aimed at protecting the rights of the people and was confrontationist in character. The new institutions developed on the basis of guidelines of professionalism. Hence they promoted the rule of law and a vibrant civil society which led to the emergence of the concept of democratization.

The British conquered India because of their superior knowledge and technology. That helped the colonizing power to hold on to massive areas with a small military force. It was the British strategy of “divide and rule” which sustained and consolidated its hold on India. This land of millions provided the rapidly growing British industry of that period the market it needed. It also proved to be a source of cheap raw material. The so-called mutiny in 1857 proved to be a watershed in the history of the British raj for it clearly established that Britain’s own policies would work against it. Thus the soldiers who had rebelled were trained as professionals by the British rulers themselves. When Britain was weakened by the Second World War it felt it had to disengage itself from its colonies.

The most significant aspect of the history of the subcontinent was the way relations evolved between the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League, and subsequently between India and Pakistan. This cast a long shadow on the post-Independence international politics of South Asia. A lot has been written about the different course the politics took in the two countries of the subcontinent and its impact on their bilateral relations.

While in Pakistan the military gained ascendancy and became the wielder of power directly or by proxy (with a civilian government providing the facade), a democratic, secular system evolved in India. As a result Pakistan failed to develop a feasible system of governance. The civil society proved to be strong enough to overthrow an oppressive military ruler but did not have the strength to sustain a democratic system. Religion had to be used as an instrument to hold the country together. This approach failed and the country broke up in 1971 when Bangladesh was born.

The militarization of the political system in Pakistan displayed some common features irrespective of the military ruler at the helm. The country would be closely allied with the United States, the civil society would be fragmented as the government’s policy would invariably be that of divide and rule, a local government structure would be developed to let out steam, and confrontation on the Kashmir dispute would be intensified to sustain a hate-India posture and justify the expansion of the defence infrastructure.

The emergence of Bangladesh, however, had a profound impact on South Asia. It eased the pressure on India and saw the rise of popular expectations, which the ruling elites had managed to brush aside. The response to this phenomenon was populism which Prof Naqvi defines as “political jugglery that counters the hopes of the common man and the fears of the ruling classes in a way to give the impression of change when in fact the status quo is largely maintained”. This populism in Indira Gandhi’s India and Mujibur Rahman’s Bangladesh ultimately paved the way for the democratization of politics in these countries.

But this did not happen in Pakistan. Bhutto’s populism was interrupted by the army. The changes taking place in South Asia are, according to the author, the result of post-Cold War imperatives. The thrust is towards the regionalization of South Asia. The age of the nationalist state is now dead and a collective South Asian nationalism is emerging, Saarc being its strongest manifestation. Prof Naqvi is optimistic about the new trends which he believes will lead to better India-Pakistan relations. He makes a powerful plea for peace in South Asia.

This is a book full of profound analysis and observations from a scholar, who was once a Marxist but “quit Leftist politics in 1990” as the author’s introduction proclaims. He is, therefore, objective and profound since he can detach himself from the controversies of the day and interpret the history of South Asia in the light of his knowledge of Marxism and his own political experience. These combine to make his analysis deep and interesting.

The only problem — and a serious one — with the book is that it has not been provided the expert touch of an editor. This is not strange for the institution of a professional editor is virtually non-existent in Pakistan. Had an editor worked on the book, it would have had a cohesive theme running from the first to the last chapter and the far too many spelling and grammatical errors would have been eliminated. One hopes that these shortcomings will be rectified in the next edition to make the book reader friendly and a profound work of scholarship.

Partition & Convergence: South Asia in the 21st Century
By Prof Syed Jamal Naqvi
Xlibris. Tel: 001-888-795 4274 . Website: www.Xlibris.com
Email: Orders@Xlibris.com
ISBN 1-4134-5935-8
155pp. Price not listed

Source: Dawn

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REVIEWS: Enter the peace actors

Reviewed by Zubeida Mustafa

As the nature and style of warfare has changed over the years with the development of new technologically advanced weapons, the concept of security has also changed. If nations are now fighting total wars, they are also seeking to achieve total security. Hence peace now focuses on multifarious issues in addition to ceasefires, conflict resolution, disarmament and military deterrent. Security experts are also taking a hard look at social and economic factors causing conflicts and a new academic discipline termed peace studies has come up.

