IN his keynote speech at the recent Karachi Literature Festival
(KLF), historian William Dalrymple spoke of the litfests that have
mushroomed in South Asia in a “fantastic” way. There is no denying that
these literary events are crowd-pullers. Dalrymple estimates that India,
which initiated the trend with the Jaipur Literature Festival — the
most well attended in the world — in 2004, now has 60 litfests a year.
He spoke of 10 being held in Pakistan, though I am not clear how he
arrived at this figure.
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IF one begins by saying the civil politician is as much to blame for military influence in politics as any army general, one can then stop mincing words and — having implicitly ceded that army boots do march upon civil political space — embark on a less coy discussion of this aspect of Pakistan’s democratic march with reference to the pulsating present not just the detonated past. What have the civil and military learnt from abounding exemplified lessons of history and how do they use that knowledge? Bear in mind that the canvas common to both is the space Pakistan’s people inhabit. They should be calling the shots – but not in cross-fire. Which is all that civil politics as played presently by professional politicians seems to be doing: Is there a Cheshire cat grin on military faces?
Justice Munir early on provided the doctrine of necessity as just recourse for dissolving assemblies, legislative or otherwise. General Ayub, the trailblazer of military political interventionism who as C-in-C helped President Iskander Mirza shelve Pakistan’s very first much belated but non-durable constitution of 1956 in 1958, wasn’t much bothered about cosmetic constitutional camouflage. But such is the law of popular political gravity, he came to see wisdom in promulgating a civil presidential system with a customised rule-book. They called it the 1962 Constitution. When parliamentary nostalgia and popular discontent reached a critical mass, Bhutto, founding the PPP, rode the civil storm; but the instrument for a return to regard for the will of the people was an intra-martial agreement. The army, commanded by General Yayha, structured with a legal framework order, voluntarily oversaw a return to civil electoral politicking, with elections duly held as promised in December 1970 which are still undisputedly deemed historically pristine and translucent. They also turned out to be popularly unacceptable and the eastern wing parted from the western wing.
IT is false to say those were lawyers attacking doctors or doctors under attack on December 11th in Lahore. It was us: people like you and me were doing that to people like you and me in and to our hospital. Something increasingly toxic within and around us is generating an atmosphere of violence. Personal self-respect has degenerated into self-righteous entitlement and intimidatory demand. Can we arrest this slide into the bestial before we all become completely desensitized or submerged?
and where did it begin? It is chastening to remind ourselves that an angrily
contested partition was integral part of the subcontinent’s venture into
self-rule. Simply put: this vast subcontinent’s major Muslim minority and
heavily Hindu majority did not trust each other enough to share a common space.
That was 1947. In 2019 the polity is still wrangling violently within its
separate states, failing to resolve a sociopolitical equation of common human
interest: We can justly point a finger at the subcontinent’s cannabilistic mother
India; emergent Pakistan; Bangladesh; Nepal; Bhutan; and even a not that safely
enough offshore Sri Lanka. Why then is the rampage at Lahore’s PIC particularly
UNTIL recently a college textbook in Punjab described the Baloch as
“uncivilised people who engaged in murder and looting”. This criminal
aberration came to light three years ago when a senator from Balochistan
discovered it and raised a hue and cry about it in the upper house of
Imran Khan, if not compulsively destructive, is emblematic of change that is vested in rejection – a valid enough one of the misgovernment and self-enrichment of a power elite installed and sustained by preceding democratic electoral mandates. But rejection is only part of that process of change: the other part is replacement. Inevitably the electorate queries: Since you have removed the mafia dons and taken charge, what are you doing and what you have brought in? Also, what (if any) kind of ‘garbage’ disposal system does a getting-to-be-old new administration have in mind if what it rendered political ‘waste’ is not bio-degradable electorally?
IN 2004, nine years before the UN designated Nov 19 World Toilet Day,
I visited Bombay to attend the World Social Forum. Early in the morning
on the second day of our arrival in the port city, Rabeeya, another
member of the Pakistan delegation, and I decided to take a stroll along
the beach while our colleagues slept.
As we reached the sandy shores we encountered a bizzare sight. We saw
hordes and hordes of what looked like pelicans perched on the edge of
the waters. I was fascinated until Rabeeya squealed with horror. What my
failing vision saw as pelicans were actually men — hundreds if not
thousands of them — squatting on the beach to relieve themselves. I was
shocked beyond belief.
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.
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.
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?