A new look at old freedom movement myths

Hamza-Alavi-17-05-1996-1

By Zubeida Mustafa
Professor Hamza Alavi has recently been in town. The suave, soft-spoken scholar, who says he developed a social conscience and became a socialist even before he had ever heard the word, has lived abroad for over three decades in pursuit of his academic career. Now he plans returning permanently to the city of his birth. That is, if he does not change his mind at the eleventh hour as he has done before. Continue reading “A new look at old freedom movement myths”

An adversarial relationship

 By Zubelda Mustafa

84-06-09-1994In one of his periodic meetings with newspaper editors , President Ayub Khan tried to draw a reticent Zahoor Husain Choudhury, a senior and eminent journalist and editor of Sangbad, into the discussion. “Choudhury Sahib are you not concerned about freedom of expression in Pakistan?” the Field Marshal enquired.

“Oh yes sir, I am. But I am more worried about freedom after expression,” the witty editor replied. The repartee describes in a nutshell the adversarial state of the Press-government relationship that has been the traditional pattern in this country. Continue reading “An adversarial relationship”

The status of Women

By Zubeida Mustafa

65-05-06-1992The women’s movement in Pakistan (I use the term for want of a more appropriate one) has lost its earlier vitality. The various organisations which came together under the umbrella of the Women’s Action Forum to take up cudgels against an Establishment determined to supress the female identity, have gone their separate ways.

This is distressing because a lot of work still remains to be done to raise the status of women. Admittedly, enormous progress has been made by a small minority of the female population in the country. In the last decade and a half since the international women’s year in 1975, women have achieved what was unheard of before. The number of girls enrolled in primary schools and in the universities has doubled and the female literacy rate has gone up by five percentage points in the last decade from 16 to 21 per cent. Even the labour force participation ratio of women has risen from three per cent to twelve per cent in 1981-1991. Health-wise women’s status has improved even though marginally, and the sex ratio has risen from 90 (for 100 men) to 92. Continue reading “The status of Women”

They went unwept, unsung

By Zubeida Mustafa

When a bookshop goes out of business and winds up, does one write an obituary? Not in our society. In the last few months three bookstalls of long standing have been closed down in Karachi. They went unwept and unsung. The last to fold up was Happy Bookstall on Inverarity Road (opposite Zainab Market) which had been catering to the needs of discerning readers for over 35 years.

London Book Company, which suffered its first blow two years ago when it closed its Tariq Road branch, is another casualty. In Ramazan, its branch in the neighbourhood of Uzma Arcade in Clifton also departed from the scene. Continue reading “They went unwept, unsung”

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”

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”

Rape of the law

By Zuhair Siddiqui

geust-contThe sweep of events during the past half year has been dramatic and fast, and the Bhutto and Indira regimes already seem to belong to a distant past; but as their leaders desperately try to pull themselves out of the meshes of the law, one is struck by the contrast between their past contempt for “Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence” and their present determination to exploit its mechanisms to the full.

“Certainly no man can over estimate the importance, of the mechanisms of justice. There have been greater avenues to freedom than that beaten out by the writ of habeas corpus…

“What seem, on the surface, insignificantly procedural changes — as when a man becomes entitled to a copy of the indictment upon which he is charged, or is able, in the witness-box, to testify upon his own behalf, or may appeal from the verdict of a jury and the sentence of a judge to a body of legal experts beyond them — these, for all their forbiddingly technical character, are more nearly related to freedom than the splendid sentences in which Rousseau depicts the conditions of their attainment. Continue reading “Rape of the law”

Quaid for young readers: half-truths

Reviewed by Zuhair Siddiqui

Father of our Nation: Early Life Story, by Hamid Ahmad Khan. Pp. 35. Rs. 5.00. Published by the National Book Foundation for the National Committee for the Quaid-i-Azam’s Centenary Celebrations.

geust-contAPART from being a distinguished scholar and teacher, the late Prof. Hamid Ahmad Khan wielded a facile pen in English as well as Urdu. He was, however, never known for any interest in politics, and when he died a few years ago nobody knew that he had left among his literary remains an unpublished manuscript on the early life of the founder of Pakistan. This is presumably the first part of a full biography for the benefit of the younger generation which he had planned but did not live to complete. Continue reading “Quaid for young readers: half-truths”

A nation in search of its culture

This article was sent to me by the writer’s daughter, Sarah Siddiqi. Zuhair Siddiqi was a senior journalist who died in a road accident in 1979

 By Zuhair Siddiqi

guest-contributorIt is not surprising that Pak­istan, which has now completed 29 years of her life, should still be involved in a debate on the roots and character, the substance and orientation, of her culture.

Perhaps, no other newly libera­ted nation has experienced cul­tural problems of such complexi­ty. The birth of Pakistan was not the mere emergence of a country from political slavery into sovereign independence. Nor was the partition that it in­volved a simple case of separa­tion, like that of Burma from British India ten years earlier. The new State came into being as the result of a three-way parti­tion — of the Indian sub-continent, of Muslim India, and of the two major Muslim provinces. Continue reading “A nation in search of its culture”

Mian Iftekhar-ud-Din – A man of courage

By Zuhair Siddiqi , Viewpoint, June 11, 1976

geust-contThis article was received too late for inclusion in our issue of June 6, which marked the fourteenth death anniversary of Mian Iftikhar­ud-Din.

On April 18, 1959, a half-educated military dictator, ad­vised and assisted by a clique of underlings, scribes of easy vir­tue, and elevated college passmen, seized the direction and control of the Progressive Papers —the publishers of The Pakis­tan Times, Imroze and Lail-o­-Nahar. A little over three years later—on June 6, 1962—the man who had founded the institution and been its moving spirit for over a decade, died.

Two days earlier, Mian Iftikhar­ud-Din and his political associates had been branded as enemies of the nation in a columnful of editorial gibberish on the front page of The Pakistan Times. When he died, somebody sarcas­tically remarked that that com­bination of political perversity and atrocious English had given the last blow to Mian Sahib’s ailing, lacerated heart.

It was the heyday of Ayub’s despotism, and the mourning for one of its chief victims was, understandably, a muted affair:

Not a drum was heard, not a funeral note—

A crowd of relatives, friends, admirers and old colleagues quietly laid him down in the family graveyard at Baghbanpura. Some dear and near ones cried quietly to themselves. Some newspapers carried perfunctory obituary notices, the most insi­pid ones being those of the news­papers that he had established and nurtured. Continue reading “Mian Iftekhar-ud-Din – A man of courage”