In the present context, when India and Pakistan have teetered on the brink of war and then moved on to a peace dialogue, Manjrika Sewak’s book is of special interest to specialists and lay readers alike. She succinctly defines the modern concept of security, which she writes has to be sustainable to be effective, and the role of multi-track diplomacy in promoting peace.

Security is today understood to be more than simply the strategy to protect the territorial integrity of a state. It envisages a sense of security in the population, the participation of the people in the governance of the state and international relations being the interaction between the people of different states and not institutions alone. This approach makes it equally important for a government to invest in its human resources and strike a balance between its defence spending and development of the people. With India 127th and Pakistan 144th in UNDP’s human development ranking, the two countries cannot hope to enjoy any security in spite of the fact that in terms of their military spending’s ratio to GDP they rank fourth and seventh respectively.

The author, who is a peace activist, is categorical in her statement that nuclear weapons do not add to security. If anything the non-transparency in the chain of command and the limited knowledge of political leaders about nuclear weapons enhance the sense of insecurity of people.

The feminist approach to security takes a broader perspective since women are the ones most affected by conflicts. They feel that an over emphasis on military security increases the sense of insecurity of people. Genuine security entails not just the absence of war. It also envisages the elimination of social injustices and economic inequities.

Security can, thus, be made sustainable if it involves plural approaches and diverse actors — academicians, policy analysts, media persons, business leaders, NGOs — that is civil society itself. The significance of this can be understood if one remembers that in the 1990’s protracted civil conflicts which are not even viewed as wars killed five million people worldwide and created 17 million displaced persons. The governments lack the tools to resolve these conflicts that can be addressed more effectively by peace building initiatives of the civil society outside the government. These are termed as track-two diplomacy.

Coined by an American diplomat, Joseph Montville, the term refers to non-government conflict resolution efforts embracing a variety of actors ranging from diplomats, academics, businessmen, educationists and media persons. In the Cold War years the United States and the Soviet Union launched many such exercises, such as the Dartmouth conference, the Pugwash conference, the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War and other disarmament groups.

A number of similar initiatives have been launched by India and Pakistan too in the nineties, such as the Neemrana Dialogue, the Balusa Group, India-Pakistan Soldiers’ Initiative for Peace, and the Pakistan-India Forum for Peace and Democracy.

The main criterion for track-two diplomacy to yield results is its ability to interact with and influence track-one (diplomacy at the government level) policies. Track-two contacts cannot possibly take place without the tacit support of the governments which provide visas and facilitate the meetings of the participants. Conversely, track-two offers a deeper insight into the causes of conflict and can suggest a variety of solutions because of its unofficial status and therefore its flexibility.

Although cynics have criticized track-two for not being institutionalized, being too elitist and being outside the mainstream, one must recognize the support given to peace by the track-two actors in the case of India and Pakistan. The fact is that track-two diplomacy in the last few years has paved the way for the cordial and congenial climate that has been created in South Asia. It is track-two that has made it possible for the Indian and Pakistani governments to break the ice and open composite dialogue. It has facilitated the adoption of many confidence building measures and the exploring of various options for resolving the Indo-Pakistan disputes.

The main role played by the track-two actors in India and Pakistan has been to facilitate social change and establish a new pattern of behaviour in the people and then sustain it. For that it is important that a mechanism be created to sustain the change. Multi-track diplomacy plays a useful role by instituting a web of actors whose job it is to ensure that the change does not lapse.

Manjrika Sewak, a programme officer with Wiscomp (Women in Security, Conflict Management and Peace), has made a great contribution to peace studies by producing this excellent book — probably the first of its kind. The point she drives home is that security and change of behaviour have to be sustained if they are to produce a long-lasting impact.


Multi-Track Diplomacy between India and Pakistan: A Conceptual Framework for Sustainable Security
By Manjrika Sewak
Regional Centre for Strategic Studies, 2 Elibank Road, Colombo-5, Sri Lanka
Email: edrcss@srilanka.net Website: www.rcss.org
ISBN 81-7304-621-2
138pp. Sri Lankan Rs255

Source: Dawn

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Review: Death by sanctions

Reviewed by Zubeida Mustafa

AT a time when the world waits with baited breath for the impending American war on Iraq, Iraq under Siege comes as a reminder that the people of that besieged country have already been under attack for 12 years. Anthony Arnove writes in the introduction to this updated edition: “The war on the people of Iraq has been going on since the imposition of the most comprehensive sanctions in world history on the country on August 6, 1990.”

