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.

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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.

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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”

War and peace — why are women not concerned?

By Zubaida Mustafa

The issue conspicuously missing in the debates that take place in women’s forum in Pakistan is that of war, peace and disarmament. Somehow these topics are considered to be of masculine interest only and one hardly comes across women leaders speaking about them — least of all, in meetings of women’s organisations.

That women should keep off such issues in our country is not difficult to understand — though by no means easy to justify. Women have traditionally been kept out of the higher decision-making process or statecraft. Continue reading “War and peace — why are women not concerned?”

Pakistan and CENTO: need for reappraisal

By Zubeida Mustafa

TO withdraw or not to  withdraw from CENTO is not a new question for Pakistan. The membership of the pact has been debated ever since this country decided to link its defence with the Western sponsored military alliance, originally called the Baghdad Pact.

However, recently this question has acquired a new meaning in view of the developments which have been taking place in the international politics of Central and South Asia. In this context some rethinking on Pakistan’s membership of CENTO should indeed prove to be quite timely, and it is a worthwhile idea to encourage a free and frank public debate on the issue. Besides being educative, this could promote a broad consensus on foreign policy. Continue reading “Pakistan and CENTO: need for reappraisal”