Once you step out on the streets of Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, it is hard to believe that this is a country that was devastated by war not long ago. My cousin, Rashida, responded to my email from Vietnam, “I am glad you are having a nice stay in Vietnam. My mind still carries the war ravaged scenes of that country of 40 or 50 years ago”. To find remnants of war today one has to go to the War Museum and the Cu Chi tunnel complex. Hanoi, which was bombed during the war, buzzes with life. Amidst restaurants, hotels, shopping plazas and bazaars pretty women and handsome men scurry around. Vietnamese are blessed with good looks and good figures. Men and women both drive motorcycles on roads and highways. Vietnam has the highest number of two-wheelers per capita. Whole families somehow manage to fit on one motorcycle. It is amazing how they can carry an incredible amount of stuff of varying shapes and sizes on a motorcycle. It appears to be their main mode of Continue reading “A Visit to Vietnam”
THE government has billed the much hyped up Ideas-2006, the fourth exhibition of defence equipment to be held in Karachi last week, as a big success. The grand display of various weapon systems with indigenised names was said to be good for the countrys image. If nothing else, it was claimed that the exhibition proved beyond doubt that Pakistan had advanced technologically and could manufacture tanks and aircraft.
In the absence of technical evaluation from independent sources we cannot be sure how much of the defence manufacturing is local and how much it involves merely the skill of assembling various parts manufactured abroad as our car industry is doing. But Ideas-2006 had a negative impact in one important respect, apart from the traffic woes it created for the citizens of Karachi. It has focused attention sharply on the imbalance in the governments financial and policy priorities. Concern was voiced frequently in the talk shows held by television channels that the government is spending heavily on defence while the social sectors are being neglected. Continue reading “Ideas-2006: what did it achieve?”
THE rains this monsoon have devastated Karachi. The impression sought to be created by the city fathers on whom blame is being heaped is that the rainfall this year was exceptionally heavy. It is also being suggested that the city has never emerged unscathed whenever it has poured. But these are myths. First of all it must be pointed out that admittedly the rain in late July and August this year was more than what is normal in lean years. But it did not set any record. In the last few weeks Karachi has had 289 mm of rain. Not a fantastic figure by any means.
In 2003 the city received 308 mm. What is more, it received 105 mm in a few hours on July 28, 2003 when the city was drenched with water which drained out from the main thoroughfares in a day or two. This year the maximum rain Karachi received in one spell was 80 mm and the water continued to flood many areas and key communication arteries for over ten days. It also flooded many homes and shops in the Clifton area that had been Continue reading “Why Karachi turned into a cesspool when it rained”
Last week, the Pakistan Association for Mental Health (PAMH) observed the mental health week to coincide with the world mental health day on October 10 organized globally by the World Federation for Mental Health and WHO. This is an annual event.
Much as cynics might be tempted to brush it off as a ritual which has no impact, any discerning observer of the scene cannot fail to note the awareness which has been created in Pakistan, thanks to the endeavours of the PAMH. Continue reading “Doing more for mental health”
SHE lives by herself in a beautiful house surrounded by tall trees in Baie d’Urfe on the outskirts of Montreal. Twice robbershave broken into her home.But that has not made Rabab Naqvi any less determined than she is today. Life for a singlewoman can be difficult even in the more liberated and tolerant Canadian society. A few years ago she had a fall and fracturedher leg and she had to fend for herself, depending on some good friends for support. Yet she plans on staying permanently in Canada after she retires. “I might consider visiting the subcontinent, basing myself in Lucknow where my sisters live to study and research the issues close to my heart. But I would never like to give up my links with my friends and professional colleagues in Canada,” she says after a pause. Continue reading “Not in silence”
THE FOURTH WORLD Conference on Women held in Beijing in September was like the proverbial elephant and the blind men. The reactions it evoked were conditioned by the perception of each observer. It was billed as the “largest gathering ever for a UN conference on women” by Newsweek and a gathering of women who “suddenly loom as a great force” by Betty Friedan, the author of Feminine Mystique and the founder of the American feminist movement in the sixties. Continue reading “Spirit of Sisterhood”
Wnen I went to call on Safina Siddiqi on her return from South Africa where she had gone to receive UNEP’s Global 500 Roll of Honour award on the World Environment Day, she was not home. Her house-help who has been with the family for over 20 years duly informed me that she was somewhere in the neighbourhood. I set out to hunt for her, being familiar as I was with her favourite haunts. Within five minutes I had located Safina. There she was at the roadside supervising the planting of saplings. Her hands were full of soil, for she considers her supervision incomplete if she does not show her personal involvement in the work by joining the gardeners in their task.
That did not surprise me. For that is how I have always found Safina — down-to-earth, unassuming with no airs about her and always ready to pitch in when help is needed. No sooner had I asked her how she was, that her eyes lit up and she went on to give me the details of how she had planted sixty-two saplings further down the road before she left for Pretoria. Continue reading “Filling a vacuum”
Many of the imported globes and atlases being sold in Pakistan have the words “Disputed Territory” or simply “DT” overstamped on the spot showing Kashmir. What is strange is that the authorities’ sensitivity to cartographical precision does not extend to the text6ooks being published by their own Textbook Boards.
Just pick up any Social Studies or Pakistan Studies book being taught in the schools in Sindh and you can consider your child to be fortunate if the maps are correctly drawn. More often than not our cartographers are fond of showing a common border between Pakistan and what was the USSR until December!
That is not all. The profusion of errors and distortions in the books is appalling. The absence of an imaginative approach makes the text not only dull but also in many cases conceptually beyond the child’s comprehension. The poor quality of the printing and paper of the Board’s publications is sure to kill whatever interest a student might have in his studies. Continue reading “What ails educational publishing in Pakistan?”
“IT is a wonderful thing to work with young people,” says the Principal of the St. Josenh’s Government College for Women. “What thrills me most,” she continues, ”is the awareness I have that I am helping to build the builders of tomorrow.”
Any one who has studied at St. Joseph’s can understand her feelfngs fully for every student of the college has heard the principal speak again and again about what the goal of college education should be. She repeatedly emphasises that a college should prepare its students to face life as mature and responsible adults.