At present the focus of world attention has shifted to the war which is expected to kill hundreds of thousands of civilians, who are dismissed by Secretary of Defence Rumsfeld as “colateral damage”. With the US Congress having given the Bush administration a carte blanche in October 2002 to attack Iraq preemptively and the Anglo-American military build-up in the Gulf region, war is believed to be imminent. The issues under debate in the world media are regime change, control over oil resources, and, of course, Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and the need to destroy them. The sanctions have receded into the background.

It is a pity that the voice of sanity from peace-loving elements has fallen on deaf ears. Arnove succinctly sums up the repercussions of this senseless war which will lead to the escalation of American hegemony in the Middle East, will give a fillip to the expansionist regimes all over the world on the plea of giving them the justification of waging war against terrorism and will enhance the social injustices and inequities in the US and other countries.

But the book under review is basically about the 12-year war being fought against the people of Iraq. They have been victims of the aerial bombing and the sanctions regime since 1990. The book is a meticulous documentation of the ravages unleashed on the people of that unfortunate country. The contributors, some of them outstanding academics, point out how sanctions have been used to promote the American policy of regime change in Baghdad. Washington has made it clear that the sanctions will be lifted unilaterally by the US only if it found the new Iraqi government “acceptable”. The thrust for this strategy came from the pro-Israel politicians and think-tanks and in the process new rules of conduct were written. Dissent and non-conformity were not tolerated. Backed by a conservative quiescent Congress and the mainstream media which supports war, the administration feels no compunction about adopting a bellicose policy. In fact the peace movement has failed to make an impact so far.

Pointing out the inconsistencies in American policies vis-a- vis Iraq, Noam Chomsky writes that the US backed Iraq when it was fighting against Iran and Saddam Hussrin enjoyed US support when he was gassing the Kurds. After a turnaround, the US is now projecting Iraq as a violent lawless state when in actuality it is America which, as the most powerful state, is out to seize what it wants.

John Pilger raises some pertinent questions. What do you say to parents of children who are dying of the effects of sanctions? Aren’t sanctions the violation of the rights of millions of people? He ends on a poignant note by referring to the tragedy of Mohammad Amin Ezzat, the conductor of the Iraqi National Orchestra, whose wife died when the cheap kerosene oil lamp burst setting her on fire. The intermittent supply has forced the people to use these lamps.

The book explodes the myths which have been created about the sanctions. Some of them are: the sanctions are an effective non- violent method for the containment of Iraq; Iraq is a threat to its neighbours and without sanctions it would build its weapons of mass destruction (WMD); Iraq is violating the UN Security Council resolutions; Iraq has undermined the UN inspection programme; if the people are suffering it is because the Iraqi government is withholding the distribution of food; the Iraqi leadership is trying to enrich itself; ‘smart’ sanctions ensure that the needs of the people are met.

But the fact is that the Iraqi children have suffered due to the sanctions while hundreds and thousands have died due to malnutrition and lack of medicines. The under-5 mortality rate has doubled and UNMOVIC has denied that Iraq has rebuilt its WMDs. How could Iraq then pose a threat to other countries? Obviously the American aim is to occupy Iraq and seize control of its oil resources which constitute 11 per cent of the world oil reserves. It cannot afford to let the prices drop very low. Neither can it live with very high prices which would destroy its oil-based economy.

Given the pressure generated by public opinion in the western democracies, the media have attempted to downplay the negative effects of sanctions. Ali Abunimah and Rania Masri write about this negative role of the media. In an excellent analysis of the American media, these writers describe the devices employed. The civilian victims of bombing are ignored. A bias is injected by having a narrow selection of experts with a distinct point of view in their discussion programmes. They seek to create an artificial balance in the coverage of news and thus mislead public opinion.

Some of the questions posed should move the readers. For instance, Professor Howard Zinn asks if an American president would kill a few hundred Americans simply to ‘send a message’ as is being done in Iraq. Is an Iraqi child less innocent than an American’s and is an Iraqi life less worthy than an American one?

Although all that the book says has a powerful appeal for the minds and hearts of readers, it seems to have escaped the notice of American policy-makers. Though inevitably repetitive at times, the book is the collective voice of 18 academics, professionals and social workers who are also activists in their own way. All of them share a common commitment: they want justice for the people of Iraq.


