Profiting from the Iraq war

By Zubeida Mustafa
Source: Dawn

As the insurgency in Iraq escalates and the chaos in that devastated country intensifies, analysts and social scientists are attempting to explain the new phenomenon. The most commonly cited reasons for the mess the Bush administration finds itself in Iraq a year after the invasion is the “arrogance and ignorance” of the leadership in Washington.
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Bomb & public opinion

By Zubeida Mustafa
Source: Dawn

As the nuclear proliferation saga unfolded in Islamabad and reached its denouement earlier this month, the government sought shelter behind the so-called public opinion in the country.

It was made out to be sacrosanct in this case which is quite intriguing since military rulers do not usually worry about mundane issues like public opinion.
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Khakis’ inroad into civilian sector

By Zubeida Mustafa
Source: Dawn

THE dichotomy in Pakistan’s state and society is amply manifested in the takeover of civilian positions in the public sector by men in uniform. The militarization of civil society has emerged in the last two decades further widening the gulf between the haves and the have-nots.

True, this phenomenon has existed for a long time — after all, Ayub Khan, a serving military officer, became defence minister in Mohammed Ali Bogra’s cabinet in 1953. But what is significant today is the magnitude the problem has assumed. Previously, when a handful of retired military personnel would gain entry into the civilian sector it was regarded as an aberration. But times have changed.
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Message from Almaty

By Zubeida Mustafa
Source: Dawn

WAS the Conference for Interaction and Confidence Measures in Asia (CICA) summit at Almaty a failure? That is how many in Pakistan feel.

If the expectation was that diplomacy on the sidelines of the summit would bring India and Pakistan rushing immediately to the negotiating table to discuss the future of Kashmir, CICA was a disappointment. But this organization which has been born after a long gestation period of a decade has achieved more than one could have hoped for in its very first high-level moot.
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Nuclear war: an insane option

By Zubeida Mustafa
Source: Dawn

MAY 28 is the fourth anniversary of Pakistan’s nuclear tests at Chaghai. On Yom-i-takbir, which the government celebrated in a big way in 1999, it informed the people through boastful newspaper ads: “We are the seventh nuclear power of the world”.

Today, as war clouds gather on the horizon, this nuclear status gives us no joy or confidence. Those in power might reassure us that nuclear weapons will not be used. But who will believe them? Can states, which possess nuclear arsenals, keep their confrontation limited to warfare with conventional weapons?
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The price of neglecting social sectors

By Zubeida Mustafa

The state of the social sector in a country is an accurate measure of the value it attaches to human life. For howsoever strong a state might be in terms of military power and rich in economic resources, its institutional greatness will be judged by the quality of life it ovides its citizens.

This is basically determined by the social policy of the government, that is, the priority it gives to providing education, health care, housing and family planning facilities to the people. Pakistan’s performance in this context has not been one of which one can be overly proud. Of course, it depends on how one defines progress. If it is simply a matter of moving forward in terms of absolute numbers from a given baseline — a very low one at that — the country’s achievements over the decades since 1947 might appear to be very impressive. Continue reading “The price of neglecting social sectors”

To go nuclear or not is the question

By Zubeida Mustafa

THE suspension of American aid to Pakistan has produced one positive result. It has for the first time brought into the open the nuclear debate in this country.

Given the categorical linkage Washington instituted between the flow of economic assistance to Pakistan and nuclear non-prolif eration, Islamabad never encouraged a public discussion on the atom bomb.

To use Stephen Cohen’s term, a policy of ‘designed ambiguity’ was adopted. In other words, the capacity and the will of the government to go nuclear are deliberately kept ambivalent. Continue reading “To go nuclear or not is the question”

Privatisation of social sector: what it means in Third World context

By Zubeida Mustafa

Is the State responsible for educating its citizens and providing them health care? According to Adam Smith, who believed in the supremacy of the marketplace, education should be “self-sustaining and supported by those who use it”. Karl Marx displayed greater humanitarian concerns though today he stands discredited owing to the happenings in Eastern Europe. He advocated “free education for all children in public schools”.

Which of these principles should apply in Pakistan, a Third World country where 35 per cent of the people live below the poverty line (UNDP’s estimate)? The dictates of social justice should not permit a State to leave the responsibility of providing education and health care entirely to the vicissitudes of the marketplace.


And yet a glance at the federal and provincial budgets for the incoming year shows that the present government is applying to the social sectors the Smithsonian principle under pressure from the Western-dominated financial institutions. As such very little money has been set aside in the public sector for the human resources development of the people of Pakistan.


After the nation’s experiment with the nationalisation of education in the seventies, the pendulum has now swung to the other end. The government wants the private sector to shoulder the responsibility of meeting the people’s health and education needs. Hence the relentless drive to get the private sector to open schools, colleges, clinics and even universities. Continue reading “Privatisation of social sector: what it means in Third World context”

Development of human resources an elusive dream

By Zubeida Mustafa

Exactly a week before the Federal Finance Minister presented the budget before the National Assembly, the UNDP released its Human Development Report 1991 which contains extensive data on 160 countries.

Using the key indicators of life expectancy, education levels and basic purchasing power as the criteria, the agency has devised the Human Development Index. Pakistan ranked a shocking 120th on this scale. In fact Islamabad, along with some others, was strongly castigated for its gross neglect of the social sector.

What the UNDP had pointed out a week earlier was vindicated on Thursday by the federal budget. Long on rhetorics and promises of providing food, shelter, education and health care to the people, the Finance Minister’s speech was palpably short on political commitment.


This was further confirmed by the budget document itself. Small wonder then that in his speech Mr Sartaj Aziz deemed it wiser not to go into financial details of spendings in the health and education sectors.

In the first place, the approach adopted by the government towards the social sector is full of contradictions. By extending the strategy of privatisation and deregulation to the education and health sectors as well, the planners hope to accelerate the tempo of development. Continue reading “Development of human resources an elusive dream”

No ambassador can be greater than his country

By Zubeida Mustafa

It had been a really windy day. The Karachi University campus wore a dusty look. That was not unusual. In those days there were few trees and greenery to shield it from the sprawling sandy wastes where Gulshan-i-Iqbal stands today. When we reached the University we found the tables, chairs and blackboard in the Seminar Room coated with dust which had also drawn wavy patterns on the floor.

We had learnt to ignore the natural elements as the price we had to pay for the spaciousness of the campus. This day was no different until Dr Khurshid Hyder reached the University in time for her class. She was teaching us International Relations. No sooner had she arrived, that every one was acutely made aware of how unacceptable it was for academics to be in unclean surroundings. She went straight for the broom and without much ado began sweeping the room. Of course that stirred every one into action and the students promptly took over the clean-up operation. She had given the lead. Continue reading “No ambassador can be greater than his country”