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.
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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”

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.

Tales of silent war victims

By Zubeida Mustafa

ARMS 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.

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.

Population planning and the social realities

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.

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

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”

A try at self-management

By Zubeida Mustafa

HOUSE BUILDING BY LOWINCOME FAMILIES IN ORANGI by Akhter Hameed Khan. Published by Orangi Pilot Project, 1-D/ 26 Doulat House, Orangi Town, Karachi. Tel: 618628. 1990. 19 pp. Price not given.

ORANGI PILOT PROJECT MODELS by Akhter Hameed Khan. OPP, Karachi. 1990. 33pp.

A SURVEY OF ORANGI SCHOOLS. OPP, Karachi. 1990. 20 pp.

WOMEN WORK CENTRES STORY OF FIVE YEARS 1984-1989 by Akhter Hameed Khan. OPP, Karachi. 1989. 48 pp.

50-16-11-1990Eliminating poverty is one of the major challenges in all Third World countries. The conventional approach has been to get governments and social welfare agencies to assign funds and manpower to develop basic facilities for health, education and housing for lowincome families.

Needless to say this strategy has failed because of the paucity of resources and lack of involvement of the community.

In this context, the approach to development adopted by Dr Akhter Hameed Khan in Orangi — patterned after his Comilla project — is not only innovative. It has proved to be feasible and enduring. Since 1980, when the OPP was founded with the sponsorship of the BCCI, it has succeeded as a focus for self-mobilisation of the people of Orangi. Continue reading “A try at self-management”

2% of labour force: Is the figure for women correct?

By Zubeida Mustafa

According to the latest official figures available, women constitute only two per cent of the organised labour force in Pakistan. But it is now generally conceded that this figure is highly misleading.

Even if household work is not taken into account, women’s contribution in the Gross National Product. It, however, remains unaccounted for because much of it is through unpaid labour. For instance, women’s role in agriculture has been a significant one. Yet they do not figure in the agricultural labour force. Continue reading “2% of labour force: Is the figure for women correct?”

Quaid for young readers: half-truths

Reviewed by Zuhair Siddiqui

Father of our Nation: Early Life Story, by Hamid Ahmad Khan. Pp. 35. Rs. 5.00. Published by the National Book Foundation for the National Committee for the Quaid-i-Azam’s Centenary Celebrations.

geust-contAPART from being a distinguished scholar and teacher, the late Prof. Hamid Ahmad Khan wielded a facile pen in English as well as Urdu. He was, however, never known for any interest in politics, and when he died a few years ago nobody knew that he had left among his literary remains an unpublished manuscript on the early life of the founder of Pakistan. This is presumably the first part of a full biography for the benefit of the younger generation which he had planned but did not live to complete. Continue reading “Quaid for young readers: half-truths”