Iraq under Siege: The Deadly Impact of Sanctions and War

Edited by Anthony Arnove

South End Press, 7 Brookline Street, #1, Cambridge MA 02139- 4146

Website: www.southendpress.org

ISBN 0-89608-697-6

62pp. $16

Source: Dawn

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A cry in the wilderness?

Reviewed By Zubeida Mustafa
Source: Dawn

Men wage wars but the chief victims of war are invariably women. The truth of this has been so clearly established in Kashmir, which has been in the grip of an insurgency for the last 13 years. Yet surprisingly one doesn’t get to read much about how violence has impacted on the lives of women in that unhappy valley, which many years ago claimed to be the spot where “the world ended and paradise began”.
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Pauperization of Pakistan

Reviewed By Zubeida Mustafa
Source: Dawn

A little over two decades ago, third world leaders were calling for a new international economic order. It was in the late seventies when the Algerian president, Houari Boumedienne, made his trail-blazing speech in the UN General Assembly in which he accused the industrialized countries of exploiting the developing world by laying down terms of trade unfavourable to the producers of basic commodities.
Continue reading Pauperization of Pakistan

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Women and gender inequalities

By Zubeida Mustafa

WOMEN’S STUDIES WOMEN’S LIVES:THEORY AND PRACTICE IN ASIA edited by Committee on Women’s Studies in Asia. 208 pp. Rs 260. Published by OxfordUniversity Press, Karachi.

This is a book on Women’s Studies. But it is publication with a difference. It does not adopt the conventional format to define this newly emerged discipline in the academia. Jt seeks to look into the subject through the lives of thirteen women who are teaching/researching Woman’s Studies.

Coming from Asian countries as diverse as Pakistan, China, Korea and Indonesia, the writers give an account of how they became aware of gender inequalities and what led them into taking up Women’s Studies as a subject of investigation.

The accounts are naturally as diverse as are the backgrounds of the writers. Thus Fanny M. Cheung of Hong Kong became aware of the burden women carry when she worked with rape victims as a psychologist. For Li Xiaojiang of China the hour of awakening came early. Her reaction to her sexuality was one of contempt which drove her on to emulate men. When she encountered obstacles in her drive to succeed in her career she turned to research to analyse the factors which made professional life such a challenge for a woman. Nora Lan-hung Chiang learnt of her secondary status when she went to Taiwan with her husband to live in an extended family. Continue reading Women and gender inequalities

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Many myths dispelled

By Zubeida Mustafa

OUT OF AFGHANISTAN: The Inside Story of the Soviet Withdrawal by Diego Cordovez and Selig Harrison. Published by Oxford University, New York.450 pp. $35/-.

In December 1979 the Soviet army entered Afghanistan and installed a pro-Soviet government in Kabul. This was no ordinary event. The USSR was at that time a superpower locked in a cold war with the United States. Its entryinto Afghanistan introduced a grim dimension to the power struggle between Moscow and Washington. In fact this event will go down in history as a  4 .turning point in the international politics of the twentieth century.The series of developments that followed transformed the pattern of the global political, economic and security system.

As is normal practice when such momentous events occur, there comes a spate of writings to report, analyse and interpret the happenings. The Soviet intervention in Afghanistan produced a similar impact on the wielders ofthe pen. But there was a difference. Given the deep polarization between the two sides which naturally influenced the thinking of writers and scholars as well, the literature on Afghanistan has tended to proceed from fixed andpre-detennined premises.

For instance it has always been believed that the Soviet Union “invaded” Afghanistan as a part of its expansionist policy designed to extend its controlBy Zubeida Mustafa over Asia. The Saur revolution of 1978 was seen as having been the result of Moscow’s machinations.

Similarly, another myth is that all the sides involved in the Afghancrisis acted as monolithic powers which took decisions with unanimityin their ranks. The battle lines were perceived as being 0sharply drawn — the Soviets and their protege in Kabul were being challenged by the mujahideen and their supporters in Islamabad. And now comes Out ofAfghanistan to dispel many of these myths. Written by Diego Cordovez, the UN representative who was the driving force behind the proximity talks onAfghanistan, and Selig Harrison, a researcher who has worked onthis region, the book tells the inside story that has never beentold before.

