Always on the road

By Zubeida Mustafa

MUNIRA GULZAR wanted to be a nurse when she passed out of school. Instead she became a teacher and has loved every minute of it. Those were the times in the early fifties when most girls did not dream of a career. But to young Munira it was inconceivable that she should not work. So even before she had completed her education she started teaching in a school. Since her family was very conservative, there was so much opposition to her taking up a job. But determined as she was, she managed to persuade her father to let her work. Continue reading “Always on the road”

A scholar and a gentleman

By Zubeida Mustafa

Has Pakistan been reduced to such a hopeless state that even the most creative and prolific of intellectuals have run out of ideas on how the country can be redeemed? Hopefully not. But a meeting with Professor Khalid Bin Sayeed provided no reassuring answers. It left me wondering how Pakistan will be saved from certain disaster and who will play the role of the savior. Continue reading “A scholar and a gentleman”

A new look at old freedom movement myths


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”