Category Archives: General

Free from fear

By Zubeida Mustafa

DR Shershah Syed is a gynaecologist with a heart — and his heart has no fear. His claim to fame rests with his monumental services to underprivileged women suffering from fistula who would otherwise have been condemned as outcasts for the rest of their lives. Fistula is caused by prolonged labour in childbirth when the bladder is punctured causing urine to leak all the time.

Shershah’s battles for the cause of medical education in Pakistan have also brought him into the limelight as has his struggle to save the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council from the avarice of the power-hungry.

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Books are fun

By Zubeida Mustafa

RECENTLY I decided to have some fun with books and children. Isn’t that a paradox? We are perpetually told that our children do not read books. So how could I even think of combining the two and call it fun? But believe me, it was fun. I decided right away against any boring imposition on the children. No speeches on how wonderful books are. Let them discover this for themselves.

My friend Farida Akbar, a trainer of Montessori teachers, and I held a session during the summer programme of a school for underprivileged children where I teach English to Grade 9 students on a voluntary basis.

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Accountability

By Rifaat Hamid Ghani

               SETTING aside the particularities of NAB and the context of specific tenures and incumbents, what does ‘accountable’ connote more generally? Housewives for instance take accounts/hisab daily: How much money was spent on the alu, matar, daal; is it actually the weight and price charged? Double-check! If there are discrepancies who is cheating or being fooled? The cook? His favourite sabziwalla? Are they in cahoots? If the cook is to blame he is replaced, and possibly the grocer and butcher as well: produce at another shop is the same price and better quality. Punishment and investigation are linked to forestalling recurrence.  

          What if a negligent housewife suddenly wakes up and finds she has been cheated by a series of cooks over years of poorly supervised housekeeping?

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Joy of giving

By Zubeida Mustafa

PAKISTAN is a bundle of contradictions. We have acquired the latest technologies in medical fields. But we have failed to keep pace with these changes. In fact, socially, we have stagnated if not actually regressed.

Take the case of organ transplantation, which has made great headway in the country thanks to the Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation. The institute provides free treatment to nearly 2.6 million patients every year, and performs 350 kidney transplantations from live-related donors. The SIUT also provides free-of-cost, lifelong healthcare to the donors as well as the recipients.

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Amazed in the maze


By Rifaat Hamid Ghani   

Pakistan’s democratic advances and retreats are usually perceived in terms of a tussle between power-belts: a civilian establishment comprised of what– post lateral-entry– we may no longer justly call mandarins, enabled by and facilitating administration and policy for an electorally empowered party leadership: now called chors and dakkus. (Party activists, dissidents, and turncoats of lesser stature we could soon be calling raillu kattas.)  In the scales for charge of the governmental process is the military establishment.

We still term it the khakis. Notwithstanding the fact that the last military coup was essentially a day-long airborne drama, those clad in blue and white do not emerge as coup-Caesars. Perhaps what really matters is what you have on the ground — or the ground realities of the political field.  What are these and who determines them? Supposedly in the electoral democratic process the voters. But who enfranchises and disenfranchises?

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No guns, please

By Zubeida Mustafa

QAMAR Zaman is the father of an infant boy. He works in Karachi’s Defence Authority’s Phase 4 Commercial Area. He had just finished his duty at 6pm on June 10 and had stopped to purchase vegetables for his wife to cook for dinner, when he was knocked out by a hail of gunshots. For him everything went black thereafter.

He later learnt that a guard before a mobile shop close by had accidentally pulled the trigger claiming that he did not know that his gun was loaded. He had just received the weapon from his colleague who was going off-duty.

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GMO tug of war

By Zubeida Mustafa

WHY should an official of the US Embassy, representing the Department of Agriculture, be going overboard to ‘collaborate’ with Pakistan on projects involving genetically modified maize? This unwanted advice seems to be seedy business at a time when there is a tug of war taking place between various lobbies in the agricultural sector.

Even more regrettable is that in the past such dubious overtures by biotech giants have been extended to too many people whose integrity is in doubt. Quite a few were elected representatives of the people who went ahead to change the Seed Act in 2016. The legality of this move has now been challenged by the farmers in a court of law. The amendments in the act paved the ground for introducing GM seeds in the country.

Moves are now afoot to win over opinion in the quarters that matter. This time the target is maize, one of our best food crops next to wheat and rice. The battleground is in the highest quarters. Pakistan produced 6.1 million tonnes of maize in 2018 showing a yield per hectare of 5MT (about 2MT per acre). This was 2MT in 2003. The Philippines which switched over to GM corn in 2003 could increase its yield per hectare from 2MT to only 3MT in the same period.

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Twitter diplomacy

By Zubeida Mustafa

The battle of tweets we have been witnessing of late, reminds us that we have certainly come a long way from the style in which diplomacy was conducted since 1648. That was the year when the Peace of Westphalia launched the modern secular sovereign state system. It introduced new guidelines for states in their dealings with one another. They demanded “accuracy, calm, patience, good temper, modesty” from an ideal diplomat, as defined by Harold Nicolson, the British diplomat famous for his books and diaries.

Donald Trump’s twitter page in Washington, DC using a Game of Thrones-styled montage. In April 2019 the US President tweeted “Game Over” declaring himself fully vindicated in the investigation into Russian election meddling and alleged collusion in the 2016 presidential elections.

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Development with dignity

By Zubeida Mustafa

Asad Ali teaches an arts and crafts class in Khairo Dero. (Courtesy of Zubeida Mustafa)

Asad Ali, a young man in his 20s, has a passion for teaching. He is a high school graduate and has no teacher’s training degree, but he has compassion and inborn pedagogic skills that endear him to his students. His father wanted him to join the army, but Ali preferred his classroom to the battlefield. If Pakistan had more teachers with his commitment, the country would be a different place altogether.

Ali would be a failure in the postmodern education system the Pakistan government is making futile attempts to create for a people still stuck in the medieval ages. Had Ali managed to adjust to the prescribed system, his students in Khairo Dero—the village in Sindh where he lives and works—would be unable to relate to him as they do now.

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Health inequity

By Zubeida Mustafa

THE recently launched report of the National Human Rights Commission’s Karachi chapter on health as a human right is indeed timely. The report seeks constitutional changes to make the citizens’ right to health justiciable.

Of great significance is the report’s redefinition of the term ‘healthcare’ which has conventionally been interpreted very narrowly in Pakistan as providing treatment for the illnesses that afflict people in the country. Preventive medicine and the social factors leading to diseases (termed as social determinants of health) are generally ignored by those managing the health sector. The fact is that healthcare in Pakistan is dominated by the pharma-driven allopathic medicine.

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