In a nutshell what emerges clearly is that Moscow was not the only power to be blamed for the protracted Afghan crisis which defied all attempts at  resolution for nearly a decade. Others also contributed to the mess. The Soviet Union was not a monolithic  power where the decision to invade Afghanistan was taken without much dissension. If the pro-interventionists succeeded in prevailing over those who hesitated it was because the fear wasreal in Moscow that the Americans would use Afghanistan to neutralise Soviet power. Haf izullah Amin’s ambivalence promoted the suspicion thathe was angling for American support. Small wonder, the Russians first ensured the elimination of Amin before installing their man (Babrak Karmal) in Kabul.

It is clear that the Americanstried to exploit the Soviet dilemma in Afghanistan to their own advantage. The Reagan Administration was divided between the bleeders and the dealers. The first were the hardlinerswho did not want to end the war since their strategy wasto drain the Soviets through a protracted war. The dealers werethe moderates who wanted to negotiate. The first school provedto be more influential and they hampered the peace process atevery stage. Even indirectly, their impact was an adverse onefor they gave encouragement to the hardliners in Moscow andweakened the hands of those advocating a Soviet withdrawalfrom Afghanistan.

Pakistan’s role emerges in a sorry light. General Ziaul Haq’spolicies helped prolong the Soviet occupation since that suitedhis regime. Pakistan could obtain massive military aid as thefront-line state.lt also assumed uhe key position of the power brokeramong the various mujahideen factions. But regrettably Islamabad did not use this position for the cause of peace. At time it actually promoted discord among the guerillas and prevented them from uniting on a common platform. It also persistently changed its stance in the negotiations and thus blocked progress.

Initially, Islamabad demanded the withdrawal of Soviet troops while refusing to consider the issue of who should rule in Kabul When the Soviet Union indicated its willingness to pull out its forces, General Zia developedcold feet since he had convinced himself that the Russians would never leave Afghanistan.

Therefore, the issue of the composition of the government inKabul came up and became the focus of controversy. It has yet tobe resolved. The in-fighting in Washington, Moscow, Islamabad and Kabulmade a settlement in Afghanistan more difficult. In Pakistan’s casethe divisiveness was so great that the ISI could chalk out its own’Afghan policy which was at loggerheads with the government’s.As a result peace became difficult to enforce — and.still is —since a number of forces were working at cross-purposes andthere was no responsible authority which could prevail over them.Out of Afghanistan is an excellent book. Written in a lucid stylemarked with clarity, it makes interesting reading.Although thecentrepiece of the book is Afghanistan, it gives a masterlyinsight into the Soviet system on the eve of the collapse ofCommunism, establishing the Kennan thesis that it was notAmerican military power and strategic policy that broughtabout the disintegration of the USSR but the political, economicand social changes that took place in the country as a result ofurbanistaion and industrialisation. This is a book which isstrongly recommended as compulsory reading for every scholarand general reader interested in South and Central Asia.

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Tales of silent war victims

By Zubeida Mustafa

war-victims-18-08-1995ARMS TO FIGHT, ARMS TO PROTECT; Women Speak Out About Conflict, edited by Olivia Bennett, Joe Bexley and Kitty Warnock. Published by Panos Institute, London. 282 pp. ₤I 0.95.

This book, recently published by the London-based Panos Institute,should be of special interest in the context of the grim crisis which has gripped Karachi for the last several months.

Arms to Fight Arms to Protect: Women Speak out about Conflict records the testimonies of 200 women from 12 countries who have been affected by war in one way or another.

The conflict in Karachi might not have escalated to the scale of the aimed confrontation in Bosnia, Lebanon, Somaliland, Sri Lanka, Liberia, Uganda, Tigray, Nicaragua and El Salvador (some of the countries where the studies were carried out) yet. But the firsthand accounts of the women who have been victims of war should serve as a warning to those who control the destiny of this strifetorn metropolis in Pakistan.

It emerges clearly from the harrowing tales of women who have been active participants in the .armed struggle or silent victims of the violence perpetrated by power-. hungry men that recourse to force does’ not always pay. Wadad, a Lebanese woman whose husband was kidnapped, says, “the damage is done, what’s happened to the country (in terms of) victims and ruins and twisting of minds. But the more dangerous thing that I fear is that we are building for a new war.”

Others fear that their sacrifices have been in vain. Sabaah from Somaliland speaks of another war that was inflicted on the widows of the first war.

Significantly, quite a number of the women interviewed by Panos did not show any involvement in the decision to go to war. Some like the women from Uganda perceived the war to be a struggle between power-hungry men wanting to get rich by force. Even where the women identified with their men because of ethnic or ideological factors they were not generally a party to the decision-making which led to the conflict. But that does not imply that all women are peace-loving and do not take up arms. They, • however, by virtue of their roles as carers and mothers in the home and organisers of peace and rehabilitation in society are less inclined to take up arms.

