Worth of a life

By Zubeida Mustafa

HOW much is a human life worth in Pakistan? Not more than peanuts, given the impunity with which people are being killed in this benighted country of ours. The state’s failure — or lack of will — to protect the life of its citizens is at the root of this tragedy.

In this context, I am reminded of two women — one dead, the other on death row. One was a dear friend. The other is a stranger whose community has been my benefactor. I owe my education to Christian missionaries who gave me knowledge and taught me, by example, to respect and be tolerant of all faiths.

Perween Rahman and Asiya Bibi have nothing in common except that they are symbols of our quest for justice and sanctity of life in a society that thrives on hate and violence. Continue reading “Worth of a life”

People’s power

By ZubeidaMustafa

THE buzzword these days is ‘empowerment’ and there is a lot of talk about empowering the people. The most vocal are political leaders who use the term randomly as a strategy to empower themselves politically.

True empowerment, however, envisages equipping people with tools they can use to achieve a decent life for themselves and their families which can be got through education, employment, healthcare, a roof above their heads and the sense of dignity they acquire when they do not have to be permanently dependent on others to sustain themselves. An example of how people are empowered pertains to the Ali Hasan Mangi Memorial Trust which was set up by Mr Mangi’s granddaughter Naween to draw out the innate capacity of the 3,500-strong community of Khairo Dero to uplift itself.

The main tools that have been identified by the trust for empowerment are education, literacy, healthcare, microcredit for income generation and building homes and getting water supply and sanitation on a self-help basis. The fact is that until the basic needs of a people are met and a sense of security provided to them, they cannot strive for higher goals. AHMMT works, as its vision statement says, with the aim of building a “model village that can be replicated”. Continue reading “People’s power”

A mini Pakistan

By Zubeida Mustafa

Ten years ago when I decided to downshift and move into an apartment from an independent house, I was warned by a friend that I should think twice about the change. She said every apartment dweller she knew was constantly complaining of the difficulties caused by the non-cooperation of residents.

I didn’t heed her advice as I thought Karachi living had its problems, whether one’s abode was a mansion, a townhouse, or a flat in a complex. One had to figure out how to cope.

In retrospect, I feel apartment-living was the microcosm of life in Pakistan — and full of pitfalls. When I moved in, I was in a state of bliss. Having experienced two armed robberies in my home — when living in an independent house — I felt secure after a long time. The flat was bright and airy and had a view of the sea. Continue reading “A mini Pakistan”

A silent revolution

By Zubeida Mustafa

HOW does one profile a woman who has the academic qualifications and 19-year work experience of a financial journalist, but is not attracted by the aura of glamour many lesser media people like to create around themselves? Her commitment lies with the rural community in her ancestral village in Sindh but she modestly refuses to describe herself as an expert in development work. “I am still learning on the job,” she tells me.

Meet Naween A. Mangi, the Pakistan Bureau Chief of the New York based Bloomberg News since 2006. She may be a novice – albeit a devoted one – in development but in financial journalism her expertise and experience are unmatched. She has the intricacies of the stock market at her finger tips and is well-versed in the ups and downs in the corporate sector in the country. She works diligently planning coverage, filing important stories when she is required to and training and managing younger journalists, a job she excels in by virtue of her considerable experience in launching news organizations, working on the lay-out and injecting new ideas in old publications.
Continue reading “A silent revolution”

The human touch

By Zubeida Mustafa

A SPARK has been lit in a 3,500-strong community living in the backwaters of Larkana district. Known as Khairo Dero, the place was the antithesis of what its name implies: it was one of the most depressed goths in the area. A turning point came in 2004. A young female journalist touring rural Sindh was deeply moved by the neglect and apathy she witnessed, especially in Khairo Dero, her ancestral village.

That was Naween Mangi, today the Pakistan bureau chief of Bloomberg, a premier American business and financial news channel. It took her four years to internalise the despondency of her people and think of a strategy to breathe new life into their existence. Thus she hoped to bring about the ‘silent revolution’ she had begun to dream of. Continue reading “The human touch”

A city with two souls

By Zubeida Mustafa
Source: Dawn

THE much-touted Prime Minister`s Housing Scheme (PMHS) is heading for doom. The housing minister disclosed recently that the government had signed 36 MoUs with a number of foreign construction companies but none had so far begun work on the project aiming for one million `low-cost` housing units completed at a cost of Rs40bn.
Continue reading “A city with two souls”

The mansion that Parveen built

By Zubeida Mustafa
Source: Dawn

THE Sindh minister for katchi abadis observed recently that it was essential to provide `affordable` housing to the poor on a timely basis to make the land mafia go out of business. Correct, but impractical.

The honourable minister obviously has no inkling about how costly an activity house-building is, how limited the government`s resources are, how acute the housing shortage is and what poverty means. For the poor, hapless victims of the land mafia, the officially `affordable` is actually unaffordable.
Continue reading “The mansion that Parveen built”

Why make people homeless?

By Zubeida Mustafa
Source: Dawn

IT IS ironical that it required a massive show of strength in the form of a large demonstration in Karachi on June 2 to get the city government to stop the demolition of katchi abadis it had been carrying on in a very determined way.

The protest rally organised by the Pakhtoon Action Committee two weeks ago blocked the main arteries of Karachi and caused such a traffic jam that the administration was forced to rethink its policies — at least for the present.
Continue reading “Why make people homeless?”

The pain of being displaced

By Zubeida Mustafa
Source: Dawn

IN LATE January some members of the Hindu community living in Rehmatia Colony on the south bank of the Lyari river in Gulshan-i-Iqbal Town — now razed to the ground to give the right of way to the Lyari Expressway Project (LEP) — approached me to narrate their tale of woe.

They had been displaced when their jhuggis were bulldozed. That is how Somi, Seeta, Mitha, Jeeta and about 100 others, including children, were left without a roof above their head on a wintry January day. They had become victims of the phenomenon called development-related forced displacement.
Continue reading “The pain of being displaced”

The price of neglecting social sectors

By Zubeida Mustafa

The state of the social sector in a country is an accurate measure of the value it attaches to human life. For howsoever strong a state might be in terms of military power and rich in economic resources, its institutional greatness will be judged by the quality of life it ovides its citizens.

This is basically determined by the social policy of the government, that is, the priority it gives to providing education, health care, housing and family planning facilities to the people. Pakistan’s performance in this context has not been one of which one can be overly proud. Of course, it depends on how one defines progress. If it is simply a matter of moving forward in terms of absolute numbers from a given baseline — a very low one at that — the country’s achievements over the decades since 1947 might appear to be very impressive. Continue reading “The price of neglecting social sectors”