A leading light

By Zubeida Mustafa

HENRY Wotton famously said, “An ambassador is an honest gentleman sent to lie abroad for the good of his country.” Leave aside the pun in this quote, not many of the ambassadors we have produced have lied for the country and maintained a discreet silence about their subterfuge. Many have gone further and lied to promote themselves.

Yet in this complex world of diplomacy there was one ambassador who was too principled a man to lie, yet found ways to safeguard his country’s interests. And he chose not to boast about it. That was Saidullah Khan Dehlavi — Said to family and friends — who lost his battle with death last week in Karachi.

Said was the chairman of the board of trustees of the Aga Khan University, an honorary position he assumed in 2001 after his retirement from the Pakistan Foreign Service. In the obituary announcement issued by the AKU, he was referred to as Ambassador Dehlavi and it is an ambassador in the true and best sense of the word that he remained till the end. In a condolence message, the Foreign Office described him as the leading light and a role model. Continue reading “A leading light”

Tax reform, not aid please

By Zubeida Mustafa

THE BBC has reported that a group of British MPs have asked the British “government to withhold extra aid to Pakistan unless the country does more to gather taxes from its wealthier citizens”.

This will evoke a strong reaction in many circles in Pakistan. It is shocking that we have shameless people here — many having been associated with policymaking — who treat foreign aid as a yardstick to measure the success or otherwise of Islamabad’s foreign policy.

They have no qualms about going with the begging bowl in hand to foreign capitals. They will be irked by the British MPs’ statement no doubt. Some will see it as an anti-poor stance. Continue reading “Tax reform, not aid please”

Aid fuels corruption

By Zubeida Mustafa

DRIVING down Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan Road towards the city centre in Karachi, one cannot miss the huge billboard that announces in chaste Urdu, “If you have knowledge of any fraud in a USAID-funded project, you may lodge a complaint in the following ways…” The host is the USAID’s anti-fraud hotline.

This unpretentious signboard comes as a reminder that corruption continues to be rife in this country and Big Brother is watching. This also helps us recall, in case we have forgotten, that we continue to live on US handouts. Continue reading “Aid fuels corruption”

Death penalty should end

By Zubeida Mustafa

LAST Thursday Pakistan reported its first execution in four years. Muhammad Hussain was hanged in Mianwali jail thus ending the tacit moratorium the government has observed since 2008 when Gen (retd) Musharraf’s rule ended.

The convict was a soldier of the Pakistan Army who was accused of killing his senior — a havaldar — with whom he was embroiled in a personal dispute. This came as a shock to human rights activists who have been campaigning against capital punishment. This execution took many aback because only a fortnight ago the president’s spokesman Farhatullah Babar had disclosed that the government was working on a bill to abolish capital punishment before the elections. The bill will convert the death penalty into life imprisonment. Continue reading “Death penalty should end”

Sense of deja vu

By Zubeida Mustafa

IS history repeating itself? It appears to be. Look carefully at the accord between Islamabad and Washington reached earlier this month that broke the seven-month impasse between them. Observers and critics have speculated about what led to the breakthrough.

The US said sorry for the Salala incident. Pakistan softened its stance on the price demanded for reopening Nato supply routes to Afghanistan. Drone attacks have been quietly ignored. But what is strange is that in the flurry of articles on this issue there has been no mention of the event that in all likelihood jolted Washington into action. It was the announcement in May that Russian president Vladimir Putin will be visiting Islamabad in September. He will be the first Russian head of state to do so. Continue reading “Sense of deja vu”

Media without dignity

By Zubeida Mustafa
Source: Dawn

THE scandal surrounding the now defunct “News of the World” which has brought much embarrassment to the high and mighty in London will hopefully prove to be the proverbial watershed that the media in our globalised world badly needs.

One positive result of the fall of Rupert Murdoch’s empire in Britain is that questions are being asked about the integrity of his 200 or so outlets that span several continents. Mercifully, the first bubble to burst was in a country known for its Continue reading “Media without dignity”

Canada’s summit experience

By Zubeida Mustafa
Source: Dawn

WHEN I landed in Toronto two weeks ago I was told that the city was in the grip of summit fever. Canada was to play host to two international conferences back to back — the G8 and G20.

Last weekend these conferences were held amid much brouhaha. The media was in a frenzy, raising all kinds of questions. Was it wise to hold such a summit in downtown Toronto, when such meetings traditionally act as a magnet for protesters? Was such a massive attendance warranted — the number had swollen to 34 as some leaders were invited as observers only to be seen, not heard? Was the price tag on security — a hefty $1.1bn — justified?
Continue reading “Canada’s summit experience”

Lessons from Lockerbie

By Zubeida Mustafa
Source: Dawn

Remember Lockerbie? Yes the Scottish town that made headlines when a PanAm aircraft exploded in mid-air in 1988 killing 270 people.

It was said to have been blown up by a bomb planted in a passenger`s luggage. Lockerbie is making news again. Last Thursday the Libyan convicted of planting that fateful bomb, Abdel baset Ali al-Megrahi, was released from a Scottish prison and sent home to die. This was done ostensibly on compassionate grounds as the man has terminal cancer and doctors believe he has just three months to live.
Continue reading “Lessons from Lockerbie”

War as Eqbal Ahmad saw it

By Zubeida Mustafa
Source: Dawn

EQBAL AHMAD, the academic, writer and activist, died over seven years ago. But even today, in the words of the American intellectual activist, Noam Chomsky, it is a “fascinating experience” to view major events of the past half century through his (Eqbal Ahmad’s) discerning eye”.

The Columbia University Press has facilitated this exercise by publishing The Selected Writings of Eqbal Ahmad (produced in Pakistan by Oxford University Press).
Continue reading “War as Eqbal Ahmad saw it”

The roots of the Afghan tragedy

By Zubeida Mustafa
Source: Dawn

PTV informed its viewers on August 17 that the death anniversary of Pakistan’s late military strongman, General Ziaul Haq, was observed in Islamabad at his grave where many people had gathered to pay homage to him.

PTV also reported that in the gathering Ziaul Haq’s role in Afghanistan was specifically lauded. It seems there are many in Pakistan who have not learnt from history and still approve of the country’s involvement in the Afghan imbroglio which has brought us so much misery.
Continue reading “The roots of the Afghan tragedy”