Rarely have conflicts led to the liberation of women. On the contrary, the repercussions of war on women have been traumatic. They have been more vulnerable especially when rape is used as a weapon of war to demoralise one side. In many cases, the agony oft women has intensified after the** war has ended. They have had to bear the ‘brunt of surviving in a shattered economy and, destabilised and fragmented society.

Marie of Lebanon put it suecinctly when she said, “War is what happens afterwards.” The task of rehabilitation and reconstruction” is after all not an easy one, especislly when women continue to be the victims of social prejudices and discrimination.

Panos has done an excellent job in putting this book together. For the women who participated in the project the process of sharing their experience and recalling their past was a valuable exercise to ease the*- pain many of them continue to feel years after the war has ended as in Vietnam and when the fighting still continues as in the Balkans. For the readers the book is important to help them understand and learn from the experience of others. If this book can preempt even one conflict, it would have served a use-‘ ful purpose.

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Population planning and the social realities

By Zubeida Mustafa

Population-10-03-1995THE IMPLEMENTATION OF FAMILY PLANNING PROGRAMME IN PAKISTAN: SUCCESS OR FAILURE
By Dr Nadir Ali Agha.
Published by author from Justice Lodge, 95-B, Gulshan-e- Faisal, 15th Street, Bath Island, Karachi.
64 pp.

One of the most crucial issues which has had a profound impact on Pakistan’s economy, politics and sociocultural development is the high population growth rate. With its population having more than quadrupled from 32 million to 128 million in 47 years, the country can ill-afford to neglect the demographic sector. Seen against this backdrop, any attempt to analyse elucidate the family planning programme in Pakistan is a welcome endeavour. Dr Nadir Ali Agha, the author of the book under review, presumably prepared this manuscript as his dissertation for his master’s course in health management from the University of Birmingham. He has managed to compress a lot of information about Pakistan’s population programme in this little book.

In a nutshell the reader is provided the relevant and important demographic data, a history of the official strategy (from the target oriented approach of the sixties to the continuous motivation system and the contraceptive inundation policy of the seventies and the mutli-sectoral approach of the eighties) and an analysis of the factors which have proved to be obstacles in the successful implementation of the programme (illiteracy, lack of motivation, improper contraceptive use and counselling, inefficient programme structure and inadequate financial resources).

Dr Agha’s efforts notwithstanding, it is plain that he has no practical experience of working in the field in the population sector. The knowledge he has acquired through books and documents (obviously official publications) is of a theoretical nature and divorced from reality. Thus it is strange that the author has found no link at all between the population problem and the status of women in Pakistan. It is now widely recognized that a major factor for women having a large number of children is their lack of empowerment. In any society where women lack esteem and are excluded from the decision-making process, be it at the family level or in the national structure, they tend to have many children.

Male offspring provide them the social and economic security which they otherwise lack. This fact is not disputed and if Dr Agha had followed the proceedings of the Cairo conference on population and development closely he would have detected this link. The author’s inadequate grasp of the sociological dimension of the family planning programme in Pakistan would explain why his recommendations are so of the mark. He focusses on the information and education component of the programme giving suggestions as to how birth control should be popularised. But surveys indicate that most couples already know about the importance of small families and many of them (28 per cent) want to restrict the size of their families but have no means available to them to do so. There are others who opt for many children to ensure that they have a number of surviving sons. Yet others are under social and family pressure to have big families. A population programme which does not take into account the gender factor cannot hope to succeed. Dr Agha should also take note of it.

Finally, one can add that a good editor would have given the book the professional treatment which goes into the making of a well-produced book. Why our writers are neglecting this aspect of publishing is difficult to understand.

Source: Dawn

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Healthy tips

By Zubeida Mustafa

NANHAY DOCTOR by Iftikhar Ahmad. Illustrated by Nigar Nazar. Published by UNICEF, Pakistan. 1992.

67-17-07-1992With the changing concepts of health care — there is now greater stress on health education and preventive medicine — the need to teach people the basic principles of hygiene, nutrition and immunisation can hardly be overemphasised. In fact the sooner this process of health education and information begins, the better it is.

In this context, UNICEF’s Nanhay Doctor could not have been more Continue reading Healthy tips

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