O the rankings again

By Zubeida Mustafa

THE Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings released last week offers some food for thought — that is, if we do not dismiss this annual exercise as a Jewish conspiracy. For Pakistan the bad news is that none of our universities figure in the first 400 institutions of higher education ranked globally. Pakistan failed to make it even to the top 100 Asian institutions.

Using carefully selected criteria, THE ranks universities across the globe according to their “core missions — teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook.” As can be expected, American and European universities have the highest ranking — the California Institute of Technology, Harvard University and the University of Oxford are the top three. Asia also boasts of 20 universities that are part of this prestigious global list — the University of Tokyo was judged as the best in the continent, and China, Korea and Singapore are making remarkable headway. Continue reading “O the rankings again”

Media in the spotlight

By Zubeida Mustafa

THE two-member media commission’s recommendation for consultations on the review of all media laws and codes could not have been more timely. The fact is that lately a lot of concern has been expressed vocally by discerning observers about the damage the media is inflicting on our society.

Any forum, which is even distantly related to the press or television, invariably turns into an occasion to condemn their waywardness. TV receives a greater share of the flak because of its higher visibility/reach and potential to influence people’s mindsets.

The issue of ethics in journalism has been around for quite some time but has evaded all solution. Those of the older generation who have struggled for press freedom for years are naturally reluctant to hand over powers to the government to regulate the freedom of expression which a code can accomplish.
Continue reading “Media in the spotlight”

Weapons and information

By Zubeida Mustafa

IT is exactly 12 weeks to the day when Perween Rahman, director of the Orangi Pilot Project (OPP) Research and Training Institute, was gunned down in Orangi when she was returning home from work.

Two months later, another activist of the OPP who ran a school, Abdul Wahid Khan, was killed outside his home. A few days later on May 18, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf leader Zahra Shahid Husain was assassinated by armed men.

These were not the only people who were victims of target killing in Karachi. Approximately 259 other people met a violent death in the city in the same period. We mourn them all. Above all, we mourn our own helplessness to save these precious lives.

Zohra Yusuf, the chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, was spot on when she once commented that in Karachi a person championing a human rights cause, who dies a natural death, is indeed lucky. Continue reading “Weapons and information”

Enigma of voters’ list

By Zubeida Mustafa

PRIME Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf has said that fair and free elections offer the only way out of the present constitutional crisis. He is right, but only if the elections are truly fair and free.

Given the state of the recently released electoral rolls it is difficult to believe that the exercise will be flawless. No one doubts the integrity of Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Fakhruddin Ebrahim, who has an impeccable reputation. But how much can he do? The mantle of the CEC has fallen on his shoulders so late in the day. I.A. Rehman of the HRCP had a point when he reminded us that authentic electoral rolls are basic to adult franchise. The numbers game is baffling and political parties are disinterested. Continue reading “Enigma of voters’ list”

The false face of reality

By Zubeida Mustafa
Source: Dawn

AT a time when image building is the buzzword in Pakistan it would be interesting to note how others are faring in this exercise. In this age when capitalism, the brand name and consumerism have emerged as the salient features of a market economy and the so-called free society, image is the key factor that determines the worth of an item and also of a person or an institution.

If a brand has a good image in public perception, it will sell, even though it may not actually have the qualities it is supposed to have. Sometimes the image makes a product/institution/personality a status symbol which one must be seen with.

Similarly, a person who manages to project a certain image of himself will find himself to be acceptable irrespective of his true values. Conversely, if a country or a product or a personality has a negative image, it loses out on the advantages its forte should offer. But doesn’t all this presume that one can fool everyone all the time? This, we know, is not possible even if the government in Islamabad tries to sweep all the dismal aspects of our national life under the carpet. Be it Mukhtaran Mai, the low literacy rate or the prevailing poverty, each of these is bound to surface at one time or another and bring a bad name to Pakistan.
Continue reading “The false face of reality”

The flip side of information

By Zubeida Mustafa
Source: Dawn

IT was some time in the early nineties when the high commissioner for New Zealand in Islamabad said, while launching a book his mission had funded, that the coming decade would be the age of information.

Those were days when information technology had barely picked up in this country, cell phones were a rarity and a status symbol of the elite, only the CNN had started its round the clock worldwide channel and not many knew about the wonders of the Internet. But the high commissioner’s words were prophetic.

Today, it takes no time at all for news and information to travel from one end of the globe to the other. E-mails, satellite television, modern phone services equipped with cameras and the worldwide web have made the world a global village. Communication has enabled people to cross boundaries with ease and has broken down cultural and language barriers. This has brought people closer and promoted greater interaction between them than has ever happened before in human history.

Technology has also changed the shape of the media. It is now more interactive. Viewers can ring in to ask questions on talk shows and the Internet allows people to send in their feedback instantaneously, without much of a hassle. Anyone can, making a small payment, set up a website which can be accessed by anyone. These are positive developments because they have stimulated human interest in information.
Continue reading “The flip side of information”

A new actor in world politics

By Zubeida Mustafa

IN the aftermath of the   horrendous bombing of   the World Trade Centre   in New York, the most significant   development to   have taken place is the   war psychosis, which is   calculatedly being whipped   up. This could spin   out of control, bringing   devastating consequences   not just for the region   around Afghanistan, but   also for the whole world.

The media, both electronic   and print, national and foreign,   have played a key role in creating   this climate of hatred and   fear. They got the cue from the   Bush administration’s strong   response to the events of Black   Tuesday. One could have hardly   expected the American president   to have reacted differently   in the initial moments of the   tragedy, given the magnitude of   the devastation and the   grave implications of the   breach   of American intelligence.

What comes as a matter   of   deep concern is the   emergence of the media as   a new actor in international politics. From a tool to disseminate information (at times also a propaganda weapon), the electronic media are virtually using their newly-acquired power to propel inter-state relations in the 21st century. This is frightening, given their enormous reach and ubiquitous presence in the age of cable and satellite television. Continue reading “A new actor in world politics”

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”

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”

Nine nations vow to end illiteracy by AD 2000

From Zubeida Mustafa

NEW DELHI, Dec 16: In a colourful ceremony held amidst tight security measures, the leaders from the nine high population countries pledged to ensure a place for every child in school by the year 2000 or at the earliest possile moment.

The Thursday morning session was devoted to policy statements in which the participats reaffirmed their commitment to the goal of Education for All (EFA). In the afternoon they adopted the declaration and framework for action.

Inaugurating the summit, Indian President Dr Shanker Dayal Sharma described the EFA as the most important endeavour being undertaken in the world which should accelerate the emergence of a higher level of civilisation in this planet and foster the spirit of humanism, peace and friendship between nations. Continue reading “Nine nations vow to end illiteracy by AD 2000”